Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Prove Yourself - Using Comparison To Emphasize a Job Well Done

I recently finished a book that I really enjoyed reading, "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely (http://www.amazon.com/Predictably-Irrational-Revised-Expanded-Edition/dp/0061353248).  In short, it's a number of chapter's based on Daniel's personally designed studies on human behavior, and how while we tend to believe that human's decision making habits are wild, irrational and easily influenced.  As an example, there's a reason retailers may offer something for "free" rather than..say.. 99.9% off.  The lure of free is powerful and makes up buy crap that we don't otherwise need, which one chapter in this book discusses in great and thralling detail.

In another chapter, and an early one in the book at that, is a discussion on the power of comparison.  Let me demo the idea for you, as it is relative to this post.  A website for a magazine publication offers a page on their website for new subscribers, offering 3 options to sign up.  They show as the following:
  • Digital Only Subscription - $59
  • Physical Only Subscription - $129
  • Digital\Physical Combo - $129
That is not a typo, the last 2 options are intended to be the same price.  What Daniel's study proves is that when the "Physical Only" subscription is removed, most subscribers tend to purchase the cheaper of the 2 options.  Why?  In short, it's because the "Physical Only" option isn't truly intended to draw subscribers, what it does do, however, is give a point of comparison for value.  With the middle option available, user's tend to say "wow, I can get both!".  The chapter discusses in great detail how these method's were tested, and how digital\physical subscription rates are much more successful when the base of comparison is available.

What Does That Have To Do With The Price Of Eggs(*)?

Incase you aren't aware, I am a web developer by trade.  When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I'm a web developer, they usually reply "Oh, so you make web pages?", which is the equivalent of saying to Emeril Legasse "Oh, so you make soup?" I usually respond to people by saying "Ever use Google (yes), when you click the button and your search results magically appear.. that's what I do.. I make stuff happen behind buttons".  At this point their eyes gloss over and I begin to remember why people rarely ask me about my career.

When attempting to show potential client's my work, I've begun to make it a habit of providing a basis of comparison, much like the example provided above, and it's something you should think about as well if you want to not just showcase your current work, but also to emphasize how you've performed a job well done on your assigned tasks.  This methodology applies both in freelance work as well as in your current occupational workplace, and make's your results that much more quantitative.

As an example, when a client ask's me about redesigning their website, and they need better Search Engine rankings (who doesn't these days?), it's one thing to implement meta tags, keywords, appropriate page titles and perhaps even purchase some search keywords to start to drive traffic.  However, let's say website sales don't go up, and you start getting harrassing calls at the end of each month because YOU did a terrible job on THEIR website and YOU are causing a loss of sales.. not that I speak from experience here ;)

When you have historical data on page visits, unique visitors, etc. you can use this data to prove that you were at X, now your at Y.  Furthermore, it helps you determine if it isn't so much a technical issue, and perhaps it's the customer service that decided to wait an extra day to ship out an order (shocking how that can affect future orders).

As another example, I recently redesigned a website.  In showing potential client's some of my work, I simply don't want to show them a list of current website URL's to prove that I have done some work in the past, I want to showcase the improvements I made for the company.  So, I want to show a before and after shot:



So, it may not be that the current site design is ground breaking or winning awards (although I always aim high!), but with this method, showing some historical proof can display what was, and what is, and that while there is always room for improvement, some comparison can emphasize improvements made.

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