The Battle of the Bean

My oldest son is crafty.

He’s VERY specific about the foods he wants. If we let him, he’d happily eat the same 3-5 foods for every single meal.

Every other food is on permanent probation as far as he’s concerned.

And if Dad and Mom don’t watch him closely, he’ll gradually move more and more items from his “maybe” list to his “never” list.

When we caught onto this sneaky little trick, we adopted a counter strategy:

“Oh, so you want to play with Optimus Prime tonight? Eat your snap peas.”

“You’d like your Transformers book back? You can have it when you have this chicken.”

This works quite well. After a few repetitions he’ll usually remember that he kinda likes chicken, and then we escalate to a different “never” food.

The most recent standoff involved green beans.

Scratch that, it was ONE green bean.

And I was on day 3 of the skirmish.

Days 1 and 2, he calculated that the casualties were acceptable. So I had to up the ante:

“If you don’t eat that green bean, I’m going to take away Optimus Prime AND your Transformers book.”

That got his attention.

He decided to cooperate—sorta. He broke the bean in half and started nibbling off microscopic little bits from one of the pieces. Almost like he was trying to dissolve it rather than chew it.

I was almost done with my lunch, and he’d only managed to eat about 1/4″ of the bean.

Time to get serious.

“OK, look. I’m going downstairs to work in 5 minutes. If you aren’t finished with the bean by then, you’re going to lose Optimus Prime and your book.

“Here’s what I want you to do now. Pick up that piece of the bean. Put the WHOLE THING in your mouth. Good. Now chew it up and swallow it.”

“Pick up the other piece of the bean…”

Now THAT’S a specific “call to action.”

I gave him the exact steps I wanted him to take, in a precise order, and he followed right along.

2 minutes later the bean was completely gone, and he was beaming with relief.

Your customers need you to be that specific in your marketing.

Don’t assume they know what to do. Tell them what the next step is—whether it’s sharing a blog post you wrote, signing up for your email list, or buying your product.

And don’t be afraid to hold their hand with step by step instructions.

Old-school direct mail advertisers found they could increase response by telling people the specific words to say when they phoned in their order.

Don’t say, “You can sign up below.”

Instruct them: “Enter your name and email address in the form below, and click Submit.”

Your customers want to be told what to do. Be specific and they’ll comply—and reap the benefits of your help in their lives.