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What Dog Poop Taught Me About Influencing Behavior

Yes, I went there!

OK this one is real simple.

And is has to do with dog poop.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into the details of my husky’s bowel movements. But I have learned something in my 1,000 hours of walking her.

Short of attaching a bag to a dog’s butt, the best way to ensure dog poop gets picked up off a yard is: to present a bunch of doggy bags with a trash can to put them in and a sign indicating to use the bags.

This solution works far better than “no poop zone”, “you’ll be fined” , and “stay out of the garden” signs. Instead, with this one-two punch homeowners everywhere can rejoice.

Lucky for you, this same tactic can be used to change colleagues’ behavior at work: just change the environment’s design and provide the specific feedback.

If someone is not doing something they need to be doing, you can’t just give them verbal feedback, send an email, or leave notes in their review. You also need to change the design of the situation.

One of the most common challenges for marketing is driving traffic to your website. So let’s take a look at three related examples of how you could employ this technique as you’re trying to drive more traffic:

Say your email deliverability rate is very low, which could limit your ability over time to drive more people to your site. You can send an email to everyone asking them to be more conscious of sending to more engaged lists. But if you stop there, you’ll miss out on getting more people onboard. You also need to change the design, by always suppressing 60 day inactives by default in your email system.

Say your ad budget is inefficient because everyone places their own ads without considering what else is in-market for your company. You can hold a meeting and present the results to the squad, showing how much budget was wasted. And then also change the ad account login, and require all existing ad offers be added to a single sheet everyone has access to in order to get the new login information.

Say no one is using the keywords optimization techniques your SEO team provides as opportunities. You can present how much traffic has been missed out on and a handful of techniques with examples that would have reversed that. And then also restrict publishing within your blog’s software, so that the team can only save drafts and must work through the SEO team to publish. Or allow everyone to continue publishing but let them know their access will automatically get terminated if they don’t complete the Yoast keyword box and earn a green.

Got it? Good!

OK but we’re not quite done.

Because there’s one more element that impacts your likelihood of picking up that dog poop: whether the homeowner is watching.

Imagine the homeowner is standing out front while your dog poops in their lawn. You better bet you’re going to be more likely to pick that up, than if they weren’t.

So the last component to change behavior is peer pressure. To really bring home the new behavior, add an element of peer oversight.

That could be telling the employee how many other people are doing it that way (i.e. a weekly update about how many changes have been made to the ad offer sheet); providing visibility to others when it’s done the wrong way (i.e. an email alert when too many emails hard bounce from a particular send); or congratulating people doing it the right way (i.e. giving a monthly team award for best trafficked blog posts to provide consistent role models).

That’s it. Now you’re ready to drive better results from your teammates. And they won’t even know what hit them!

Just take these three steps:

  1. Change the design
  2. Give specific feedback
  3. Add peer pressure

Up next, learn how to sell your marketing ideas like an FBI negotiator.

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By Megan Mitzel

I'm the wearer of overalls behind the marketing advice website Marketing Overalls. I'm also a senior marketing director with more than ten years of experience leading acquisition and lifecycle marketing at successful startups. Before that, I got a business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before that, I owned a seashell shop. And that's the tea on me.