Convince Your Customers to Eat the Spinach: Using the conversion heuristic in daily life

Learning the conversion heuristic (C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) – 2a) is part of almost any MECLABS (MarketingExperiments’ parent company) certification, and eventually becomes something you begin applying to everyday life.

This empirically established cognitive framework brings structure and clarity to analysis of the sales conversion process, and guides and simplifies decisions about the prioritization of optimization energy.

Recently, I personally applied these learnings to the age-old problem every parent faces of getting their children to eat their vegetables. I even took it a step further and applied it to a specific vegetable — spinach.

It was an ordinary night, and my family had gathered around the dinner table to talk about our day and get some nourishment. I don’t remember the exact menu and won’t bore you with the minutia, but it did however include a healthy serving of spinach.

About 10 minutes into dinner, I noticed that my five-year-old daughter had not touched her spinach, and the following conversation ensued.

Me: “Honey, you need to eat your spinach.”

Daughter: “I don’t want to.”

Me: “Why not?”

Daughter: “Because I don’t like it.”

Me: “How do you know you don’t like it? You haven’t even tried it.”

Daughter: “It’s yucky!”

At this point, I knew it would be futile to continue the conversation so, instead, I began applying the conversion heuristic to the situation.

First, I knew her motivation was relatively strong because she was hungry, and younger children usually have a strong desire to please their parents.

I then evaluated my value proposition, which at this point was basically “eat it because it’s food.”

… Okay, so that needed some serious work. I decided I could add value by pointing out that it will make her grow big and strong, adding credibility by stating that Batman, Ironman and Superman all ate their spinach. I could even add on that Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia, Rainbow Dash and all of the other Little Ponies love spinach. My value proposition then became “Eating spinach makes you big and strong. [Insert superhero name(s) here] is proof.” Much better.

I also identified some of the elements of friction that were present which, anyone who has ever eaten cooked spinach knows, consists of the visual presentation (a soggy green blob) and the smell, which is very “earthy.”

My daughter had already expressed her anxiety, which was that it would taste “yucky.” I determined I could address that by adding some salt and pepper, or even offering ketchup as a flavoring option. I know a lot of you are scrunching up your noses and saying “Ketchup on spinach?! That doesn’t sound good at all.” But trust me — for those of you that don’t have kids, to them ketchup is the magical condiment that makes everything delicious.

So, I then decided what incentive I could use to counteract any friction that I could not reduce. I evaluated my options and came up with two: praise and bribery.

Keep in mind that, while I am not above bribery, I try to use it only as a last resort. I narrowed my bribery options to a treat, getting an extra story at bedtime or letting her watch 15 minutes of TV before bed.

Being armed with a planned, conversion heuristic-friendly approach, I re-engaged my daughter in the spinach conversation.

Me: “Sweetheart, you should really try your spinach. If you don’t eat it, how will you get to be big and strong like Batman or Ironman?”

Daughter: “But Daddy, I don’t want to, it’s yucky!”

Me: “Well, Rainbow Dash and Princess Celestia think it’s yummy.”

Daughter: “They do?”

Me: “They sure do honey. And I’ll tell you what, why don’t we put a little salt and pepper on it to make it taste extra yummy.”

Daughter: “Oayk Daddy.” (She tries a bite.) “I don’t like it.”

Me: “Remember, eating it will make you big and strong, just like Superman.”

Daughter: …

Me: “It would make your mommy and me very happy if you ate it.”

Daughter: … [picks at spinach with fork]

Me: “If you eat all of your spinach, I will let you have two stories at bedtime.”

Daughter: “Two stories, Daddy?”

Me: “Yes, two stories.”

Finally, SUCCESS. Here is the marketing takeaway from this simple interaction: Even though motivation was high and the value was clear, sometimes you need to sweeten the deal with an incentive to get the conversion.

Many marketers worry that this approach will spoil their customer, who will come to expect an incentive for every purchase.

But think about it like this — as children, we need to be bribed to eat the nutritious things in life. Eventually, we begin to understand their value, and happily use them in our lives. If the value of your product is truly there, your customer will come to understand it after this initial push to try the unfamiliar.

This tactic is particularly useful if your product is “boring” or less flashy than other options for your customer. It is vital to test to understand what your customer’s “two bedtime stories” are — for example, free shipping or a limited time coupon towards their purchase. A useful tactic for coming up with testing ideas is to apply the heuristic to your everyday life. You never know where inspiration for understanding your customers might come up — even over the dinner table.

You might also like

MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 — At the Bellagio in Las Vegas, February 22-24

MECLABS Methodology (From MECLABS, MarketingExperiments’ parent company)

Marketing Management: Can you create a marketing factory?

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