All entrepreneurs are in the business of influencing people. They work hard day in and day out to get you, the consumer, to be influenced enough by their product or service to use it over other similar products. How do you as an entrepreneur gain an advantage over your competition and how do you get to the point of being a true influencer in your industry? “It all comes down to word of mouth” states our guest Jonah Berger. Jonah is a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a world-renowned expert on word of mouth, social influence, consumer behavior, and how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on. He has published dozens of articles in top‐tier academic journals, teaches Wharton’s highest rated online course, and popular accounts of his work often appear in places like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review.
In this discussion, Jonah shares with us the 6 points you as an entrepreneur need to focus on to be an effective influencer of others – that is to get word of mouth to carry about your product. These include social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical values and stories. He outlines these in great detail in his book Contagious which can be found here and they can easily be remembered by the acronym STEPPS. Jonah shares with us an example of social currency in which he explains that the better something looks, the more likely they are to share it. Citing an example of a bar that does no advertising in New York City but receives tremendous business, we learn that they are even hidden inside a Hot Dog restaurant and is named Please Don’t Tell. This “secret” aspect of the bar gives it an appeal that others do not have and results in more business to the establishment. Jonah shares with us another example of a blender that destroys / blends a cell phone in it to demonstrate the power of the blender but to which leaves us with the question, can other blenders do that too? It’s irrelevant because no other company showed us their power so we assume it is the best.
Social influence is all around us and impacts us whether we are leaders or followers. Jonah talks about how lawyers climb the ranks of law and then all buy BMWs, sub-consciously being affected by the influence of their peers that all drive BMWs. We are impacted by social influence but are mostly unaware of it on us directly because it is all acting on us sub-consciously. Jonah states that the only place we do not see social influence is in ourselves.
In the closing segment, Jonah talks about an interesting experiment that showed how cockroaches are influenced by social factors. A scientist devised a cockroach stadium and tasked the roaches with running different routes, some straight and others curved. The scientist also had others watching and not watching the roach at times and that factor was also key in the outcome of how well the roach performed on the task. What it showed was that the roach performs well on tasks that are easy and normal when being watched by others but if you add something unexpected or harder to the equation, the impact of others watching greatly impacted the roach’s ability to perform the task well. It all boils down to we are influenced by others if we know are being watched. Jonah then relates this to how a workplace functions and how we as entrepreneurs can use this lesson to heighten the impact of our staff.
This is a great discussion of entrepreneurism from an academic standpoint by a leader in this field. In addition to his best-selling book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On (hundreds of thousands of copies are in print in over 30 languages), he also recently wrote, Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior. Berger is a popular speaker at major conferences and events and often consults for companies like Apple, Google, GE, Coca‐Cola, Vanguard, 3M, Kaiser Permanente, Unilever, and The Gates Foundation. You can catch this full interview at www.thatyoutubechannel.com and on iTunes found here and please subscribe to That Business Show to hear many more great entrepreneurial discussions daily from Tampa Bay and across the Nation!