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The “Shot Glass” Secret of Business Growth


If we know each other from the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, you might also know Wally and Teri and their company, Fancifull Gift Baskets.

They sell a wine, Domaine D’Aupilhac, that is a smoky bottle of gorgeous decadence. This wine was the beginning of my encounter with an irresistible marketing force. 

The shot glass principle has been used for centuries under many names. It’s become a best practice for internet marketers in the 21st century. Politicians, pastors and even drug dealers have moved the masses by using the shot glass. 

It will grow your business, too. 

Let me tell you what I learned about this secret on a busy night long ago. Our tale involves a laptop, a bottle of wine, a deadline, and of course a shot glass…

My wife had just opened a bottle of Domaine D’Aupilhac, a wicked potion of dusky brilliance. I was eating dinner in front of my laptop, working on the fourth draft of a new client’s landing page. The project was due in 24 hours. 

“No thanks, sweetie,” I had to say when my wife offered to pour me a goblet of the pure ineffable bliss. 

I kept working, and didn’t notice when she lovingly set down a shot glass of Domaine D’Aupilhac next to my elbow. 

When I took a break, I decided that one tiny shot of wine wouldn’t be enough to impair my immense creative talents. I took a sip and relaxed into a moment of divine ecstasy as a slow jazz standard played in my mouth. 

Then it was back to work!

An hour later, I reasoned that since I had already tasted a sip of seductive debauchery, there was no harm in having another shot.

When my wife went to bed, she handed me the half-empty bottle (or was it half full?).

You probably know what happened next. I poured myself a goblet and attacked my fifth draft. I worked on into the night, feeling more confident and uninhibited. The words flowed like wine…

The next morning I had a headache and one heck of an editing job to do. After washing down my espresso with about six gallons of water, I had an epiphany.

Why are we so darn consistent?

This same story has played out again and again over the centuries. The sailor ties a small weight to the end of a cord, and throws it to the crew on the shore. They pull on the cord, which is attached to a rope, which is attached to a chain that would have been way too heavy for the sailor to toss. 

From a lightweight cord, a ship is secured. From a falling pebble, an avalanche. From a tiny shot glass, the entire bottle of wine is consumed.

A psychology professor named Robert Cialdini describes a wicked experiment using this principle. A researcher approached innocent homeowners and asked them to display small public cards in their windows, which said, “Be a safe driver.” 

Two weeks later, the researcher came back with a ridiculous request: He asked the homeowners to put a huge billboard on their front lawn that said “Drive Carefully” in ugly letters. He showed the homeowners a picture of what the billboard would look like. In the photo, the ugly sign covered most of the house. 

A full 76% of the people who displayed the tiny cards in their windows agreed to put the outrageous signs on their lawns! 

Commitment and consistency are hard-wired in our brains. If you decide you’re the kind of civic-minded person who would put a safety sign in your window, you’ll feel inclined to be consistent by putting one on your lawn. If you decide it’s OK to have a shot of wine, you’re likely to be okay with a glass of wine.

How to use the shot glass if C19 has impacted your business

In your business, you can use this principle to get new clients. If someone decides your content is worth reading or watching, you have a much better chance that they’ll pay you for something. 

This doesn’t mean that whenever someone downloads your free report, they’ll turn into a six-figure client. But if you can sell them a tiny product or service for a negligible price, they’ll be open to almost any justifiable upsell. They have already paid for your work. In their mind, you’re someone who receives their money.

There’s a reason commitment and consistency work so well. They actually benefit us most of the time. You avoid spending a lot of cognitive effort by keeping consistent with your past choices. If a certain gardener cuts your lawn, you might as well hire him to trim your tree. It saves you the time and effort of finding someone new. 

You can make the power of commitment and consistency work for you during the covid-19 crisis. People are trying hard to cut back on their spending, but they are also making radical changes in how they work and live. 

All you have to do is offer an affordable, bite-size service that supports one of these changes. 

That’s your shot glass, and as the economy re-opens, you’ll have a rich new pipeline of customers ready to buy your whole bottle. 




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