When I was in charge of sales at a TV station, we had a contest to win a trip based on reaching a sales goal. We pushed hard to hit the goal, but it was the last few months where we really hit our stride and exceeded the goal line. It seemed like all our sales efforts gained traction at the end of the contest.
The original research showed that rats running a maze ran faster as they got closer to the food or goal. It seems we are the same as rats.
This is an example of the “goal gradient hypothesis” that states that the closer we get to a goal, the more effort is expended to achieve it. Some call it momentum, but Columbia University found that people will drink more coffee if they know they are getting close to the end of their punch card for a free drink.
So what to do with this information? The book Brainfluence, by Roger Dooley, suggests you should seed your goals to make it appear closer to the goal from the very beginning. You see this in loyalty programs for plane tickets. Many credit cards will give you 10,000 points toward your goal of 25,000 for a free ticket. Now you’re really ready to spend on that card with the reduced goal requirement. The 10,000 points also seems like a valued gift from the credit card.
All can benefit — sales, fundraising, productivity, punch cards – -from this simple perception-bending approach. Quickly moving toward a goal will make people more engaged and a lot more motivated.