Despite everything we know about diet, exercise and health, most of us don't eat or work out the way we think we should. An entire industry of wellness programs and lifestyle medicine have arisen to help us turn our bad habits into good ones.
A startup client of mine jumped into the nutrition and wellness space several months ago. They offer 10-day meal plans, called Jumpstarts, to businesses and consumers. The meals are 100 percent plant-based, and contain no added oil or sugar.
With a head chef who once was executive chef for one of the world's most prestigious cruise lines, my client is attempting to show that nutritious can also be delicious. And convenient. And not too expensive.
It's Hard to Change Behaviors
I was doubtful that they could get people to adopt this diet for more than the 10 days. Most lifestyle change programs don't do a particularly good job of changing people's behavior.
Despite the stakes and people's strong motivations to lose weight, feel good, live long, and get off their meds, most people resist changing. And most of those who do manage to change for a while end up returning to the unhealthy choices that caused their problems in the first place.
So I figured that most people who purchased a Jumpstart would "cheat" when the opportunity arose: bacon and eggs for breakfast (the Jumpstart included lunches and dinners only), Little Debbie snacks between meals, and steak dinners when eating out.
Or, even if they stuck with the program for the full 10 days, they'd go straight back to their bad habits once it ended.
When my client shared their results with me, I was shocked. Fully 90 percent of participants self-reported full compliance with the diet during the 10 days.
And about 70 percent continued eating this diet, wholly or in part, for up to two months following their Jumpstart.
Why is it Working?
Maybe it's the food. Maybe it's the convenience of not having to shop and cook every day. Maybe it's the compelling marketing copy (three cheers for me).
All of these are factors, no doubt. But there's one element of the program that I haven't yet mentioned that I believe is making all the difference. Every participant gets their cholesterol measured just before and just after the Jumpstart.
Big Goals and Little Wins
So let's think about all the reasons someone might want to improve their diet:
- To look better
- To perform better
- To stop the progression of / reverse current disease
- To avoid future disease
- To gain control over their behavior
- To serve as a role model for others
- To live in accordance with their values
These translate into search behavior when a certain threshold of despair or hope is reached.
The common denominator here, as in every set of desires, is to feel better. The only reason we want to look better is how we'll feel about looking better. We enjoy strong performance because of how it makes us feel. In the end, everything we want, we want because we think having it will feel good.
The trouble is, this long list of potential motivators is pretty vague. What does "look better" look like? How do we know if we've avoided future disease? What values, exactly, do we want to embody?
Even if these outcomes mean the world to us (and some of them can mean life or death, which is pretty much the same thing), if we can't see specific evidence, we're likely to lose motivation.
So if it takes 5 months to reverse a chronic condition through diet, and we don't see any visible progress for the first three months, we aren't likely to stick to the new diet.
So the challenge for marketing our solutions to people who want them is, how do we give our customers a good feeling right away if our solutions take time to fully manifest?
Focusing on Good Feelings
Feelings are like our bodies' temperature sensors, in that they're more sensitive to changes than absolutes. If something happens that make us feel better, we – wait for it – feel better. It doesn't have to be a grand slam, a huge win. Even a slight improvement feels good, as long as we believe we're making progress toward our ultimate goal.
That's why the pre- and post-testing is so crucial to my client's – and their customers' – success. Rather than having to rely on faith for weeks or months, Jumpstart participants get a meaningful dose of positive feedback on Day 11.
The average drop in total cholesterol, for compliant participants, has been 25 percent. What this looks like is a cholesterol level of 200 on Day 0, and 150 on Day 11.
Here's why this simple number is so motivating:
- Blood cholesterol is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular health or disease.
- Most people are familiar with the concept of cholesterol, and know their own number.
- They've been told by the medical establishment that the only way to lower their cholesterol is with drugs.
- It's an objective finding, not subject to self-doubt or fuzzy interpretation.
In other words, participants get a surprising, easy, huge, and undeniable win. And the rush of good feelings that goes along with it. They get to piggyback their long-term desires onto this short-term positive outcome.
What Can You Measure for Your Prospects and Customers?
If your business focuses on solving people's long-term problems, then you need to identify a number that you can change right away. Giving your prospects something to measure is crucial to winning their trust and harnessing their initial motivation:
- They can see a clear and objective gap between where they are and where they want to go. Just knowing that they are disorganized isn't enough; if you can show them that they waste 3.6 hours per day on multitasking, then they can feel confident that you can measure improvement. Even getting to 3.2 hours wasted will now give a good feeling.
- A single number provides focus. A well-chosen number is a close proxy to a meaningful long-term outcome. Meaning, improving that number almost always leads to improving the end result. While "getting more organized" is a daunting task, reducing multitasking is clear and defined.
- Choosing a number that you can influence quickly – ideally, pretty much immediately – gives the prospect hope. After months, years, or even decades of struggle, this quick, small, objective win represents a promising future.
While you may understand that meaningful change takes a long time, and requires patience, commitment, and effort, your prospects are secretly longing for magic.
My client's cholesterol test provides a taste of that magic. What "quick win" metric can you identify for your prospects, and measure for them?
Once you've begun that conversation, your job gets much easier: show prospects that, with your help, they can improve that number quickly and dramatically – and that they've just knocked over the first domino of many to come.