The Appeal of Effort

The Appeal of Effort


A Learned Behavior

What does effort give us? In a word, results. For most things if you put effort in, you will get a roughly equal return out. We have come to learn this throughout our early years of childhood (hopefully). With this knowledge, we judge how much effort is necessary by looking at anticipated results. We can decide to expend that effort or not based on how much we want the desired outcome.

This has produced a nice way for us to go about deciding how to do things and what to do. However, it has also put our thinking in a box. There are many tasks that do not require much effort for a large reward. In relationships*, we often think the things that make them work are big gestures like a party or a meaningful gift. In reality, it’s the small, everyday things like listening and offering encouragement that make the biggest impact. We tend to see these small efforts as exceptions to the rule and rid them of our thoughts when considering effort versus reward. This is why we often use the saying “too good to be true.” But as the previous example shows there are things that allow for more return on your investment of effort.

Skepticism Reduces Risk

Why then, do we not have a separate category that could be described as maximum impact for your effort? As a society we are skeptical of big rewards that only require small effort. This may be leftover thinking from older generations that had to work much harder to gain less than we have today. Another reason, and I suspect this is the more prominent, is that we have been burned by promises of great gains with little effort. This has surely put a bad taste in our mouths and the memory would be seared into our brains because we probably lost money in the venture. As described before, humans want to reduce risks more than they want the best product. Doing so means we avoid things that look too good to be true.

Unicorns Do Exist, but You Should Chop off the Horn and Call It a Horse

But what if there truly is a product that requires little effort and provides a lot of value? Unfortunately, customers will be skeptical and not buy the product so they aren’t ripped off. So what to do with this amazing product that provides excellent value with little investment of effort? Add effort. This is a counter-intuitive approach for sure, but let’s go through it.

Since customers are worried about a product being advertised as something better than it actually is there will be fewer customers who buy. Adding a little effort on the customer’s part will appeal to that sense we developed as children that anything worth it’s value requires roughly the same amount of effort from us. If a customer knows what results are expected with the product and sees that she must do something like spend 15 minutes a day to get that result, believability is established. This product has become much more appealing because the results are believable.

Test the Level of Effort

Adding effort to a product may seem like making it harder to use and drive customers away. However, it does the opposite. More customers will be interested because they “know” the effort will achieve the results. You will have to test how much effort is most effective with product sales. Adding too much will turn buyers away. I suggest adding a small amount of effort to your products and then tell your customers how effectively it will solve their problem. Adjust the level of effort as needed.



*I’m not a therapist, but would like to think I know what’s important in a relationship after 12 years of marriage. Therapists do seem to support this claim however.