How Your Firm Can Use The Perceptual Contrast Effect To Influence Prospects

Jeff Berman
August 5, 2010

perceptionWhat Is The Perceptual Contrast Effect? offers us the following description of the perceptual contrast effect:

When we make decisions, we tend to do it by contrasting between the decision item and reference items. When two things appear close to one another, we will tend to evaluate them against one another more than against a fixed standard.

A simple physical way of illustrating perceptual contrast is to put one hand into hot water and other into cold water, then move them both to lukewarm water. The cold hand will feel hot and the hot hand will feel cold.

I know this may sound interesting, but seems irrelevant to your firm.   Let me explain a bit more so you can get a better understanding of how to use the perceptual contrast effect to your firm's advantage.

How The Amount Of Information Given Can Influence A Decision

Remember that we have a tendency, when two things appear similar, to evaluate these things against one another.  Because of this effect, the amount of information someone thinks they have about something can be influenced by the amount of information they learn about something else.  Allow me to present a study as illustrated in YES!.

The Study

Researchers asked for people to read a persuasive marketing message for a fictitious department store they named Brown's.  However, this message was read after reading a persuasive message for a different fictitious department store the researchers called Smith's.

The message for Brown's department store was the same for all participants, it described three departments of Brown's.  However, the prior message given for Smith's department store varied with either less information (only 1 department) or more information (6 departments) given.

When the first message, about Smith's, contained more information the marketing messages for Brown's were seen as less persuasive and produced less favorable attitudes.  In contrast, when less information was provided about Smith's, the marketing messages for Brown's were seen as more persuasive and produced more favorable attitudes.  It seems that people felt they knew more about Brown's after learning less about Smith's and vice versa.

How You Can Harness This Effect To Influence Potential Clients

Perhaps you have a prospect that can't decide the type of legal service they need.  Maybe the individual is considering handling their issue without an attorney.  They might be opting to use a different company or service besides a law firm (ie: Legalzoom, debt consolidation company).  In any case, by providing a relatively small amount of information about the contrasting decision first (remember it doesn't need to be negative info, just sparse) and than following it up by providing abundant information about your services, you can shape the perception of your services.  This should lead to a more persuasive and favorable view of what you can do for the client.

Photo by Tama Leaver

Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman, is co-founder of AttorneySync. "Properly marketing a law firm online is about producing relevant content that helps a prospective client understand your expertise and how you are able to help them. Finally, it’s about getting that content found by the people you are trying to help."
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