Foot in the Door Technique

Get this:Trust is one of the most powerful elements of your online business.

Get people to trust you and conversions will skyrocket.

If they trust you, they’ll listen to every word you say.

If they trust you, they’ll buy what you sell.

If they trust you, they’ll tell others about your brand.

But trust is not an easy thing to build online. People tend to reserve their trust for only a chosen few.

And who can blame them?

Without the luxury of physical interaction, it’s not easy to gauge if a business is worthy of one’s trust.

So how do you get past this technological barrier?

Well, there are many things you can do.

But today, let’s talk about an effective Psychological technique that can do wonders for getting people to trust you and your business.

And the good news?

You don’t have to force them to do it.

You don’t have to drag them shouting and screaming towards your purchase button.

In fact, when you use this technique, people will buy from you with a smile of satisfaction on their faces.

“What is this technique?” you ask.

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Let me introduce you to the foot-in-the-door technique (FITD)

Here’s a lesson for you, young ones.

Not a long time ago, salesmen used to go door-to-door to hawk their goods. One of the things they would do was to put one foot in the door to stop people from shutting it on them.

This is the inspiration for the foot-in-the-door technique.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be as obnoxious as stopping a person from shutting his own door when using it online.

This is how it works:

You first make a small request. Make it something easy to agree to.

It shouldn’t need a lot of mental or physical investment from the person.

If they agree to it, you can then later ask for a bigger request.

The FITD technique says that when you approach customers this way, they’re more inclined to agree to the bigger request than if you didn’t make the small request first.

This Psychological phenomenon was first studied by Freedman & Fraser in 1966.

Here’s what they did.

In a small town in Palo Alto California, researchers knocked on homeowners’ houses and asked to put a big billboard on their front yard with a message for drivers to drive safely. Only 17% of homeowners said yes.

They then did the same experiment with an improved strategy. First, they asked the homeowners to stick a small 3-inch sticker on their window with the same message. But here’s the kicker. A week later, they returned to the same houses. This time, they asked if they could stick the bigger billboard on their front yard.

Guess how many agreed to it?


A small similar request first, followed by the bigger ask increased the conversions of the latter by more than 400%.

And you might think that’s an isolated case.

But you see this used in a lot of situations in our daily lives.

Think about the food samples in supermarkets to get you to buy the whole leg of ham!

Think about the people who volunteer first intending to get a permanent job in the future.

Think about a love affair that starts at first base to get to fourth base! 😛

It’s so prevalent in our daily lives that it will serve you well not only as an internet marketer but also as a parent, a husband/wife or a friend.

Foot-in-the-door technique examples: applying it online

1. Convertica’s form to get leads

Let’s start with one that we use on the Convertica site.

This is many levels of a small request leading to a big ask.

Let’s have a look at our homepage. Check out the content above the fold.

And have a look at the form aimed to qualify leads.

It’s not just any form. It’s a gamified form that takes the person’s details in a few short steps.

It starts with the segmentation. Small ask.

Person clicks. Then info about the business revenue.

Person clicks Next. Then the site address.

Person clicks Next. Then we ask for the name, email and Skype info. Bigger request.

It’s short. It’s quick. It’s sweet.

Every time the person clicks, he’s doing a micro-behavior. He starts to invest in the whole process.

And you know what’s true about human Psychology?

We generally like consistency.

It gives structure and meaning to our lives.

Every time a person clicks Next. The Psychology of consistency becomes more established.

2. Asking for people’s emails

Asking for people’s email address is the FITD technique in action.

When you sell something online, asking for an email is a relatively small ask in the whole scheme of things.

What you’re doing is getting them used to interacting with you.

Undeniably, there are a lot of nuances involved in making email marketing thrive.

But part of why it works is that by asking them to send you their email, your target customer becomes primed to treat engaging with you as part of their behavior.

Want to give this even more power?

After they’ve subscribed, don’t just leave it at that.

Send them a personal email with another ask (like a question). If they respond, great! You’ve just multiplied the possibility of them responding to another bigger request later.

3. Beardbrand and user-generated content on social media

Have a company hashtag and ask your followers to use it when applicable.

Ask your website visitors to share your blog post on social media.

Even better, hold a contest on social media that your target customers will be excited to join.

What you’re doing is starting the small ask. A small change in behavior.

No biggie.

And guess what? Keep doing this and their attitude and behavior towards your brand will change positively in your favor, too.

So that when you ask for a bigger favor later, like Buy Your New Product, they’re more likely to say yes to you.

This is what Beardbrand did to increase email sign-ups and sales in only a month.

During the month of Movember, Beardbrand ran a social media contest. Every day for 7 days, they gave away over $560 worth of their products to one lucky winner each day.

It’s a small ask to get them to send their emails for the chance to win something.

And it turned out to be a success for Beardbrand. They not only doubled their email list but also had their largest sales day ever.

See my point?

A contest may seem like a trivial marketing strategy. But, it’s one way to modify your target customers’ behavior. It’s a way for them to associate positive emotions with your brand.

This not only helped the company spread its reach but also initiated the FITD technique.

So that when the bigger ask came, their customers were more open to taking their credit cards out and handing them their money.

This is the type of customer you want in your business.

4. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Trial.

You sign up for free and you get 30 days of special prices and free delivery.

This is classic FITD technique in action. You get something for free and the chance of you subscribing for a Prime account after 30 days goes up.

Boy! I would love to have a peek into Amazon’s conversion rates and see how much these trials increase Prime subscriptions.

As you may notice, this is a popular strategy among many online companies.

Like basecamp…

Or TakeLessons


5. Pottery Barn and its 3d Room View

Pottery Barn has a 3d -Room View App.

The concept is simple.

Want to see if a Pottery Barn furniture fits well in a space in your room? Simply use the app and you’ll see. Right there on your mobile phone.

It’s easy to use. It’s a big help to the customer.

And what else does it do? It encourages the customer to become invested in the product.

And late, getting them to buy it will be an easier sell.

By asking them to do a small thing first before the bigger ask, the conversions go up.


6. Influencing the influencer with the FITD technique

If you’ve done outreach marketing before, you know what I mean.

Find an influencer you’d really like to be besties with. 🙂

He’s busy. You’ve got time on your hands.

How do you get his attention?

How do you get him to share the next big article you’re launching when he doesn’t know squat about you?

Start small.

Simply say hi on social media. Or better yet, regularly promote his work.

If he says hi back, or retweets your tweet (a small behavioral investment) you’ve started your FITD strategy.

Then send him an email. A simple introduction. Nothing fancy.

You could then ask (nicely) for a quote from him for that next big article you’re writing. This is a bigger request. But if you did your small request correctly at the start, chances are he’ll agree to this, too.

And guess what?

If you cement this relationship well. And your article is awesome. He will likely share the article to his followers when you publish it.

That’s foot in the door technique in action.

Now imagine how that story ends if you skip all the small requests. What would happen if you jumped right in and asked him to share your article the first time you sent him an email?

It is extremely unlikely he’d even respond to say “No”.

Why does the foot-in-the-door technique work?

Our actions are often influenced by previous experiences.

Hanna Perfecto et. al in their research study, Rejecting a Bad Option Feels Like Choosing a Good One, argues that when a person makes a decision that’s consistent with past behavior, he’s more confident in the choice that he makes.


Because we’ve evolved to have high regards for consistency. says that 

“…people are motivated to seek coherent attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, values, behaviors, and feelings. If these are inconsistent, they will produce a “tension state” in the individual, and motivate the individual to reduce this tension. Individuals reduce this tension,…by making their relevant cognitions consistent.”

So what it boils down to is this:

When our actions are inconsistent, we feel uncomfortable.

That’s why change is often a struggle. It takes too much mental power and Psychological fuel.

And herein lies the power of the foot-in-the-door technique.

Think about that first small request. Remember it’s small enough that the person doesn’t expend a lot of brainpower agreeing to it.

When you later approach him with a bigger ask, the brain does a mental calculation of past behaviors to look for consistencies.

And If he had previously said “Yes” to you. Chances are high that he’ll say “Yes” again.

What you’re doing is making it easy for your customer to make a decision.

But like a lot of things, there are some principles to follow to ensure its high chance of success.

Here are my top tips:

    1. Make it public. As Robert Cialdini says in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, when there is a witness present, a person becomes even more inclined to be consistent with subsequent behavior.
    2. Make the small request consistent with the bigger request. 
    3. Don’t make the first request trivial. The person should have clarity as to why she’s doing it. So that the behavior becomes part of her self-belief. Why? As M. Burger & E. Guadagno finds in a recent study, when a person has low-clarity on the initial request, they are less likely to agree with the bigger request.

A Word of Caution

The FITD technique doesn’t work 100% of the time.

People with personalities that prefer change and unpredictability will not respond to this.

Also, if you have a rubbish product or bad customer support, you have to fix that first before you can get this to work.

You can, however, make this work wonderfully, when you combine it with other persuasion techniques like social proof and scarcity.

Have all the spokes in your marketing wheel in place and you’ll find the FITD technique works wonders in your conversions.


Use this technique with integrity.

Use it to form a relationship with your site visitors.

Use it to introduce your customers to the awesome products you sell that they don’t know about yet.

Don’t use it to control behavior.

It’s true. Some people abuse this technique.


Not only will you not sleep at night. There are also forms of the FITD technique (like a survey about the environment when you plan to sell them solar panels) that are illegal in some places.

What I’m saying is to use your power for good.

Do that.

And you’ll be greatly rewarded with an impressive increase in conversions.

Try it. And tell me about it. I would love to know how it works for you.


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Author: Kurt Philip


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Hi, I’m Kurt Philip, the founder & CEO of Convertica. I live and breathe conversion rate optimization. I hope you enjoy our findings.

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