In the book, “Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals,” author and social psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant explains several research backed strategies for getting things done.

In one chapter, she shares a study on college students who were asked to complete an essay over Christmas break. Half of the students were sent on their merry way and half were also asked when and where they would work on the essay?

The results were that 32% of the students who had made no plan completed the essay and 71% of the group who had decided when and where to work completed it. This effect of more than doubling successful completion has been replicated in other studies on students, dieters, smoker, women self-administering breast exams, and more (Gollwitzer and Sheeran.)

Grant describes the tactic as “If Then” plans. As in, “If I’m in this situation, then I’ll act this way.”

In describing why this tactic is so effective, she says that below your level of awareness your brain is always scanning the environment for situational cues.

As it pertains to marketing, this same environmental scanning for cues can initiate a referral.

Yesterday, I was hanging out with a few friends and one of them complained that he had lost a key manager level position within his agency. He was sucked back into operational work, covering that position, while already covering another missing manager role, while also dealing with two other big time sensitive challenges in the background. He didn’t have time to hire and was considering paying a recruiter to source for the two empty roles- but he was dreading paying the high commission.

Instantly, I thought of Anna Shcherbyna, who runs Remotivate, a business that helps agencies fill manager and director level positions for a flat fee.

My brain matched the cue to the situation to produce a referral. And it’s not the first referral I’ve given Anna.

The reason this works so well is because Anna:

  1. Has a service that solves a common problem
  2. And is highly specific in her service positioning around that problem

She’s only hiring for agencies and only hiring leadership positions for a flat fee. That is a tightly defined cue that fits perfectly into a specific situation in the environment.

If / then.

Here’s Dr. Grant’s book: Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals

Featured image is an illustration by René Descartes of how the brain implements a reflex response from his 345 year old book, Traite de l’homme. Famous for his quote, “I Think, Therefor I Refer.” Used under public domain.