How to get people to willingly cough up their contact information

How to get people to willingly cough up their contact information

Have you been “Brewstered” yet? I have. Multiple times.

Brewster is a service that sends a request on your behalf to anyone for whom you have contact information to update their details. So I could send a Brewster request to everyone in my address book asking them to update their phone number or email address. Of course in order to get people to actually do this requires that their behaviour be influenced, so let’s look at how Brewster goes about this task.


The Brewster proposition


If you are someone who wants to keep their network of contacts current, Brewster is an attractive tool. At the click of a few buttons you get your clients, suppliers and other contacts to do the work for you.

For anyone receiving more than one Brewster request, however, this gets pretty annoying. I had five requests within a week recently all asking that I check my details and update for changes. Getting Brewstered is quite an impost.

So how does Brewster try to influence the behaviour of those who have to do the work? Here are eight strategies they employ.

1. Subject line

I’ve mocked up how a Brewster email request arrives from the fictitious Joe Smith (to protect those who have sent them to me).


Note how the email is called “REMINDER”, even if it’s the first time you’ve received it. This is to make it seem like it’s something you already know about but just haven’t gotten around to doing, effectively tricking you into thinking you really should do it this time.

Importantly they include the name of the person who is making the request (Joe Smith) and infer Brewster is doing Joe a favour, he “Asked us to reach out”. It becomes harder to ignore a third party when they are doing something as a favour to someone you already know.

2. Email address for Brewster

Too few businesses pay attention to the email address they use with customers, using descriptors like “[email protected]”, or “[email protected]”. The words you use can set the tone of your correspondence. Look what Brewster have done.

“Stay in touch” is how they label their email, reinforcing the positive and mutually beneficial nature of the interaction.

With the hard work of getting people to open the email done, Brewster now focus on how to get the recipient to act on the update request.

3. Photo of requestor

A photo of your colleague who is making this request appears at the top of the email, connecting you to them. Faces and eye contact play a significant role in trust and reciprocity, bringing to mind what this person means to you.

4. Contact information

The information the requestor has asked of you is clearly presented. Gaps (like in this case, my mobile number) are highlighted in a different colour, drawing attention to what I should provide.

5. Call to action

The only button to press here is big and blue, eliminating any confusion I might feel about what to do next.

6. Security assurance

At the point of heightened anxiety, when I am thinking about clicking the button, they provide an assurance that this link will expire “for my safety” in 48 hours. This has the sneaky dual purpose of putting some urgency into my action, because the link won’t work after that time.

7. Credentialing cues

While I might trust Joe Smith who has sent the request, can I trust Brewster? I’ve written before on the importance of logos and accreditations as a short-cut to building trust, and that’s exactly what Brewster are doing by showcasing the news services in which they have been featured.

8. Confirmation

Once you have updated and/or confirmed your contact information you receive another email to thank you. This time the email comes from “[email protected]”, and the real reason is to get you to now use Brewster yourself to have your contacts update their information. A virtuous loop!

Note how they are cleverly diminishing the perceived effort of doing this by offering the reward in only “45 seconds”.

The use of the same big blue button reinforces how easy the action is to take – after all, you just updated your contact information for Joe and that wasn’t hard, was it?


Brewster’s behavioural loop


As I mentioned, after receiving a handful of requests to update my contact information within a short space of time I started to tire of Brewster requests.

But this perversely might play into Brewster’s favour, because the best way for me to stop getting requests is to create my own account and centralise my details, pushing my updates out rather than being pulled in. An interesting behavioural loop indeed, and a business model from which we can learn a lot about influence.

(NB: Picture of Joe Smith is actually self-portrait of Colin Brough from rgb stock.)

Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.



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