If you’ve spent much time trying to persuade others about community, you’ve probably had to overcome WIIFM (what’s in it for me) objections from people who can’t imagine why anyone would participate without some sort of direct reward.
In 2018, I was hired to present to a small group of executives at a software company. One of them wanted to start a community but was struggling to overcome the objections of his colleagues. He was hoping an outsider could help overcome their objections.
About halfway through my presentation, I was abruptly interrupted with an ironic statement:
Exec: “I asked about communities in a WhatsApp group I’m in. A friend of mine at [big software company] said they had tried it and you have to either pay members to answer questions or give them free stuff. Eventually, it became too expensive and they shut it down”.
He didn’t see the irony in that statement.
Me: “Did you pay your friend to give you that information?”
Exec (looking confused): “Umm, No?”
Me: “So why did your friend at [big software company] help you?”
Exec (looking more confused): “Because he’s my friend and likes to help. Why does this matter?”
I felt I might be breaking through…
Me: “That’s the same as any other community! People like that feeling of helping each other. The more they get to know and like each other, the more they want to help. If people aren’t doing that in his community, I’d guess your friend probably resorted to giving members free stuff too quickly instead of finding out what really motivates them”.
I can’t say I persuaded him, but the other executives did seem convinced and the company eventually moved ahead with creating the community (without paying members).
My advice to overcoming WIIFM objections is to find something relatable that people in the room ‘do for free’ (or have seen done for free) and build upon that.