Ever pondered why so many things we hear or read come in threes? How about the three little pigs, the Three Stooges or the Three Wise Men? Thomas Jefferson’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our Declaration of Independence, Caesar’s veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) and Shakespeare’s line from Julius Caesar, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Movie titles include “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Tora, Tora, Tora” or in advertising consider Nike’s Just Do It, McDonald’s I’m loving it and KFC’s Finger Licking Good.
In Latin there was a phrase (guess there still is), “omne trium perfectum” which roughly translates into everything that comes in threes is perfect. In construction the triangle is the strongest shape, able to evenly balance the stress put on it, and is seen in such structures as a geodesic dome, the Eiffel Tower and bridges throughout the world. Even in comedy, the rule of three creates a pleasing rhythm with a surprise ending and is sometimes referred to as boom, boom, bang. Comedian Laura Kightlinger, offers this example; “I can’t think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, how you met, or why they’re dead.” Boom, boom, bang!
You may be saying who cares if the pyramids in Egypt are triangular, (a square pyramid?), that location, location, location is still key in real estate or that the third time’s a charm? Because information presented in threes is sticky, meaning it sticks in our brains more readily than lists of four, seven or 10. If you create Power Points or other presentation materials, think three bullet points in legible font, not seven in tiny, tiny, type (alliteration usually comes in threes). Titles of articles or blogs with three words or a boom, boom, bang will tend to draw a higher percentage of readers.
In sales, the Rule of Three or Power of Three is potent. When writing an email to a prospect make three salient, brief points to intrigue them enough to respond back. In a presentation or pitch, ask three open-ended questions that build on each other. For example; how do you use promotional products in your marketing mix? What product(s) have been the most effective? Why? People love hearing their name so strive to use a customer or prospect’s name three times in a conversation. When seeking information, ask three times for additional facts, i.e. why do you prefer using Company A over Company B? Why else? Is there anything else you can think of? The key to this technique though is to let the other person talk and for you to listen, listen, listen.
Present offers in threes like the classic good, better and best. Ask for three referrals, list three things that differentiate you from the competition, follow-up three times after you send someone a quote, separate your list of prospects into cold, warm and hot, reach out to someone at least three times before you give up (in this last case it’s actually been said it takes at least eight try’s before you are likely to get a response).
Like anything, the rule of three isn’t immutable, but given it’s longevity in human history there does seem to be something to it. Consider our Earth is the third rock from the sun, that there are three (more or less) political parties in the U.S., there are three feet in a yard (no comment from you metric users), people run three-legged races at picnics, Freud’s theory of personality is that we all have an Id, an Ego and a Super Ego or that we play rock, paper scissors.
Give the rule of threes a try and let us know below in the comments section what other ways you’ve seen the rule of three used successfully. But remember, if you’re into sex, drugs and rock n’ roll then chances are you may not remember that truth, justice, and the American way are the three causes for which Superman fights. And there’s a reason why Santa Claus says ho, ho, ho and Beanz Meanz Heinz.