Stop Thinking Logically — and Start Thinking Like Your Customers
The environment we’re in when planning marketing campaigns, developing products, and deciphering customer behavior may be hindering us.
I’ll give you an example: I’m sitting in a beautiful, sunlit conference room in Jacksonville, Fla., right now. It’s a great place to brainstorm and plan with the team. However, it also forces us to think logically. We’ll do X. Competitors are doing Y. So customers will like our product better and act because of Z.
Here’s the problem with that approach: The customer isn’t sitting in an equally beautiful and sunlit conference room analytically making choices. No! They’re living life.
Their kid just dropped ice cream on their lap. They’re watching your ad on TV while checking Twitter and talking to their spouse. They are upset that their favorite football team traded its top cornerback for some draft picks while mindlessly searching for some new pet food.
In other words, we are thinking logically and they are not. For your marketing to move them, you have to understand what they are going through.
Anxiety and friction are two factors that decrease customers’ likelihood to purchase your product that have nothing to do with a cold calculus of benefits and dollars and cents. Your customer does not consider these factors through an entirely logical lens because, hey, we’re all human. Consider the customer mindset, and you're likely to find some clarity.
1. Anxiety: A Mental Cost
I might have sounded pretty haughty at the beginning of this article, but I want to be clear — I’m not entirely logical either when I’m in customer mode. Yes, it’s true, I am also a human.
I’m scared. Irrationally so. As are most humans. Anxiety gave our primate ancestors an evolutionary advantage to avoid being eaten by saber-tooth tigers and snakes and even — get this — giant, predatory kangaroos.
I’ll give you an example: I was in Toronto recently for a value proposition training at Royal Bank of Canada. We were coming from Jacksonville, and I certainly wasn’t used to the winter weather in Canada. My colleague and I were eating in the hotel bar the first night we got there, and the TV news was discussing the weather forecast for the day we were scheduled to fly out.
“15 centimeters of snow! 60 kilometer-per-hour winds! -11 degree Celsius temperature!”
Our first reaction was — oh no! Our flight is not going to make it out in 60 km/h winds! That was our irrational anxiety. But then we realized … wait a minute. How fast is 60 km/h anyway? To the smartphone!
Turns out it is only 37 mph. Still windy, for sure. But not as anxiety-inducing as 60.
How to Overcome Anxiety: Clarity, Trust, and Content
Communicate with Clarity
If you sell a complex product, are you communicating in a way your customers can easily understand? This is especially true for medical and technology products, but for almost any product or service a company sells, the marketer will be far more knowledgeable than the customer.
If you don’t clearly communicate, you will unnecessarily cause anxiety. When you do so, you may not only lose out to the competition, but you'll lose to the dreaded “no decision” as well. For example, some life insurance and annuity products are so complex, customers may just throw up their hands and say, "forget it!" They are too worried they will make the wrong choice, and then make no purchase at all.
I’m not a car guy, but I had a great mechanic before he retired. Just a really honest and knowledgeable guy (he used to fix jet engines in Vietnam) with a single garage. When I had a car problem, he would emphatically explain to me, “You see, the problem is your frim fram was trying to overrun its RPMs every time you accelerated your sprocket balancer. Your frim fram isn’t meant to do that. That’s why it was overheating. So we had to replace it, and while I was in there, I took off the gasket manifold and re-sparked your plugs to deep set your pistons.”
At least that’s how it sounded to me. I have no idea what he was talking about. Without that trusted relationship over the years, that complex explanation would have seriously sparked my anxiety. But my response was always just, “OK, Butch.” Because I trusted him.
With someone I didn’t trust, you better believe I would be Googling every statement the mechanic said, looking for holes in the story and trying to get other prices.
So before you start hitting customers with all the tech talk and complexity, make sure you have built that level of trust. Make sure your interactions pass the trust trial. This comes from content. It comes from branding. And it comes from treating them with respect and engaging in customer-first marketing.
Create Content to Address Anxiety
When we didn’t know what 60 km/h was in American numbers, we Googled it. When complexity raises anxiety in customers, they are going to go searching for answers.
Content marketing is an excellent top-of-the-funnel tactic, because it brings in the ideal customer for your product and builds trust. But it’s also a good middle-of-the-funnel tactic because it reassures customers and addresses their anxiety.
2. Friction: A Physical Cost
One of the reasons the weather forecast wasn’t clear to us in that hotel restaurant in Canada was because our neighbor to the north is on the metric system, while America is not. In fact, my daughter was asking me about this before I left on my trip. Why isn’t America on the metric system? Friction.
Humans are lazy by nature. I’m lazy. You’re lazy. My college roommate was extremely lazy. The word lazy has become a pejorative term, but it shouldn’t be one. Evolutionarily it made sense. You couldn’t just run down to the local fast food joint to fill up on calories. You needed to stalk a woolly mammoth and fell it with a spearhead hand-carved from stone. No easy task.
According to a study by Bruce Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Kansas, “The lower the metabolic rate, the more likely the species you belong to will survive. Instead of ‘survival of the fittest,’ maybe a better metaphor for the history of life is ‘survival of the laziest’ or at least ‘survival of the sluggish.’”
So why haven’t we moved to the metric system? It’s certainly more logical. There are 100 centimeters in a meter. There are 1,000 meters in a kilometer. However, we have 12 inches in a foot? We have 5,280 feet in a mile? The American system (I don’t even know the name of it) makes no logical sense. But we haven’t we switched to a more logical system because of friction.
It’s the same reason you can’t give your B2B customers only a logical reason for re-platforming their software system or give B2C customers only a logical reason for switching where they bank. You need to understand the friction involved for them.
Key Lessons about Friction: Reduce It and Overcome It
Evaluate everything you ask customers to do, from filling out a form to buying your product. How can you reduce friction in the process?
For example, when I go to the McDonald’s drive-through, I shout into a tinny speaker and get a garbled response back. When I go to a Chick-fil-A drive-through, there are employees waiting in line to take my order and payment, give me my receipt, and keep that line moving.
Incentive is the bacon of marketing tactics. Just like bacon can make any food taste better, incentive will get you more response for just about any marketing offer. However, you can overdo it as well and kill your margins. If you’re just selling on incentive, you really have no value proposition.
To really use incentive effectively, it should be that extra something that tips people to overcome friction and act. This is why banks offer a few hundred bucks if you switch your account. They realize the friction involved in those switching costs. There is a logical argument that can be made to encourage people to switch. And then you can move past logic and add a few hundred bucks of free money to sweeten the pot.
The concepts in this article come from the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic, a patented methodology for improving the probability of conversion.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.