This guest post was writen by Stephen Denny ( @Note_to_CMO ) of Decision Triggers , a marketing consultancy that works with corporate clients to improve their sales and marketing performance by applying the social psychology of influence to critical customer-facing initiatives.
If you’re like most marketers – and you’re being honest with yourself – you probably fall into this first camp. Beating on the gates takes persistence, money and a thick skin. The by-invitation-only option takes an understanding of the psychology of how we make decisions – specifically, it means we have to learn something about how we can tap our target’s decision triggers, those psychologically hard-wired rules that route requests to the inbox or the mental spam filter. Tap the right decision triggers and you move your customer to yes faster.
Before we start, understand that we’re not email marketing mavens or social media consultants –– we’re influence strategists. The work we’ll describe here is based on over 30 years of research in the social sciences. It transcends cultures, demographics and marketing budgets. In other words it’s solid stuff. But what you’ll get out of understanding how decision triggers work is the difference between knocking yourself out for a 3% return and making those subtle changes that boost your returns up to 33%.
How can subtle changes help you overcome the noise in the market place today? Let’s focus on three primary blocks you face to getting your message heard and then illustrate how one specific decision trigger helps overcome each.
Block #1: Grab Their Brain. Decision Trigger: Contrast.
Brains love contrast. Before and after, faster or slower, easier or harder, engaging or boring, simple or complex, black and white, up and down, expensive and cheap, inside and outside, hot or cold. Your brain instantly takes notice. Setting up a comparison – a “just noticeable difference” – between your target’s frame of reference and your alternative does two important things. First, it sets up tension – and tension needs resolution. We hate it when we don’t know the rest of the story, don’t we? This is the heart and soul of storytelling. Second, it gives you the meaningful separation you need to show how different your difference is.
Always ask yourself, “compared to what?”
Block #2: Disbelief. Decision Trigger: The Strategic Retreat.
We’re bombarded with hyperbole, fluff and bombast, day and night. Believable statements are unique in their rarity. So do something unique. Argue against your own self-interests.
We told you at the top of this post what we weren’t. This wasn’t an accident. Saying we’re not social media consultants probably caused a very real physiological reaction in many of you. Go back and read it again and see if you notice. Give a little concession and retreat early on. When you make a careful strategic retreat, your listener acknowledges that you are being honest because you’ve just proven it – and then you can win the game on ground of your own choosing. Whatever request you make next will be coming from a credible, unbiased source – and you’ll be in a better position to get the “yes” you want.
Block #3: Closing the Sale. Decision trigger: The Rule of the Rare.
Act now, because scarcity is going fast! Actually, there’s more to it than just shouting, “Supplies are limited!” The Rule of the Rare says that things are perceived as having more value when they are perceived to be in short (and diminishing) supply, when they aren’t commonly known or when there is real exclusivity to owning them. When things get scarce, people get motivated. When there are only 2 Sony Playstations left in the store and your promised your kid you would get one for their birthday you, act immediately.
Interestingly, competition is more powerful a motivator than time – your prospects don’t have control when it’s them against someone else, do they? Supplies could evaporate in seconds! We can control our actions if we know how much time is left. Uncertainty is stickier than control. So be honest and let them know about this one of a kind opportunity or you may be inadvertently sabotaging your efforts by telling them that it’s OK to procrastinate. However, you must guard against phony offers to maintain your believability (and your ability to sleep at night, too).
What does all this mean?
When you tap your targets’ decision triggers, you get them to “yes” faster. We made brief mention above to the difference between getting 3% and getting 33% - when used this framework in a program aimed at Fortune 500 CIO’s that should have garnered a 3% response, we were able to deliver a 33% return. That’s a powerful response. Get the whole white paper here , if you’d like to learn more.
No matter whether you’re an email marketer, a social media consultant, a brand manager or a CMO with a billion to spend on demand generation – you still need to engineer your message correctly. Spend doesn’t equal conversion. You can either have a message or a mess. You choose.
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Originally published Nov 16, 2010 2:00:00 PM, updated June 10 2021