Four Old Psychology Tricks to Help Your Marketing Strategies

September 14, 2017

How To



Web Design

Tips & Tricks

Small Business

How awesome would it be if you could double your profits by adding five words at the end of your call-to-action?

Or, what if, by adding an option “C” to your online advertisement, you could coerce the majority of your customers into paying almost triple what they’d planned on paying?

You’d be pretty psyched (ha), right?

Let’s take a look at four impressive psychology studies and how they can immediately improve your marketing and sales strategies. Either I’m the most gullible person on the planet (probably), or I can attest to these from personal experience as a consumer… they work.

Psychology Lesson #1 → “Even-A-Penny Parameter”

You know that little box at the Dunkin Donut’s cashier stand that says, “Donate to the Jimmy Fund. Even a penny counts.”

My guess is, if you’re anything like me, you’ve felt immensely guilty for forking over your cash for that strawberry-frosted donut, while putting nothing in the box with the little sick kid on the front. Chances are, once or twice, you’ve put some loose change in the box.

Do you usually make sure that whatever you’re putting into the box, it’s just one penny–no more, no less? Probably not (if you do this… maybe you should re-consider spending all your money on breakfast sandwiches).

 The thing is–this isn’t just you being super-generous with that cash of yours (sorry). It’s actually tied to psychology.

Listen to this: In the 1970s, Robert Cialdini and his colleagues conducted a study by going door-to-door to request for donations for the American Cancer society. They switched back and forth between two different request lines:

  1. “Would you be willing to help by giving a donation?”

  2. “Would you be willing to help by giving a donation? Even a penny will help.”

Guess what? (I know, I know… you know where this is going.) Cialdini & co. found that those who were offered option B were twice as likely to donate to the charity than those offered option A (jumping up nearly 50% from the 28% response rate for option A). Just like me standing in line at D-D’s… give me some parameters, and I don’t feel ‘paralyzed’ into doing nothing.

Most interesting of all… the “even-a-penny” comment Robert threw at his participants had no reflection on how much they donated. It just made them realize they could, indeed, make a difference.

Bottom line: Set some parameters with those call-to-actions of yours. Figure out what is making your customers freeze up about making a purchase, signing up, trying the free-trial, whatever–in other words, why are they saying no? And then rephrase that call-to-action to include a ‘minimum’ parameter that will let your customers know that even a small action on their end can make a difference. Like the foot-in-the-door technique: ask them for a request small enough that they can’t say no.

Psychology Lesson #2 → “The Loyalty Card Trick”

I tried Turnstyle for the first time last week. At the end, I swore I’d never do it again (do I seriously have to pay for that pain? $12 for the first class, too! That’s like the price of a small pizza). But then I got an email that said I magically had “5 points” already in my account–a few more (55 more, actually…), and I could win a free class!

So I signed up for another class. Because, I mean… I already have FIVE points. I’m practically there already.

Okay, so now listen to this: in 2006, Nunes & Dreze conducted a study in which they handed out two different kinds of “loyalty cards”:

  1. This card required eight stamps to get a free car wash, with no stamps “pre-checked” (all the stamps were blank)

  2. This card required ten stamps to get a free car wash, with two stamps checked (and eight blank)

For those of you not-that-great at mathematics (or not-that-great at reading…): both options require 8 stamps to get the free wash. But the participants who were handed card B were nearly twice as likely to come back enough times to get a free wash, because they felt like they were already on their way to completing their ‘goal’ (thank god, I’m not alone!).

Bottom line: If you’re going to start any sort of loyalty program, make your customers feel like they’ve already made some progress towards their goal. They’ll be inspired to “keep going” (like I’m inspired with my Turnstyle points… and wasting all my money).

Psychology Lesson #3 → “Always Have an Option C”

A couple of years ago, The Economist ran this very ridiculous-looking ad:

  1. Online subscription → $59

  2. Print subscription → $125

  3. Online and print subscription → $125

Dan Ariely caught ahold of this, and in his now-famous TedTalk, “Are we in control of our own decisions,” he discusses the experiment he came up with as a result.

First, he gave 100 MIT students the same three options. The majority (84%) chose option 3 because, well, pretty great deal, right?

So then Ariely took away option 2–which was useless anyway (who’s going to choose that one when, for the exact same price, they can get online as well?)

But when he took the option away, most students now wanted option 1 (68%).

Ariely concluded that people need something as a “frame of reference” for what a “great” deal they’re getting. When they saw option 3 in comparison to option 2–well, jeez, it looked pretty awesome.

Bottom line: You can alter your customer’s decision-making process by manipulating the environment in which you’re proposing a “great” deal. Perhaps you want to add an “option C” to a deal you’re offering, so people see the deal in comparison to your inferior frame-of-reference. In other words, make your product or service look like the very attractive stranger at the bar–next to all his/her “inferior” frame-of-reference friends.

Psychology Lesson 4 → “Prime Your Website”

So, (I think this is a legit website…) tells me that “priming” is “the implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences response to a later stimulus…used to train a person’s memory both in positive and negative ways.”

Essentially, if I show you the color “red,” you’ll be quicker to recognize the word “apple” in the future because red and apple are closely related.

I know, I know. Not that interesting. Hang with me–I’m going somewhere with this, I swear.

A study conducted by Naomi Mandel and Eric J. Johnson primed participants by showing them a website that either had a background with red and orange flames (priming for safety) or a background with green dollars (priming for cost).

Psychology Today explains that the study found that participants who had been primed on money “looked at price information longer than those who had been primed on safety… [this] held true even when the user was a seasoned expert.”

Bottom Line: Your website could literally “prime” your consumers into checking out the best parts of your product first, and for the longest amount of time. Let’s say your product is more energy-efficient than your competitors, but also more expensive… you could use your website to prime your consumers to check out the energy-efficiency of your product and to compare that against your competitors, without even considering the cost (okay, they’ll probably consider the cost… but they won’t be primed to check it out first, and that’s gotta count for something, right?).

Psst… Need some help actually turning this “primed” website into a reality? I think we can help…