As humans, we are all wired to appeal to our biases. We consistently make (sometime bizarre) assumptions and leap-frog to conclusions. As these decisions are most often almost unconscious patterns that happen in our minds, they seem normal. Most often we don't recognise these mental patterns that lead to illogical conclusions. Sometimes we even refer to these biases as 'gut instinct'. The reality of the matter is that as human beings, we perceive ourselves as rational when we are actually far from it. These patterns influence who we make friends with, the careers we choose, the people we marry and the lifestyle we lead, amongst other things.
For the purpose of this article, we limit the scope to Marketing and Sales. What are the biases our consumers may have, how businesses can identify them, how businesses can appeal to these biases and how businesses can leverage biases to help sell better and faster.
As humans we are weary of ambiguity. We like to know the outcome or at least limit the variables so that the outcome is within tolerable parameters. For example, you've been working really hard for the last fortnight and now have a window to go out with your family for a meal at a restaurant. Would you choose a place that you've been before (where you know you will get parking, good food, good ambience, short waiting time, good service etc) or would you choose to go to someplace you've never been before? Chances are you will choose the first one since there are too many unknown variables
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to make sure that the buyer of your solution is given adequate information on what your solution is, how is can help them and the results they can expect from using your solution. If you don't do that, buyers will continue with the Status Quo.
First impressions colour our overall perception. As humans we are more likely to forgive shortcomings of people we've known over a period of time. Our minds are wired to look the other way when a brand/ company we've used for years fails to meet our expectations. However the opposite happens when someone that we newly met fails. This new 'first time' experience becomes an anchor in our minds.
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to ensure that the first impression we make with buyers is exactly the one we want them to anchor to.
Humans in general hold strongly to their beliefs. When something has worked in the past for them, this acts as an anchor and over time becomes a belief. The more people in their network that share and voice a similar point of view will only further strengthen this belief. After a point of time, anyone who presents them with an alternative view that contradicts said belief will be shut out or shut down.
In Marketing & Sales, it is important to ensure that you don't directly challenge your prospects with conflicting information. Alternatively, ask them for their reasoning while helping them discover the lacunae in their argument.
From childhood, we are wired to accept a smaller reward we can get right now vs. a bigger reward that we have to wait for. Whatever be the rationale behind this bias, getting something now is always seen as better than getting something later. This bias mostly holds true across our entire lives. This form of bias has been used very effectively by the retail sector with their "Buy X get Y free".
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to showcase a quick win for the customer even if the main benefit won't come for a few weeks or months.
Being a part of the crowd has always driven purchase. Even as children, we bought the GI Joe/ Barbie dolls, Walkmans etc. Today of course the bandwagon biases is very different - it could be the Xbox or Playstation or the Macbook or even the new car every few years. People naturally gravitate towards things they see other people having or using. The more people using it, the stronger the pull. A good example of Bandwagon Biases is Maruti and Hyundai cars that are sold in India. They must be great cars if 3 out of 5 cars on the road are these brands. Right?
In Marketing and Sales, social proof is everything. Talking about the number of customers and introducing prospects to existing users is half the battle.
Too many options will confuse a customer right? Well, false. No customer ever wanted or accepted another's choice for them. S/he (the customer) can make the choice to be like others (bandwagon biases) but you as the seller dare not make that choice on his/her behalf.
In marketing and Sales, the appearance of choice is far more important than the choice itself. It goes against the 'individuality' need of the buyer. Demonstrate and leverage options by presenting versions of an offering or even a complete alternate.
Loss Aversion Biases
As we age (grow up) we increasingly don't like to lose things that we feel are ours. Our fear of loss far outweighs gains. We feel happy when we find money in our pockets and feel sad and frustrated when we lose money. Imagine you overpaid (lost) ₹1000/- vs. found ₹1000/- in your shirt pocket. Chances are that the loss is going to impact you far more than gain.
In marketing and Sales, it is important to ensure that the buyer does not feel loss via your product or service. Giving them free coupons of similar value helps prospects negate any perceived loss. Giving a prospect buyer a free trial for a period of time makes is more difficult to give up once the trial period is over.
As humans, we love free stuff. It not only does is make us happy and feel special but reinforces loyalty and attracts preference. Prospects who get something free, even for a short period of time will always hold the product or service at a greater value than those who did not get it free. Furthermore, the prospects that experienced the solution for free initially, are usually willing to pay more after the trial period than those that did not get it for free or paid full price.
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to ensure that prospects experience the Value before actual purchase. That way, the buyer already knows the value s/he is getting because they have used the solution before.
Invested Time Biases
People generally lead busy lives. Our relationship with time, our perceptions of value that we associate with our time continue to change. This relationship with our time creates biases and as a general rule of thumb, we don't want to waste our time on things that don't matter or things we don't care about or on leaving things incomplete because of the time we have invested in them.
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to ensure that not only the time that businesses spend with their prospects is around value creation but also that the value is acceptable and appreciated by the prospect during the entire engagement experience journey.
Beginning & Ending Biases
People are bombarded with information constantly. With information and sensory overload at every corner, it is impossible for prospect buyers to remember everything the business has communicated. As a result buyers tend to streamline only the beginning and the end of what they see/ read/ hear.
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to keep your information crisp and simple. Ensure that the Value Proposition is memorable & distinctive and omni channel
People would like to believe that they are rational all the time. However the truth of the matter is that we are driven more by emotion than rationality of our thoughts, beliefs and actions. Being aware and of resonating with the emotional biases of prospects enables businesses to make a deeper connection else risk retaining the status quo.
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to not only uncover the wants, needs and desires of the buyer but also to help the buyer to acknowledge the negative impact of inactivity.
People are naturally wired to believe that tomorrow will be a better day. No matter what is happening today. This sometime irrational optimism can result in prospect buyers maintaining the status quo despite no tangible proof that tomorrow is going to be different.
In Marketing and Sales, it is important to not only help prospects envision a better tomorrow but equally important to detail the prospects life with and without the businesses product or service in it.
Conclusion: There are many biases that we as human have (the above list does not encompass all of them). For businesses to recreate momentum and overcome times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity it is important to acknowledge, empathise and tailor their marketing efforts towards solving buyer needs while keeping in mind the various biases that influence purchase decisions of customers.
Related: Consumer Insights
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