Analysis paralysis and consumer behavior
We all know that small things make a big difference when it comes to copywriting. Interesting research on consumer behavior by Dr. Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University examined the donation process of the American Cancer Society, and how a minute change delivered drastically different results.
The research also reveals why it’s important to analyze why people say “no,” rather than always looking at why they say “yes.”
Below are two phrases used to wrap up a door-to-door donation request. Researchers tested the effect of the slight variation in wording.
- 1“Would you be willing to help
by giving a donation?”
- 2“Would you be willing to help
by giving a donation? Every penny will help.”
Subtle difference, right?
The wording may be subtle, but the resulting effect was drastic.
People who were asked the second variation were almost twice as likely to donate.
People may ask themselves if they have enough to donate and whether it will make a difference. By clarifying that “even a penny” could make a difference, the second line makes the request more achievable for those considering a donation.
The Best Part of this Whole Study
Donors were twice as likely to give in response to the second question, but the amount they gave did not diminish. Knowing that “even a penny” was enough still catalyzed them to give as much as respondents to the first question gave.
Source: Full-Cycle Social Psychology
Embrace the power of internal labels
You might think this refers to brand labels, but far from it. I’m suggesting that you label your customers.
Sounds like bad advice, right? Not so.
Consumer behavior research has shown that people like being labeled, and they are more inclined to participate in their “group’s” message if they feel included.
The study examined the voting patterns of 133 adults to see if labeling them had any affect on their turnout at the polls.
After being casually questioned about their regular voting patterns, half of the participants were told that they were much more likely to vote since they had been deemed by the researchers to be more politically active.
(This wasn’t actually true; these people were selected at random.)
The other half of the participants weren’t told anything;
they were just asked to describe their voting patterns.
Despite this random selection, the group that was told they were “politically active” had a 15% higher turnout than the other group.
People who are labeled as “superior” consumers tend to spend more, and those in the “regular” class aren’t affected.
Source: Motivating Voter Turnout by Invoking the Self
Understand the three types of buyers
3 Types of Buyers
Source: Tightwads and Spendthrifts
Which type of buyer is most difficult to convert?
1. Reframing Value
If you see a product that costs $1,000 per year, you’d definitely approach the purchase with a little caution, right?
That’s because $1,000/year isn’t peanuts. To make matters worse, it seems like a HUGE amount of money for conservative spenders.
What if the product was just $84 per month instead? Not bad, right?
The thing is, $84/month is the same as $1,000/year.
While this reframing method is effective for buyers of all types, it is most effective when targeting conservative spenders. If you’re offering something that has a recurring cost or that can be broken down into smaller increments, be sure to investigate how you can utilize this information in your pricing model.
2. Reduce Pain Points with Bundling
Neuroeconomics expert George Loewenstein notes that all consumers (especially conservative spenders) prefer to complete their purchase in one easy fell swoop rather than purchase multiple accessories separately.
He cites customers’ willingness to upgrade car packages all at once, but points out how difficult it often is for the brain to justify each individual upgrade (“Yes, I will pay extra for navigation … and … seats … and …,” etc).
These individual purchases create individual pain points, whereas a bundled purchase creates only one pain point, even if the price is much greater.
Loewenstein’s research shows why many consumers are willing to pay more for complete bundles rather than chasing down individual products and accessories: not only is it less of a hassle, but it also results in fewer purchase pain points.
3. Sweat the Small Stuff
We all know the old adage “don’t sweat the small stuff” isn’t all that applicable to crafting effective copy—but how small of a change matters?
One of the goofiest conversion bumps ever is a study done by Carnegie Mellon University that reveals the impact of a single word on conversion rates.
Researchers changed the description of an overnight shipping charge on a free DVD trial offer from “a $5 fee” to “a small $5 fee” and increased the response rate among tightwads by 20 percent.
Let’s see those side-by-side, just to point out how absurd this is:
Has the word “small” ever felt so big? With a single word bumping up conversion rates by that amount, it’s safe to say that when crafting copy targeted at conservative spenders, thedevil is in the details.
Source: Spend ‘Til It Hurts
Highlight strengths by admitting shortcomings
Lee’s study aimed to measure the effects of admitting to missteps and faults, and how these actions would affect stock prices. Experimenters read one of two fictitious company reports. (Both reports listed reasons why the company had performed poorly last year.)
The first report placed emphasis on strategic decisions.
The second placed emphasis on external events.
(e.g, the economy, the competition, etc.)
Source: Predicting Stock Prices From Organizational Attributions
Use urgency the right way
The following research explains why urgency can completely backfire on you and ruin your meticulously written sales copy.
How can you prevent this from happening to you?
The research is a classic study by Howard Leventhal where he analyzed the effects of handing out tetanus brochures to subjects.
Those who had the second pamphlet (with the sparse follow-up info) were much more likely to take-action; the rate that followed through with vaccination was superior to the first group by nearly 25%.
Leventhal also had a separate group receive a “low fear” version of the pamphlet, which described tetanus in much more moderate language and with no graphic pictures. He noticed that these participants had nearly the same rate of respondance as those who had received the standard “high fear” version (without the follow-up info).Source: Effects of Fear and Specificity of Recommendation Upon Attitudes and Behavior
The Results are Clear:
Invoking urgency only had a noticeable effect when follow-up instructions were given.
Those who received the follow-up info were also more engaged with the pamphlet as a whole, being able to recall much more specific information from the packet than other participants. Why?
Even though the follow-up information provided in the second pamphlet wasn’t comprehensive, Leventhal was able to show that our minds are susceptible to blocking out information that evokes a sense of urgency if there aren’t any instructions on what to do next.
He revealed that those who didn’t receive follow-up information were prone to convincing themselves that, “I don’t need to worry about this because it won’t happen to me anyway,” whereas those in the second group had little reason to feel this way because they had a plan to take action.
Make their mind light up instantly
There are few things our brains love more than immediate stimulation.
Research has shown that instant gratification is such a powerful force that an ability to control against it is a great indicator of achieving success.
In terms of your customers, you’re actually looking to do the opposite:
Customers feel instant gratification when they are rewarded after doing business with you.
Your copy should remind buyers of this advantage at every turn. When a potential customer is on the verge of completing a purchase from your business, they are heavily influenced by how quickly they can receive gratification for parting with their hard-earned money.
Several magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies, including one on nicotine addiction, have shown that our frontal cortex is highly active when we think about waiting for something.
On the other hand, our mid-brain lights up when we think about receiving something right away (and that’s the one we want to fire up).
Words like “instant,” “immediately,” or even just “fast” are known to flip the switch on the mid-brain activity that makes us so prone to buy.
In fact, other than the words free and new, “instantly” just may be the most persuasive word you can implement into your copy.
(If you aren’t selling digital goods, use words like “quick” instead.)
Researchers have noted that the key to these words is that they allow us to envision our problem being solved right away; whatever pain point we are seeking to fix by purchasing something becomes far more enticing if we know our dilemma will be solved instantly.
Source: The Economics of Immediate Gratification
Establish a rival (or enemy)
Why? When could this ever be a good thing? Turns out, it’s a great thing if you’re looking to achieve a cult-like addiction to your brand.
In a highly controversial study entitled ”Social Categorization and Intergroup Behaviour,” social psychologist Henri Tajifel began his research trying to define just how human beings were able to commit acts of mass hatred and discrimination
Tajifel found that he could create groups of people that would show loyalty to their supposed in-group and outright discriminate against outsiders, all with the most trivial of distinctions.
Despite these trivialities, when it came time to dole out REAL rewards, subjects had a huge bias towards those peers in their in-group and discriminated against handing out rewards to the so-called “others.”
Source: Social Categorization and Intergroup Behaviour
Our friends over at Copyblogger would assert that real publishers are self-hosted and that well-written content is the centerpiece of the Web. They back these claims by offering solutions that reinforce their assertions.
The focus isn’t always on skewering your competitors in search for an enemy, but in associating yourself with certain ideals while distancing yourself from the rest.
Creating a unique selling proposition is as much about defining who your ideal customers are not as it is about defining who they are.
Stand for something meaningful
We’ve talked about the importance of exclusion, but what about including those ideal customers?
People do care about being included with a brand’s message, but only when they share the same values. In fact, for those who’ve stated that they have a strong relationship with a single brand, over 64% said it was because they had “shared values” with the company in question.
Does your Brand Stand for Something?
According to findings from the CEB, people don’t seem to be very loyal to companies at all. They are loyal to what the company stands for.
Source: What Are Consumers Really Loyal To?
Play the devil’s advocate
Are you familiar with how the term “devil’s advocate” came to exist? It’s actually from an old process the Catholic church used to conduct when canonizing someone into sainthood.
A lawyer was instructed to be the devil’s advocate for those being inducted as a saint, and their job was to find reasons and arguments that showcased why this person should not become a saint in order to create a more objective canonization process.
The marketing world has an important lesson to learn from this process.
According to research by social psychologist Charlan Nemeth (and his colleagues), the role of devil’s advocate certainly plays a part in persuasion, but it is not one of creating true dissent. The research showed that TRUE dissenters have a meaningful impact when trying to persuade a majority group toward a different perspective.
When people are confronted with someone who truly appears to oppose their position, they begin to try to understand their point of view.
(Research in this area has also shown that dissenters in a group can enhance creativity and problem-solving.) Those playing devil’