Predicting what your target market is going to want, need and have to have next can be a challenging business. Even with the most thorough market research in the world, consumer preferences can shift in a heartbeat. New trends are being adopted, and outdated products are abandoned by the wayside.
To stay relevant, you need to go a step beyond merely asking customers what they want; you may need to go so far as anticipating what they want before they even know they want it themselves. Wondering how to achieve this somewhat tall order and crawl inside your customers’ heads? We’re here to help with 4 secrets of marketing psychology that will help you to get in the game.
1. Reciprocity (a.k.a “I scratch your back and you scratch mine.”)
Put simply; reciprocity is the idea that if I do something for you, you will naturally want to do something for me.
Popularized by Dr. Robert Cialdini during the 80s in his classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Reciprocity is one of six key principles that you might think about putting into practice. Especially If you are seeking to gain influence over others – whether in a marketing context or not (it works everywhere!).
(You might also recognize some of the other five as they are still widely talked about in marketing circles today: consistency and commitment; social proof; liking; authority and scarcity).
As the Digital Marketing Institute highlights, reciprocity is an especially important principle within inbound marketing (i.e. attracting potential clients to you through means such as the production of content). Which if used correctly, you can use it in a range of situations.
Many successful content marketers work from the assumption that you should give away most of your best stuff for free. To the uninitiated, this can seem like the behavior of a crazy person. Why would you give away your best content for free? Surely this is the stuff you should be charging for.
Counter-intuitive though it may be at first glance, the secret power of this act lies in the principle of reciprocity. When your audience receives your content for free, and it’s highly valuable to them, they are pretty much in your debt. Think about it. It’s like you’ve run up to their doorstep, dumped a shed load of value, and taken off again before they’ve had a chance to thank-you.
In most people (barring sociopaths of course), being the recipient of such kindness creates a burning desire to reciprocate … to give back. So at some stage in the future, when you make your audience an offer they can’t refuse, they are much more likely to take you up on it.
Not always, mind you. But often enough to be totally worthwhile.
2. The Power of Position
It seems we humans are very simple creatures when it comes down to it.
As Fast Company explains, based on the work of advertising gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout. Consumers only have so much room in their heads when it comes to remembering and ranking brands. So when consumers are thinking about buying a product or service in your industry, you want to be sure it’s your brand that springs to the top of their list.
Achieving this is no mean feat. As it turns out, Ries and Trout had a clever strategy in mind: positioning. Positioning is the art of planting ideas in the consumer’s mind about where your brand sits relative to the competition, and most importantly, where the competition lies relative to you.
A critical thing to remember when positioning is that you are positioning on the basis of the value that is important to the customer. Let’s start with an obvious example: price.
Leaving aside the question of whether it is indeed a helpful strategy to position yourself as the cheapest in the market, plenty of brands vie for this honor in practice. Now think about it from the consumer perspective: Who do you remember more easily, the cheapest brand or the second cheapest? Answer: the cheapest, because if the price is important to you, once you’ve found the cheapest brand you look no further.
So if being the cheapest is important to you, you are going to make damn sure that your marketing messages. Content marketing and brand image shout this from the rooftops, and then you are going to look for ways to continually reinforce this in the mind of the customer.
The same goes for competing on quality, or customer service, or versatility. The principle here is simple: decide which position you want to be in. Then go all out reinforcing this in the minds of those in your target market.
3. Understand Consumer Needs and Motivations
Why do customers behave the way they do? What motivates them to choose your product or service above all others?
According to Susan Gunelius, Forbes Contributor, the answers to these questions lie buried deep in the history books; ancient history, in regards to Aristotle’s Seven Causes of Human Action, and in recent history, with reference to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.
We’ll leave it to Susan’s article to unpack these models in depth. But essentially what she argues is that these general approaches to understanding human behavior are equally helpful in the sales and marketing sphere. If brands wish to remain relevant and to resonate with customers, they need to align their messages and marketing calls to action with a much deeper understanding of consumer motivations.
Still confused? Check out these articles to get started: Description of How Marketers Can Use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by Chron; and Aristotle: The Original Marketing Guru by Tina Courtney-Brown, writing for SixEstate.
4. Capitalize on the Flight or Fight Instinct
In an article for Entrepreneur.com. Neil Patel, summarizing previous psychological research on the flight or fight phenomenon. He traces the origins of consumer impulse buying behavior to these most basic of impulses hard-wired deep into the human brain.
When faced with a sudden buying decision, the switch is flipped in consumer’s minds. Often the reaction will be to avoid the discomfort of the moment by making an impulsive purchase.
Neil suggests that as a marketer, there are a number of strategies you can put in place to help trigger this impulsive behavior. Among the simplest of these is making your call to action scream “urgency’ by telling customers “Buy now!”; “Get it now!” or “Subscribe now!”
These impulses also build on that other deep-seated terror that strikes fear into the heart of every honest consumer … FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out.” This fear has become particularly intense with the advent of social media. Which has a tendency not only to tell but also show consumers what they are missing out on 24/7.
According to Relevance.com writer Anna Johansson, FOMO offers plenty of opportunities for the savvy marketer. She suggests that marketers attempt to leverage off the power of FOMO by implying scarcity (“last one!”). Encourege social sharing to get the message out there and leveraging exclusivity. By just selectively restricting access or introducing waiting periods for flagship products and services.
Want to get to know your customers better? Start with delving into their hearts and minds, and work it out from there. No-one’s saying it’s an easy task, but when you’re equipped with a marketing psychology arsenal, the world will be your oyster.