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Psych! Five Principles That Explain Why Consumers Take Action (or Don't)

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Today's marketers can track and analyze virtually every step of a customer's journey. We have spreadsheets galore, forecasts for years, and hard, quantitative data to show us what's working and what's not.

But beneath all that data, there is something more enigmatic at play: the human mind. Ironically, one of the biggest mysteries on Earth is right inside each of us—and it's actively making both rational and irrational decisions all day long.

So what does that mean for marketers? It means that when we're trying to understand how to talk to consumers, we might want to look to psychology for help.

MarketingProfs: Made to Order Original Content Services teamed with interactive content marketing software provider Ceros to create an interactive infographic about five psychological principles that marketers should keep in mind.

Here's a peek at how marketers can put psychology into action:


1. Say you're offering 20% off, but you're looking to test other offers to see what really drives more sales. You might consider an offer of "No Payment for 6 Months," which would be invoking the Principle of Pain Avoidance. The fear of experiencing pain (in this case, spending money), is twice as strong as the potential to gain or improve something. The ability to postpone the pain can reduce the fear of spending money now.

2. We humans are creatures of habit, even in what we buy. Switching brands can cause anxiety as we venture to the unknown—even if we are unsatisfied with our "known." This Principle of Status Quo Bias can be a pain for marketers. This is the bias that ties consumers to a cell phone provider they may not love; as a marketer, you need to shake them out of their routines.

3. Munching on those cookie samples from the local bakery does more than just make you hungry, it triggers the Principle of Reciprocity, causing you to be more likely to purchase something because the bakery gave you something for free. And that simple idea goes beyond your local bakeshop. Marketers of SaaS products offer free extensions to free trials, B2B brands offer free e-books and other content, and subscription services offer free months, to name a few.

4. When a buyer shares with friends on Facebook that he or she has bought something, we see the Principle of Social Proof and Acceptance in action. The buyer's friends become more likely to justify their own purchases because their friend has done it; moreover, their positive feedback to the purchaser in the form of likes and comments reinforces that the buyer made a good decision.

5. We all know FOMO as a common trait of Millennials, but the Principle of the Fear of Missing Out is a real thing for other consumers—and marketers—as well. When clothing companies like Bonobos show that inventory is low on an item, it's more than an FYI to potential customers: It urges them to take action fast.

For more examples of how you can put these principles into action, check out the interactive infographic.


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Laura Forer is the manager of MarketingProfs: Made to Order, Original Content Services, which helps clients generate leads, drive site traffic, and build their brands through useful, well-designed content.

LinkedIn: Laura Forer

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