Archive for July, 2012

How Customers Make Buying Choices

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I LOVE reading about the psychology of marketing!

I just finished reading The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. She’s a social psychologist and a professor of business at Columbia University, and her practical studies into how people make decisions is immediately applicable for all of us when we market our services and products.

It’s an especially helpful book when trying to understand how customers make choices. The author conducted a series of studies about the psychological factors in decision-making. The best part about the results of the studies is that you can use the information in your marketing and sales efforts right away.

Here are top seven highlights from the book which small business marketers must learn:

  1. People like to feel they are unique and not “just like everyone else.” This, of course, isn’t true: as human beings, we’re more alike in our buying behavior than we realize. However, customers want to appear as if they each, individually, make unique buying decisions different from their peers. For instance, if two people would normally choose the same meal at a restaurant, studies show that when one person gives her order, the second person will change her order so that she doesn’t appear to be a copycat. If everyone at the Apple store is buying a white iPhone, all of a sudden people will begin to buy black iPhones. But when customers choose this way, they are less satisfied with their choice. This is more apparent at in-person events than in situations like online shopping (where you can’t see the other person and can’t be judged by the other person). Takeaway: In face-to-face contact with your customers and colleagues, how they perceive their individual identity matters. Don’t tell them they’re “just like every one of my customers.”
  2. People do take marketing puffery seriously, even though logically they shouldn’t. They’ll buy bottled water that they know, intellectually, comes from municipal tap water that’s been created via reverse osmosis. They buy into claims that the water is especially refreshing (all water is refreshing) or that it’s bottled at the source (in this case, the “source” is municipal water) or that it’s “expertly designed water” (does it need any further design than the original H2O formula we’ve been using for so long?? Apparently, yes.). That’s why Dasani’s website focuses not on the water, but on the bottle the water comes in: 30% plant material, 100% recyclable. Takeaway: Even though the customer intellectually knows not to fall for marketing copy, they still do. They want the experience that buying and using the product will bring. You, as the marketer, get to define that experience for them through your copywriting and your branding efforts.
  3. We take into our psyche the words we use and read in marketing. Researchers asked people to construct a sentence using five words they were given. When researchers gave them five words that related to the elderly (old, gray, wrinkle, Florida, bingo), the participants took 15% longer to walk to the elevator when they exited the survey room. Our automatic system is tuned in and connects pre-existing knowledge with what we’re seeing and hearing. Takeaway: Think about how you want your audience to feel and act after they interact with you, your blog, your marketing, and even your social media comments in Facebook and Twitter, and use words that will conjure up that feeling in their minds. If your brand is about “passion,” don’t use words like “slow” or “creepy” when connecting casually with your audience…or they’ll connect it with you and your biz.
  4. Even a small amount of choice brings a sense of well-being. Several studies showed that when participants were given a choice versus being told what to do, those who were given a choice (even the smallest, simplest of choices, like which night to watch a movie), made people feel better about the situation. Takeaway: In your marketing, where can you give them choices instead of only one option?
  5. In 1956, George Miller conducted his famous study that concluded that people can process only seven pieces of information (plus or minus two). We are limited in our capacity to process information, so when you give people too much to think about, they shut down. We simply can’t keep track of multiple objects or facts. Takeaway: When listing the benefits or features of your site, limit the bullet-point list to 5-7 items. If you have more than seven, create a second list with a new title, like, “Here’s even more reasons to buy the XYZ Widget!”
  6. When you give people too many options, they are (at first) attracted to the most options they can see. But when it comes to buying, people purchase less when they have too many options to choose from. When given a choice of 24 jams, only 3% of the people purchased a jam. But when given a choice of three jams, 30% purchase a jam. Takeaway: Be careful of how many choices you give customers. At first they may be attracted to your full array of offerings, but when it comes to buying, having too many options may hurt sales.
  7. If you have to give them options, help them to choose from among the options. Help them to figure out the best way of sorting, comparing and eliminating options. Takeaway: Create a chart about which program they should purchase (from among several), or an article about the pros and cons of different products will help them and increase customer loyalty. Organize their choices for them.

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing

When a New Business Model Sneaks Up On You

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Claudia didn’t have a “big plan” for reinventing her business. She knew she had outgrown her old business model of working with new mothers as her target audience, and had made the decision to stop actively marketing her business. Then things happened that she couldn’t have foretold.

Recognizing It’s Time to Change

Claudia confides, “I hit a place with my target audience and I never got beyond it. I found that I always had a certain number of clients, which was fine, but it never moved beyond that number of clients. I felt that I needed to go in a different direction.”

“I was kind of banging my head against a wall,” she says. “I started to realize that I wasn’t enjoying writing my ezine anymore, I wasn’t enjoying marketing to new moms. It was hard for me to recognize: I didn’t want it to be true because I had spent so many years doing it and stopping felt like I was failing. The truth was, I wanted to want to do it. I think that if I had been honest with myself, I would have made a switch earlier.”

Claudia recommends that when small business owners feel that something is off, they take a few days and figure out what’s not right. Admitting to yourself that your old business model isn’t working for you anymore is an important first step.

Reinvention from an Unexpected Source

Claudia had tutored teenagers for over a decade, had always had a small number of tutoring clients, and had been teaching a summer class on SAT preparation for several years. Even though she had been tutoring children for quite a while, she didn’t consider this to be a major thrust of her business previously because she wanted to be home with her own child after school hours.

But now that her child is older, and Claudia knew she was unhappy in her old business, she began to close it down and revisit the idea that tutoring could be a viable business model.

“As soon as I closed down my old business,” she says, “In one week, five new tutoring students came to me! It was so bizarre. I suddenly had more students than I knew what to do with. My business just took off.”

Mourning Your Old Business

When you’ve been in business a number of years, you invest a lot of yourself in it. So when you close down your old business completely, you need to be aware of the feelings that can come up.

“I actually felt sad,” says Claudia. “I wish I could say that I was really joyous and happy, but I wasn’t. It felt like a really big loss. I think because it was a business that I put so much into and cared so much about.”

But Claudia has a great philosophy about this business cycle: “People change and I changed. Once I got my mind around that, I realized that it was a really positive thing and once I realized that it was a positive thing, letting my business go was kind of a relief.”

Pausing to Plan

When I asked Claudia, “On a scale of 1 to 10 — one being you’re just starting your tutoring business and ten being that you have a complete new business model — where would you say you are in the arch of building this new business?” she replied, “Four.”

Because Claudia had run a successful business previously, she knows that she needs to design a business model for this new business – for next month and for 10 years from now. She says, “Not only the marketing skills, but the planning and the organizational skills that I learned in my last business, I know I have those assets to take with me in my new business model. Knowing everything I know is going to help me tremendously. I’m actually much better off now than I was when I was starting my life coaching business for new moms!”

So what do you do when your new business comes out of the blue? You step back and take some time to plan the foundation, even as you are conducting the new business work.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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