Kalie Fry By Kalie Fry • June 18, 2018

The Science of Being Human: Why Inbound Works Every Time

The Science of Being Human Why Inbound Marketing Works Every Time

When you stop and think about it, word of mouth is still considered one of the best marketing tools out there. It’s a simple concept but actually the most effective ways to market a product or service simply because people trust what their friends and family have to say.

Even though technology has changed, human behavior hasn’t. People still follow the same thought process when receiving a recommendation on social media. However, there are now two risks you face when a customer has a negative experience. Not only will they relay their dissatisfaction via word of mouth, they’ll take it online. 

The second layer of this risk occurs when receiving a recommendation indirectly. Let’s take myself for example. There’s a food critic I really enjoy named Jonathan Gold. He’s based in LA and has decades of journalism under his belt. He’s absolutely fantastic.

As a writer myself, I really value his research methods and because we have similar ideals concerning food, I trust his expert opinion. If he recommends something, I’m likely to try it out. On the other hand, if he’s had a bad experience with a restaurant, I’m less likely to give it a chance because of the negative association that’s been made.

Psychology plays a crucial role in how and why we make our purchasing decisions. Some thought patterns are conscious in nature while other options may be formed indirectly. However, both are equal in power. And, as a business owner, it’s up to you to manage the tipping scale.

As a copywriter, I’m constantly asked why inbound marketing is better than traditional advertising. To be honest, it’s not a groundbreaking new concept (sorry, Korey!). Inbound marketing is largely successful because it’s rooted in human behavior and cognitive learning patterns.

Inbound isn’t about selling a message — it’s about educating, influencing and persuading customers to the point where they’re excited about what you have to say. Like traditional psychologists, inbound marketers use a much more analytic approach to campaigns than you’d think.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at the science behind inbound and a few ways you can apply psychology to boost your conversions.

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Applying Behavioral Psychology to Inbound Marketing

Just like in other forms of marketing, you can use basic principles of behavioral psychology to help guide customers through each stage of the buyer’s journey. But first, you need to understand the Behavioral Change Model. This concept was developed by Dr. BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasion Lab at Stanford University.

The Behavioral Change Model illustrates that three things must be in place to incite behavior: motivation, ability and trigger(s). However, what’s particularly interesting is that motivation and ability can be traded off to an extent.

Let’s say a retail store that sells a high-demand, scarce-supply product online. The checkout process may be really difficult to navigate, but that won’t obstruct the company from making sales. This ties into a series of simplicity factors that determine whether or not a customer will take action. According to Dr. Fogg, these factors are time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and non-routine.

When presented with multiple options, customers experience fear of making the wrong decision. And, it only makes sense. When you have two choices, you have a 50% chance of picking the right one. But with five, your odds suddenly decrease to 20%.

The presence of too many options interferes with human’s cognitive ability to make a decision. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to streamline and optimize the buying process as much as possible. In regards to content, this means understanding how and why your customers act the way they do.

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3 Psychology Principles That Help Boost Conversions

It’s difficult (near impossible) to create compelling content if you don’t know your audience. To use the inbound methodology more effectively, there are three important principles of psychology you should be using.

1. Reciprocity

The concept of reciprocity is fairly simple. If someone does something for you, naturally you’ll want to do something for them in return. When you give away something free, the recipient feels a sense of obligation. This is why ebooks, webinars and free consultations are so effective — not just from a lead generation standpoint, but for nurturing them as well.

Think about the last time you visited a restaurant. Was a mint included with your bill? According to Dr. Robert Cialdini, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, when servers bring back a check without a mint, diners will tip according to their perception of the service provided. When a mint is included, the tip jumps up an average of 3.3%. Two or more, the tip increases even more. Strange right?

There are various ways to incorporate the principle of reciprocity in your inbound marketing. And the best part, is you don’t have to be rich — it can be something as simple as a branded shirt, a free ebook or consultation. Even something as a simple “thanks for being a loyal customer” postcard can go a long way in establishing a positive relationship.

Pro-Tip: Click here to explore some of our best customer retention practices.


2. Social Proof

Humans are naturally social beings and inbound marketing thrives on building brand communities. Social proof is the theory that people adopt the beliefs of actions of a group — or people they like or trust. In other words, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than any proof you can provide.

Think of it this way. Few want to be the first to grab a drink for office happy hour. But, once multiple people are joining in, the rest will follow. An easy way to incorporate social proof is in your company’s blog and social media platforms. Display testimonials on your site, share important milestones and give shout-outs to customers on social media. Collecting reviews is another great way to encourage user engagement and build a positive online reputation.


3. Scarcity

“Sale ends in 3 days!”

“Store closing — everything must go!”

“Only 5 seats left at this price!”

We’ve all seen those kinds of signs. But, why do they work so well? It’s the principle of scarcity — once it’s gone, it’s gone. The same tactic works for webinars and online deals. And, according to Dr. Cialdini, “The joy doesn’t lie in experiencing a scarce commodity but in possessing it.” This particular principle goes back to the simple formula of supply and demand.

It’s simple, we love having what others don’t. This is one of many reasons why scarcity works so well in marketing content. However, don’t claim something to be scarce when it isn’t. (That’s the easiest way to mislead and destroy the trust you’ve established with your customers.) The trick is being careful in how you word it.

Let’s use that retail store example from earlier. If the brand approaches scarcity like there used to be a huge amount of product, but due to popular demand there’s a few left, people will feel an urgent need to purchase before the supply runs out. However, if that same store approached it from the angle that there are only a few products available in total, it won’t be as effective. See what we did there?


These Principles Have a Common Component — Trust

Inbound marketing is powerful because it takes the trust that’s already been established with customers and strategically pursues ways to expand upon it. There are various reasons why people do what they do.

Understanding these behavioral psychology principles will help you create content in a way that intrigues customers on a deeper level. Take the time to learn more about your buyer personas and their behaviors. I promise the time invested is well worth it.


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