Meeting your prospects where they are at the right time with the right message isn’t accomplished through guesswork — it takes research, planning and an understanding of psychology.
An effective marketing campaign resonates with its target audience and compels them to take a set of desired actions. Marketers who can align their strategy with their consumers’ behavior have a higher chance of success.
Here are four marketing tactics that utilize psychology:
User Experience (UX)
UX design uses behavioral observations and experimentation to determine the best design strategy for a site’s intended audience. It’s informed by site visitors’ prior expectations and past behavior in addition to how they interact with various website iterations and elements.
“The words that people typically associate with user experience are ‘intuitive,’ ‘easy-to-use’ and ‘attractive,’” Guido Bartolacci, New Breed’s Head of Demand Generation says. “There are methods that have been proven to work well, but people are always pushing the boundaries and trying new things to see if people respond in a different or better way.”
UX design wasn’t developed by merely imitating other websites. UX designers experimented with multiple designs, tracking how visitors behaved to determine the best option.
For example, when presented with blocks of text, readers have a tendency to scan in an “F” shaped pattern (for left-to-right languages. The default scanning pattern of right-to-left languages like Arabic is an inverted “F.”).
To accommodate for this behavior, designers started placing the most important information within the areas most likely to be scanned and using emphasis elements like bolding and section headings to change where visitors’ eyes were drawn.
But merely implementing UX best practices won’t necessarily benefit your site visitors.
“You have to create unique experiences based on your personas,” Guido says.
The behavior of your actual site visitors and prospects should be the foundation of the UX you create. For example, if your website is intended for Arabic readers, optimizing for an F-shape scanning pattern is going to cause the most important information to be overlooked. Instead, you need to understand how they scan a webpage and match your content placement to their reading patterns.
Buyer Personas are more than representations of your company's ideal buyers. They're also psychological profiles that are fundamental to effective marketing.
Buyer personas use a combination of demographics and psychographics to describe who a buyer is and why they act the way they do. This helps marketers humanize their target audience in order to tell stories that resonate.
“You should be putting yourself in their shoes,” Guido says. “What do they care about? What does their day-to-day look like? What are their pain points and challenges and how do they solve for them? If you can do a good job understanding those things, you’ll do incredibly well as a marketer because you’ll be able to connect with those types of people at a much higher rate than if you just took a shot in the dark.”
Buyer personas can also help you recognize changing market and industry trends.
“If you create a persona, you do really well with that persona and all of a sudden things start to drop off, that’s an indicator — a lagging indicator, but an indicator nonetheless — that something has changed about that persona’s buying behavior, and we’re no longer matching them or meeting them where they are in the buying process,” Guido says.
You can collect information to craft your buyer personas through questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and market research — the same methods behavioral psychologists use to develop their profiles.
Case Studies, Reviews and WOM Marketing
When marketers leverage case studies, reviews and word-of-mouth marketing, they’re making use of social proof.
The social proof theory says that when people are uncertain how to behave, they’ll look to other people to determine what’s correct. So, if someone is on the fence about your company, seeing customer logos across your site along with testimonials can convince them that becoming your customer is the right thing to do.
“Social proof can help you build trust in your brand,” Guido says. “Your brand is essentially what people say when you’re not in the room. Social proof makes that a reality. It allows others to verify what you said in the marketing and sales process.”
Because they know your company has a vested interest in making a sale, prospects will trust other people more than they trust your company. Your customers don’t have that same bias, so when a prospect is trying to confirm their opinion of your company, they will look at reviews and case studies.
Word-of-mouth marketing takes this one step further because prospects are receiving information from people already in their network. 83% of Americans say they’re more likely to purchase a product or service after receiving a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member, according to Chatter Matters: the 2018 Word of Mouth Report.
A core tenet of inbound marketing is adding value before extracting value. Doing something positive in hopes of receiving something positive in return exemplifies the social psychology principle of reciprocity.
According to the reciprocity principle, humans tend to respond to an action in a manner that matches the action they received. So, if you help someone out, they’re more likely to return the favor.
Providing value without expecting an immediate return is the foundation of how inbound marketing fosters customer relationships and loyalty.
“We’re creating content. We’re providing educational materials for people to learn from and get better, and ideally, they return the favor by becoming customers,” Guido says.
Marketing aims to inspire people to take an action or feel something. Understanding who they are, how they think and what motivates them helps marketers do that effectively. Psychology can provide that insight.
If your marketing efforts are data-informed and persona-driven, you’re probably already utilizing psychological principles.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.