Behavior engineering canvas and framework

Behavior engineering canvas and framework

This is a framework for companies to use in order to brainstorm on users behavior. The behavior they have, the behavior we want them to have – and why they would do what we want them to (in other words – what’s the benefit to the customer?) This is a customer first, and customer focused framework. The open row of tools on the bottom are for Heuristics that could be used to trigger a behavior.


Behavior engineering canvas framework

You’re launching a startup or you’ve just taken over a Marketing / Biz Dev / Sales department in an enterprise, and you need to define your potential customers. You assume everyone shares your opinion on who the target market is and how they think and behave – but do they? Usually an organization will have as many opinions as people in it (and occasionally it will have even more opinions than people, for those who simply can’t decide). If this sounds like your organization, the Behavior Engineering Canvas is for you.

I created the Behavior Engineering Canvas (BEC) as a framework to bring together all of the different disciplines inside of an organization and summarize their target customer’s behavior and motivation on one page. By using the BEC, you can determine who your customer is, how to separate proof from assumptions, how they behave and how motivated are they to do the tasks you want them to do. Mapping out your customer’s incentives, motivations and behaviors results in deeper insight into what features to implement in a product, how to design incentives and how to frame your messaging. This insight even affects pricing decisions. Every department of your business should frame decisions based on the information inside of the BEC – printing this out poster size and having it featured somewhere prominently is critical.


This is not a game of manipulation. If your product isn’t good, people will not use it – it’s very simple. You cannot manipulate word of mouth to grow your business to critical mass. At the center of all of this is a good product.


As with everything we do in business – the Behavior Engineering Canvas starts with your goal. What do you want the customer to do? Is the end goal a trial demo? Is the goal for users to share your product? Is the goal to convince the key decision maker to purchase? You have to know what you want the customer to do before you can get them to actually do it.

Who is the customer

You can’t truly map customer behavior without having a good idea of who your customer is. At the end of the day, even if you’re selling to a business – that business is run by people. This section should answer some basic demographic questions like age, gender, race, and socio economic level. In addition, it should identify your ideal customer’s position in company, personal hobbies, even what kind of car they drive. This is so you get a deeper insight into the type of person you are selling / marketing / doing business with.

Of course, since much of this customer profile information is based on assumptions, it’s important to list what actual data you have and where it’s from. From there you can see what’s missing, that maybe you should know but don’t – or need to know but don’t. And you can sort how to get that missing info.


What action are you looking for the customer to do? Is it to buy your product? To recommend your company to their peers? To sign up for your e-Newsletter? To go deeper in the site and learn more about your company? Choose one specific behavior and start mapping what they are currently doing, why they are doing it that way, what proof you have (yup – gap analysis again), along with what you want them to do instead and why. It’s important to understand your needs before you start thinking about what’s in it for your customers.


Most of us are either emotional or logical depending on the situation. Which is your customer for the situation you’re describing? If it’s an emotional purchase (e.g. engagement ring) the price should be whole, and the primary motivation would probably be either Self Expression or Status (a ring you designed for her versus a Cartier ring – I’m sure she’d like either). If it’s logical (e.g. marketing automation software) then the primary would likely be competition – as in our software will get you further against your competition and we’re better than everyone else in our category due to X, Y, and Z.

How will you help them decide?

This is where the actual behavior engineering comes in – at this point you have mapped out what you need to make sense of what you need to do.


How you say things matters. There’s a huge difference between an enterprise software that doesn’t offer everything that most do and costs less and an enterprise software for smaller enterprises that are currently being ignored in the market because they can’t afford the heavier software. One is a sub-par product for an over-served market. The other is a premium product for an underserved market. Guess what? You want to be the latter one.

Foot in the door

The art of the small ask. Ask for something so small that there’s very little pain to give it to you. This is why I believe in Cheapium over Freemium. Why are you putting time and effort towards those who may never buy your product and waste your time? Do a small ask instead – once they have become someone who pays for your product you can get them to may more for more features. What is the tiny thing you’re going to ask your customer to do? Something so small and seemingly meaningless that they have no real reason to say No?


Reciprocity is a perceived obligation for your audience to interact with your business because you gave them something in the past. What is your company is doing to build up reciprocity towards your customer? Are you giving helpful webinars? Giving amazing content through your blog, newsletter and social channels? Are you distributing white papers and case studies that make them better at what they do for a living? What are you doing to help them? This could also be amazing swag at a conference or taking a potential client to lunch. What are you giving?


To be a leader in the market you need to use your messaging to anchor your position in the marketplace. If there’s already a clear leader there you need to find another way – think Avis in their old “We try harder” campaigns. Anchoring isn’t only about pricing. In what niche are you the Gold Standard? And how is that reflected in everything you do?


Priming is a small action that leads to either a repeat of that action or a bigger action. Think of LinkedIn’s Who’s Viewed Your Profile. It’s not on the main page. Instead you have to click deeper into the site to see it. Once you click deeper to see it, you are more likely to click on other pages and go even deeper into the LinkedIn site – which means more page views which means more deals on their advertising. It could also be about onboarding – with Twitter it’s following 10 people. What small action do you need your customer to make that could lead to something else?

Loss aversion

Fear of missing out is a real thing. That’s why conferences have an early bird price and shows how many amazing things were in past conferences. You don’t want to miss out. What does your customer prioritize so high that they would hate to miss out on?

Mere exposure

Ear worms work. Just being exposed to something does get it into your consciousness at some level. In today’s overstimulated world, it takes reaching a user between eight to fourteen times to remember your message. Where are you advertising?


Cliques didn’t end just because you graduated high school – they’ve just become more sophisticated. This is where the data on your user’s hobbies come in – you can send subtle hints that they belong through your messaging (Mixpanel using an obscure Harry Potter reference in their onboarding for example – people can still understand how to use the product but if you get the reference you get a warm and fuzzy dopamine rush from being included). Another version of this is Us vs. Them contrast messaging. The best example of that would be the old PC vs Mac ads.


By mapping out all of this information and posting it somewhere everyone on your team or organization can see it you’re aligning everyone’s understanding of who the customer is and why actions are being taken to reach them. It also helps with brainstorming other ideas your company can do to help your customer decide that you’re the best choice.

Interested in using the Behavior Engineering Canvas? We were hoping you would be – you can download it for your own use by going here. It’s yours for the price of sharing your email. Don’t worry, I don’t believe in SPAM and even though I know that email marketing has the highest ROI of all digital marketing, we don’t use it for ourselves all that often. When we do it’s to give incredibly helpful information or to wish you a wonderful holiday.

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