There’s a simple truth that philosophers have been waxing poetic about since the advent of philosophy. People are not blank slates. Everyone has a collection of emotions, experiences, and preconceived notions that they bring to the table no matter what they’re doing. That means that anyone who receives your marketing materials or comes to your website arrives already carrying a whole lot of baggage. The trick lies in putting it to work for you by using heuristics to craft the customer experience.
What are heuristics?
The American Marketing Association defines heuristics as being the “simplified rules of thumb by which decisions are made.”
Simply put, when you go into a store to make a purchase, you walk in with preconceived ideas that will help shape your decision. You know what colors you like, what you’ve tried before and how it turned out, what a certain price point means. Basically, unless you’re the mermaid in the 80’s movie, Splash who literally just crawled out of the ocean and finds herself in Manhattan’s shopping district baffled by everything on display (Did we just age ourselves? Possibly.) your collective life experience shapes any purchase you’re likely to make.
How can heuristics improve your SaaS marketing efforts?
People like to think that they’re more in control of their emotions and decisions than they really are, but, really, everyone is constantly being subtlety manipulated into making choices. Images, colors, words, even fonts influence both mood and action. Carefully selecting your marketing and website elements allows you to prime potential customers into making the selection you want them to make. Think of using heuristics as marketing to your customers’ subconscious.
Different kinds of heuristics and how you can manipulate them to your advantage
The Judgement Heuristics
The heuristic that will most impact your marketing efforts is the Judgement Heuristic, which is the subconscious way humans use the information they glean from their everyday lives and surroundings to solve the problem at hand. By manipulating the information at your potential customer’s disposal you can guide them to the end result you desire.
Judgement Heuristics come in four different types, each equally useful in marketing situations.
Representative heuristics is the assumption that people make that a small sample will be representative of a larger population. Basically, people have the tendency to compare and attach what they’re seeing to what they know and then assume that probable outcomes will be similar to what they’ve seen in the past in similar situations. Using representative heuristics allows you to lull people into feeling like they “belong” or like you understand their needs without having to actually say so.
If your target audience is farmers who need software to organize the distribution and sale of their crops, you want to show them images of farmers hard at work so they’ll instantly assume your product is tailor made for farmers.
Availability heuristics is the assumption that people will make decisions and judgements based on what they remember rather than complete data. The more recent the information received, the more likely it will affect decision making.
By displaying awards logos and testimonials on your website or in your emails, you can sway a potential customer into assuming that you do award winning work worthy of lavish praise. Even though, on some level they know that past successes don’t necessarily lead to positive future outcomes, the information on hand will influence their thought process more than something they might have heard in the past.
Anchoring and adjustment heuristics
Humans are, in general, better at relative thinking than absolute thinking. That means that we make assumptions and choices by using a nearby starting point. That starting point is known as an anchor.
So, if you have a product to offer, but feel like the high price point might be off-putting, offering a higher priced product – the anchor – will make the one you really want to sell seem reasonable in comparison.
Without realizing it, anchoring and adjustment heuristics affect you every time you go to a restaurant and take a look at the wine list. It’s a well-known fact among restaurateurs that no one ever buys the most expensive wine on the list, instead, they opt to buy the second most expensive so they don’t feel like a chump. Savvy restaurant owners know this and make sure they have a bottle that is priced just above the one they really want diners to choose.
SaaS marketers might not be selling wine, but they can still use this principle to their advantage by bundling products, offering lifetime upgrades, or playing around with prices and experiences until they find the one that makes their star product the most attractive to customers.
Risk and loss aversion
While it’s been proven that the average consumer hates taking risks, it’s been equally proven that they’d rather take a risk than suffer a loss.
Think of the Costco Effect. No one really ever needs a jumbo bag of microfiber car cleaning cloths or an incredible pair of leather sheepskin lined gloves. But when you’re standing there and know, without a doubt, that they won’t be there the next time you come, you find yourself unable to resist putting them in your cart.
Marketers can play on this fear of losing out by offering limited deals, one-time offers for upgrades, or even products that are only be available for a short amount of time.
Just before writing this post, I received an email offering me lifetime membership to a stock photo site for the low, low, low price of $49 instead of the usual $999, but the deal was only available to the first 100 people who nabbed it. You can bet that I was tempted. I’ve never, not once, purchased an image from this site, and yet, what a deal! Hard to hit delete on an email like that.
The Affect Heuristic
The other heuristic that should fuel your marketing and branding efforts is the Affect Heuristic, which is the way humans use their current emotion to inform their decisions and actions.
Someone who is annoyed is less likely to take the time to listen to a sales pitch, while someone who is feeling relaxed and happy might find a little more wiggle room in their schedule to hear out your sales guy.
We’re not saying you should preface every customer interaction with pictures of cute kittens, but by taking the affect heuristic into account when designing your site, your email campaigns, even your sales pitches, can make a huge difference to your bottom line. With the right colors, images, design, and messaging you can manipulate your potential customer’s mood and feelings to craft an experience that will get them into the ideal frame of mind to entertain your offerings.
Take a look at your site and your marketing materials. How will they affect your prospects on a subconscious level? How can you put heuristics to work for you?
Heuristics are just one facet of behavior engineering. Download our Behavior Engineering Canvas & Framework now.