I have a theory that a lot of predictable human behavior can be linked back to evolution. Now I don't want to get into a religious debate with anyone, but this is my opinion. A lot of hard-wired ways we behave today made more sense when we were cave people - we just haven't had the time or evolutionary pressure to change yet.
I was reading a recent post by Seth Godin about fear of loss. Behavioral tests, over and over again, have proven that people's fear of loss generally far outweighs their wanting gain. Once you have something, it's hard to let it go. Here are two questions used to test the discrepancy:
- You walk to the movies with a 10 dollar bill in your pocket (enough for a ticket). When you arrive at the theater you notice that you lost the $10 through a hole in your pocket. Do you get another $10 and go back to buy the ticket, or do you skip the movie?
- You are walking to the same movie, and you previously bought a ticket for $10. When you get to the theater you notice that you lost the ticket through a hole in your pocket. Do you get another $10 and buy another ticket, or do you skip the movie?
A significant majority of people answered questions 1 and 2 differently. More people would skip the movie when presented with question 1 and more people would buy another ticket when presented with question 2. Logically and economically, the situations are the same so the discrepancy doesn't make sense. With either scenario, seeing the movie would cost you $20.
The main difference is that you already had a ticket, you owned the experience of going to the movie. You weren't going to give it up.
When our ancestors roamed the plains and killed a buffalo, did they just leave it there to pursue another, bigger buffalo? Probably not, because they knew leaving the first buffalo might mean that some other predator got it. We have keeping what's ours hard wired. Do you know anybody who collects things? How about someone who won't throw out an article of clothing that should have made the trash heap years ago?
Sales people have known this for years. Why do you think car sales people push you to get a test drive? Once you sit in that car and drive it, giving it up will be psychologically harder. An old technique I was taught in retail was to hand an item to a customer to look at and then take it back from them. Some people get downright indignant and insist upon buying the item.
How can we use this in small business marketing?
No matter what you are selling - products, services, real estate etc., the more you can have your prospects picture ownership the more psychologically they won't want to give it up. There's a technique called future pacing where you actually instruct someone to imagine themselves in the future - creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Example: Let's say that I have a company that offers housecleaning services. I might have the brochure read something like this, "Imagine walking in the front door of your house - it's never been so clean, and you haven't had to lift a finger. Kick off your shoes and relax after a hard day's work, because the housework is done. Your house will be clean enough for company every day, and you'll have the time and energy left to entertain."
I have the person imagine how wonderful everything will be and take ownership of that future life and clean house. It's hard give it up. This would most likely be the lead paragraph of the brochure.
Think about your own marketing materials. How can you create this sense of ownership for your prospects and customers?
J D Moore - Marketing Comet