The Positive Psychology of NO CHOICE

When asked why he always wore grey or blue suits, Barack Obama responded that he had enough other choices to make so this was a choice he could choose not to make. And per psychology studies, this was a smart choice.

choicesWhen asked why he always wore grey or blue suits, Barack Obama responded that he had enough other choices to make so this was a choice he could choose not to make. And per psychology studies, this was a smart choice.

Making choices actually depletes our brain energy and distracts our mental focus in ways that often lead to inertia, or procrastination of important events, and fatigue. In fact, several studies have shown that:

the more little decisions we make, the more it taxes our ability to make bigger decisions that are important to our advancement toward life’s bigger goals.

For example, a study conducted by University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs and colleagues showed that participants who made several small choices while shopping were less likely to do well when asked to solve a simple algebra problem. This inability to go from a series of small choices to a more complex mental activity proved true with other tasks they conducted in this same study, which involved college students. Per the task studied involving students from prestigious universities, researchers found that students were more likely to put off studying for important tests if preoccupied with smaller decisions at the same time.

Vohs and her team conducted four different tasks associated with choice for their overall study and made some fascinating observations and conclusions:

  • Making choices can deplete the brain and body, creating mental and physical fatigue
  • Having to make choices is more depleting than just looking at options
  • Implementing choices imposed on you by somebody else is less draining
  • If you anticipate that making choices will be a fun and rewarding experience, the decision process is less depleting

These findings have substantial implications for anyone in marketing, whether B-to-B or B-to-C: If you want your customers to make quick decisions to purchase from you, and have an energizing vs. depleting experience, simplify the decision process by offering fewer choices.

Sounds counter-intuitive to some, but think about it. When you are faced with choosing from dozens of products on a shelf with lots of price and promise variations, you end up having to think more, analyze more, and it often results in muddled thinking and confusion. Per the above studies, you and many other consumers have likely made the choice to not choose when choosing becomes too time-consuming and exhausting. It happens when shopping for cars and even personal products at a grocery store. We get “depleted” mentally when trying to decide which product to purchase based upon our mental process to make sure we get the best deal, best value and don’t make decisions we might regret.

As a business, we need to do whatever we can to make choosing our products simple and energizing vs. depleting.

If you’re selling software as a service, such as a SaaS platform for CRM or some other business function, you likely have a big range of services people can choose from, and different price ranges for “packages” of those services. If you have three packages to choose from, your chances of getting sales quickly are likely going to be greater than if you gave them 10 packages to choose from or ask customers to create their own bundle out of dozens of services you offer.

And if you make that choice “safe,” by providing a generous cancellation or opt-out clause, you take the fear out of an easy choice. This is critical to the psychology of choice, as both of these activities take less energy from our mental capacities. And when we use less energy worrying or stressing or contemplating, we have more energy to anticipate the reward of that decision.

So ask yourself these key questions:

  • Do my offerings or sales model drain or sustain brain energy?
  • How can I simplify choices without making customers feel like they have none?
  • How can I make choices a replenishing, energizing experience that makes customers feel good about their decisions and my brand?

When you can build your sales offerings and marketing messages around the answers to those three questions you can transform your brand’s ability to close deals. And that can transform your bottom line and competitive advantage for a long time to come.

Sensory Appeal, in Video Form

In a world where it’s easy to experience sensory overload multiple times a day just from our smartphones, it’s almost ironic to suggest that you add to it with your marketing programs. But you should.

VideoIn a world where it’s easy to experience sensory overload multiple times a day just from our smartphones, it’s almost ironic to suggest that you add to it with your marketing programs. But you should.

With all of the media consumers consume daily — about 11 hours a day, for all channels combined — we’ve become dependent on interactive digital experiences that take little more effort than listening and watching. And we don’t even like doing that for more than two minutes. Our media usage has changed our interest levels, or maybe its our willingness to read or watch long documentaries — as we are now used to getting news, and now possibly the State of the Union, in Twitter posts.

Rising to fill the gap from our changing media consumption is video — short, entertaining snippets of two to three minutes that entertain, inform and, hopefully for those who produce them, inspire us to engage, inquire and buy something. It’s working.

HubSpot shares some powerful statistics showing how video is impacting consumer behavior and why you need to jump on this bandwagon, too. Here are just a few:

  • Videos in email lead to a jump in clickthrough rates of between 200 and 300 percent
  • Videos on a landing page can help your conversions increase by 80 percent
  • Videos combined with a full-page ad can boost engagement by 22 percent
  • Videos can increase likelihood of purchase by 64 percent among online shoppers
  • Videos included in a real estate listing can up inquiries by 403 percent
  • Video inspires 50 percent of executives to seek more information about a product
  • Video inspires 65 percent of executives to visit a marketer’s website, and 39 percent to call a vendor

I could go on … but I think the point is clear: You need to create videos if you want to engage customers and sell more products. And because YouTube is the second-largest search engine, next to Google. Enough said.

I’ll Say More

Another reason you must include video in addition to all of the above is most of your competitors are doing it and that can leave you out in the cold if you are not. Okay, so more stats from HubSpot:

  • 87 percent of online marketers use video content
  • 22 percent of small businesses in the U.S. plan to use it
  • 96 percent of B-to-B organizations use it

Most importantly, 90 percent of video watchers say they help them make purchase decisions and 92 percent of those viewing them on mobile devices share videos with others.

The one challenge is that there are a lot of videos competing with each other, as evidenced by yet another statistic: On average, users are exposed to 32.3 videos a month, or roughly one a day.

So how do you create videos that build your business and use them effectively in your marketing mix?

Like all things you do in any medium — print, digital, mobile — your content needs to have value, and that value can be improving someone’s circumstances, inspiring them to live a better life, or guiding them to do their jobs better, so they achieve their goals and advance their careers. Your videos need to create an emotional reaction that drives them to contact you for further information.

Here Are Some Tips

Regardless of your business genre, keep videos short and to the point. This is not your attempt to produce a Hollywood blockbuster. It is simply a way to tell your story with a medium that appeals to our senses and makes your brand come to life. Your videos should not be more than two to three minutes long. Go more only if your content justifies it.

Before you debut your videos publicly, test them. Ask non-employees and even non-customers to sit through your videos and give you feedback. Good questions to ask include:

  • Did it keep your interest?
  • What was the main message you took away from this video?
  • Did it inspire you to inquire more about our product or service? If yes, why? If not, why?
  • Was the length appropriate?
  • Did you think the production quality of this video was in line with other brand videos you have watched?

Like any marketing communications, always include a call to action and a response mechanism. Stay away from promotions, as they’ll expire before you’re ready to stop using the video. Make it clear how to contact you for more information through your email, website, phone numbers and social channels.

Keep your videos short. No one wants to spend more than two to three minutes watching a video that they know is intended to sell them something. Use their time and yours wisely, and keep your content on-task.

Use professional footage and images. Your video can be a slide show, with text fading in and out, or it can be a true video with all of the moving parts. Regardless of the format you use, use the highest resolution and quality possible. Your reputation is on the line, per the quality you project. If you are a high-tech company and you use low-tech video, that transfers to the perceived quality of the products you sell.

Create a YouTube channel to house all of your videos. You can archive videos on YouTube and on your website. For either option, include a transcript of your video to help you achieve higher SEO.

For B-to-C, you can add a little more fun and focus on life messages, not just brand messages. Coca-Cola does a great job of this. Its channel has more than 1.2 million subscribers and its views have topped more than 22 million for a single video. Coke’s “Happiness Truck” video, which shows a Coke truck dispensing gifts to people on the streets in Rio, has more than 1.6 million views — another inspirational message that worked to build the emotional equity of the Coke brand. Interestingly enough, its video with 22.3 million views as of this writing is about spending more time offline and enjoying the journey of life in the real world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiu9PcEyQ5Y

B-to-B Video Tip

For the B-to-B world, here are some tips:

  • Create product demo videos to showcase the features that set your products apart.
  • Show how your products compare to competitors, when applicable, and how your products fulfill the needs of your viewers.
  • Include statements from your company leaders to show their vision and help tell your brand story.
  • Include customers talking about their experiences with your product and your team. Video testimonials are powerful, because viewers can see the body language, the smiles, the looks of relief and hear the excitement in voices that written testimonials do not provide.

Again, consumers like to see brand stories in which they can see themselves. They want to be the proud father, or the mom being thanked by her Olympian child as shown in Proctor and Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” ad series that makes many moms cry, no matter how many times they watch the videos. Consumers want to be the vacationers on the beach, the newly engaged couple, the happy family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ3k6BFX2uw

Find ways to associate your brand with what matters most to your consumers and then get creative and start writing video scripts that tell your story in conjunction with the goals they have for their lives.

What Donald Trump’s Win Means for Promotional Products

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

(Image via CNN)
(Image via CNN)

[Target Marketing’s take: This piece notes “branded merchandise sales can predict an election.” So, too, can core product sales be related to the success of associated goods. For instance, Nike sells shoes. And yet, sales of “Just Do It” shirts and co-founder Phil Knight’s book “Shoe Dog” also soar. So this Promo article has plenty of import for TM readers.]

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

It may be a leap, but I believe promotional products played a huge part in this presidential election. With that in mind, here are a few key takeaways you can apply to your next promotional campaign.

1. Promotional Products Matter – Big Time

We told you that Trump spent more on hats than polling, and it sure seems that budget allocation paid off for his campaign. The “Make America Great Again” hats became a symbol for his campaign, and effectively communicated his message throughout the election.

(Image via Trump's online store)
(Image via Trump’s online store)

For future promotional success, political leaders need to place more weight on one solidified campaign slogan that extends across all merchandise. While Hillary bet hard on her “I’m With Her” slogan, there were multiple official Hillary phrases that permeated the campaign. Instead, she might have found more success strengthening one campaign slogan.

2. The End-users Have Merchandising Power, Too

While each political nominee obviously released branded political merchandise, they were far from the only ones. Voters everywhere capitalized on election micro-moments and created their own merchandise based on viral memes. From the “Nasty Women” T-shirts to “Proud to be a Deplorable” apparel, the campaign was rampant with end-user impact.

(Image via PopSugar)
(Image via PopSugar)

For the future, political candidates can encourage their constituents to submit their own political designs, in order to give the people what they want. That way, when potential voters go to purchase this political merchandise, the political campaign will actually be getting the money, instead of places like CafePress and TeeSpring.

3. Branded Merchandise Sales Can Predict an Election

It’s a pretty bold statement, but one that proved the be true, according to Louisville Business First. CafePress has accurately predicted the presidential winner since 1999, and it correctly predicted Trump this year. But, how did the company get it right? Well, via the merchandise sales.

(Image via Bloomberg)
(Image via Bloomberg)

As of September, pro-Trump merchandise was outselling pro-Hillary merchandise by 20 percent. And, Philly.com pointed out that Trump sold more lawn signs.

Now that you know the weight of promotional apparel, you understand how important it is to dedicate time and resources to a great promotional campaign. The more people who see it on the streets, the more likely they are to keep a candidate top-of-mind.

Why Your Marketing Falls on Deaf Ears and Blind Eyes

Creating the right framework so what your customers see is what you want them to see is not an expensive or long-term endeavor. It’s simply a matter of doing your research to see what they see now, determine what you need to do at all touchpoints to create the vision you want them have, and create a culture within which positive experiences are framed at every touchpoint, every day.

DNC telemarketing robocalls“Now you see me, now you don’t” isn’t just a great line from one of my favorite movies, (“Now You See Me”), it’s a critical peek into the mind of consumers and what drives them toward your brand, or fast away from it.

We humans are editors at large, everywhere we go and with every purchase we make. We edit events, experiences, and observations to fit our perspective and view of the world. If we don’t want to accept something, we simply don’t. Just take a look at your Facebook or Twitter feed. If you are a supporter of either Trump or Clinton, you simply don’t see or accept any of the accusations about their character, tax payments, email servers or conflicts of interest. You clearly see all of these issues and more about the one you don’t support. Why is this so?

Psychologists sum it up as WYSIATI — “What You See Is All There Is.” If something, even as powerful as scientific evidence, doesn’t fit our view of the world, adhere to our value set, or wish list for the life we live or values we support, then it simply doesn’t exist. We can erase all of the data or clear evidence that doesn’t validate what we “see” or want to see. For example, most Americans state they believe in science and that scientific procedures produce positive and real results. Yet they only believe the results they want to believe. Pew Research shows just how strongly WYSIATI applies to social and environmental issues in our world today. Recent surveys show the big gaps between what science shows through validated processes and what we the people believe:

  • GMOs Are Safe: 88 percent science, 37 percent public
  • Vaccines Are Needed: 86 percent science, 68 percent public
  • Climate Change Is a Real Threat: 94 percent scientists; 65 percent public
  • Humans Are the Primary Cause for Climate Change: 87 percent scientists; 50 percent public

The same applies to brands. We see it all of the time. We read a bad review, have one bad experience, hear a story about a product failure or recall, and it’s all we see then and in the future for years to come. Our smartphones are a great example. Forbes evaluated the iPhone 6 against the Samsung S7 and for eight out of 10 features, such as the camera, screen readability, battery and more, the Samsung outperformed the iPhone, yet 88 percent of iPhone users won’t switch. Our loyalty to a brand that has made us feel current, innovative, connected and even cool, makes us blind to the superior functionality another brand might offer for the same features and tools.

Our ability to see only what we want to see spills over into all aspects of our life. When in high-focus mode, we don’t see distractions around us, and when in high-loyalty mode, we don’t see competitive reasons why we should switch brands for the products we use daily.

Scientifically, this is called perceptual narrowing. Our brains are like big galleries of picture frames. We have a frame, or compartment, for our various beliefs and vague systems and we only believe what is in that frame which is created by our culture, upbringing, religious and social values, and experiences in life. When we hear something about a politician, our religion or a brand we love, whether we believe it, accept it and act on it is largely determined by what is the “frame” associated with that given issue.

For marketers, this is the key to why building experiences that create positive attitudes, oxytocin or “love” rushes, and dopamine highs that result in anticipation of rewards and personal achievements can make or break your sales. Customers keep coming back to brands that get bad reviews from consumers, and to brands that get good ones, if their frame contains a positive view of themselves in your world.

Experiences that put customers in stories that fulfill their aspirations, solve their problems, simplify their lives, increase happiness or trigger feelings of self-worth, are experiences that create frames full of brand joy, loyalty and evangelism. To create these frameworks, we marketers must create a holistic approach to the customer experience, including:

  • Products: Do they do what we promise they’ll do in our communications?
  • Service: Do we put customers first and validate their viewpoints, forever and always?
  • Experiences: Do we guide them on productive journeys that get them to the destination quickly, simply, affordably and with a smile on their faces?
  • How Do We Use CRM and CX Technology to Communicate in Real-time? Solve issues before they become part of the “frame” toward our brand, and proactively communicate ideas, opportunities that benefit them before us?

Creating the right framework so what your customers see is what you want them to see is not an expensive or long-term endeavor. It’s simply a matter of doing your research to see what they see now, determine what you need to do at all touchpoints to create the vision you want them have, and create a culture within which positive experiences are framed at every touchpoint, every day.

Believe any of this? Read my sources and if you still don’t believe me, you’ve just validated everything I’ve just said.

Spring Cleaning Is Not Just for Houses, It’s for Your Website, Too

It’s been my experience that businesses hate to say goodbye to products and often keep product pages up for discontinued and no longer available products. If you don’t have in-place a regular process for handling discontinued products on the site, then you should build one. Consider this akin to cleaning out the closets.

The calendar says it’s spring and in many parts of the country, the weather is warming and the flowers are starting to bloom. In the past, homemakers would herald the change of the season by giving their homes a thorough cleaning. Walls were washed, floors scrubbed and closets cleaned out. As we have become busier, the ritual of spring cleaning has faded into a memory of things that Mom and her generation did. I would like to suggest that just like homes, sites need to be cleaned on a regular basis as part of the organic search workflow. Maybe it is time to spring clean your site? If you do not already have cleaning and pruning the site as part of your organic search workflow, I’d like to suggest that there is no time like the present to put together an action plan.

Why Bother Cleaning and Pruning Your Site?
The reasons for instituting a regular process for cleaning and sprucing up your site are legion. It is my experience that we love the new and often forget about those sections of the site that were once upon a time the bright, shiny new objects. You may have forgotten about the pages. But once they are found by the search spiders and indexed, they are part of your footprint. Pages can live in search results for years, particularly if they happen to have search-reactive content. They may still draw traffic; not huge volumes, but enough to merit your attention. If your company has changed and progressed, you may have pages that represent what you were then — five years ago — and not what you are now. You do not want to show the world an out-of-date version of your company.

Where to Begin?
A very obvious place to begin is to use Google’s Webmaster Tools to get a sense of how many pages from your site are in Google’s index. This is a first-level sanity check. Most organic search marketers use this tool to monitor the level of indexing on a regular basis, but I am suggesting that it is a good idea to take a slightly different slant on how to view the results. For example, if your site has 20 top-level category pages and 1,000 product pages, plus some essential supplemental pages about the business, it would merit further review if the tools showed 5,000 or more pages. Run a spidering tool of your own against your site and check for discrepancies. It’s been my experience that businesses hate to say goodbye to products and often keep product pages up for discontinued and no longer available products. If you don’t have in-place a regular process for handling discontinued products on the site, then you should build one. Consider this akin to cleaning out the closets.

What to Do With the Discards?
During a spring cleaning that includes cleaning out the closets, lots of discards go off to secondhand shops, charity or whatever. You can’t quite do this with your site, but you can generously share any search value with other pages on the site by redirecting with permanent 301 redirects any traffic from your discards to other still-viable pages. This signals to the search engines that you have moved the page. You know that the page has not just been moved, it has been obliterated.

When to Clean?
It may not be practical to set an arbitrary time based on the change in the seasons to give your site a regular cleaning. If your business has a new product introduction cycle, as in fashion, then the best time is when the merchandise changeover has occurred. For businesses that continuously add new products, then a regular schedule must be set to clean up the site.

Don’t just look at product pages. All too often, the supplementary materials on a site are very out of date, so they merit a review, as well. Computer storage is cheap, so we never really see the pages we should be discarding bulging from our digital closets. Unfortunately, we really don’t want our customers using search engines to find and view our out-of-date materials. So if your site has out-of-date pages, be assured that if they are indexed, they will be seen by someone. Jiffy up your organic search presence by getting rid of any out-of-date pages.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Sears Experiments With a New Google Email Tool

The most interesting news of the week came to me via an email alert from Chad White, research director of Smith-Harmon, a Responsys company, and founder of the Retail Email Blog. The alert said Sears was testing a new Gmail functionality and, in the words of Chad, “was pretty cool stuff.” It directed me to his blog posting on the subject.

The most interesting news of the week came to me via an email alert from Chad White, research director of Smith-Harmon, a Responsys company, and founder of the Retail Email Blog. The alert said Sears was testing a new Gmail functionality and, in the words of Chad, “was pretty cool stuff.” It directed me to his blog posting on the subject.

Knowing that Chad is an authority on email — and a very smart guy — I decided to take a look.

Sears, according to Chad’s blog post, “will be wrapping up beta testing of a potential new Google offering called ‘Enhanced Email,’ which allows a form of browsing to occur within an email viewed within Gmail.”

In a limited test of the functionality last month, White wrote, “Sears was able to include seven ‘pages’ containing 20 best-selling products that its Gmail subscribers could browse using the navigation within the module without leaving the email.”

Here’s where it gets even cooler: When a subscriber hits the “next” link in the module’s navigation, White wrote, “the current set of products slides out of the box to the left and the next set of products slides in from the right in one smooth motion.”

Pretty cool, indeed.

For his blog post, White interviewed Ramki Srinivasan, the manager of email innovation at Sears, who said the set of products for the browsing module is displayed at the time of open, not the time of send, “which allows the information to be as current as possible.” He also said the test saw “higher opens, clicks and revenue per email,” but stressed that it’s too early to make any final assessments on the functionality.

In closing, White said Enhanced Email is just one more sign that the inboxes of the future will allow much more activity to occur within them. As a result, marketers will have to come up with “new ways of measuring email success and of thinking about email strategy, particularly the relationship between email and website landing pages,” White said.

Have any of you experimented with Enhanced Email? If so, would you like to tell us about it? If you haven’t yet tried it, are you interested in checking it out? Let me know by leaving a comment here.