What Behavioral Science Has Taught Us

I've spent the past few years culling through the field of behavioral research, and have unearthed some pretty cool insights for digital marketers—especially those whose products and services require a high degree of consideration before a decision to buy is made.

One of the key tenets in Behavioral Science is that you can't impact people's intentions with a single, or even a few interactions. For behavior change to occur a person needs to receive and accept (a.k.a. truly hear) a series of sustained messages. It turns out that much of the heavy lifting takes place in the subconscious mind, and it requires multiples messages for a familiarity to begin to develop. The resulting sense of comfort leads the subconscious mind to drive the new habit. Powerful stuff.

This principal insight has served as the mainstay of ERGO's adaptive storytelling methodology (tailoring the sales content for each person as he or she moves through the consideration process). More specifically, we work with clients to ensure that their considered-purchase experience consists of seven to ten interactions, or touches, that build on one another. Any more is too many, any less is too few. Unfortunately, sales and marketing people usually decide that a lead is not worth pursuing after four or five interactions; however, the majority of the conversions happen after the seventh touch.

In order for each of the touches to be absorbed, rather than blocked or tuned out, they must be relevant. Therefore, the first step is to recognize what happens to a prospect's mindset as he or she moves through the decision funnel. To do this, we've overlaid clinical behavioral change stages onto sales funnel stages, to hone in on the mindset during each stage. For instance, we mapped the contemplation behavioral stage to the consideration stage of a purchase decision. The mindset during the contemplation stage is best described as "sitting on the fence". Going deeper, we've learned that an effective messaging strategy for this stage (mindset) is to encourage people to actively consider both the pros of adopting a new behavior while also considering the cons of not adopting a new behavior. So, as a simple example for a luxury automotive brand, we might focus our message on the active exploration of what life can be life owning one—and what the consequences are for not owning one. Each stage of the sales funnel requires different motivational techniques.

It may sound wonky, but it works. Over the past couple of years, we've been testing and adapting these insights to refine our methodology. Assuming the targeting is accurate (such as marketing a jet to someone who can actually afford a private aviation solution), a sustained conversation consisting of seven to ten relevant touches can boost your conversion rates by up to 90 times. Yes, you read that correctly—adaptive storytelling is that powerful.

John Hendricks

John Hendricks


John is the founder and CEO of ERGO Interactive. With broad knowledge drawn from his 15+ years of experience, John is an industry expert on Customer Engagement with deep roots in data science and content architecture.

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