Massive visibility. Boosted leads and accelerated sales cycles. Swift, sustainable growth. Brands everywhere are searching for the magic that will empower them to reliably move the needle.
But, here’s my secret—and there’s really nothing mystical about it: We, the human species, are irrationally predictable. While many are wrestling with the irrational side of it, throwing things at the wall and observing, the real power lies in harnessing our predictable nature.
Having built powerful frameworks that leverage the science of influence (on top of decades of marketing and digital design experience), we’ve been able to reliably drive business growth by tapping into our irrational predictability. While it’s a thrilling ride to supercharge fledgling startups breaking out of stealth mode, like Spartan Radar, the power of a behavioral model comes into sharp relief with global firms, like Arcserve, a widely recognized brand, established in 1985, with business in over 112 countries.
The art and science of marketing
If we’re honest with ourselves, marketing teams mostly apply anecdotal approaches—implementing what’s been passed along, what they believe worked in the past, and what they perceive is currently working for other brands. (If you’re in IT, you’re probably grumbling at the screen in agreement right now.)
These are all important fundamentals of course, and when measured and reiterated they usually do work—to a degree.
All too often, though, anecdotal marketing efforts that succeed are seen as some sort of amazing marketing strategy, which reinforces the approach, when in reality the campaign was riding a popular trend or underserved need. Without a scientific approach, cherry-picking is the natural outcome—and the cycle repeats.
If scientists worked this way, we’d obviously be wasting a lot of time and missing out on our greatest discoveries. Don’t get me wrong, marketing does tap into some science, but most is poorly applied and inconsistent.
Early in my career, I was confused and uncomfortable with this widespread lack of rigor and specificity. I saw most marketing leaders using their personality and showmanship to sell their ideas with maddeningly little structure to determine whether this design or that would be best.
After working for a decade or so in marketing and digital design, however, I discovered my other passions coming to bear in my campaign, content, and app design work—the nature of mind; how we think, act, and remember; and how we create new habits. The science of human behavior filled in these frustrating gaps and added evidence-based structure to my strategy and decision-making. The results were powerful. Through this application, I consistently drove lifts of 20-1200% in critical metrics, including app engagement, sales, and audience growth.
Eventually, I started coaching my team with actionable concepts I gleaned from years of experimentation. The structure of teaching then led me to build frameworks for increasing influence and facilitating a sense of place and community—both key to sustainable business growth.
By leveraging these frameworks, our team has consistently driven new behaviors—from increased social media follows and form submissions to boosted app engagements and purchases.
This behavioral-driven work revealed to me that a more rigorous, evidence-based approach reduced a lot of the guesswork. It freed up our creative, collaborative process and gave our team a common, science-based language—which also led to greater efficiencies and boosted team dynamics.
Ultimately, the frameworks empowered us to accelerate audience discovery, learning, decision-making, and bottom-line impact.
What kind of evidence-based approaches am I talking about?
For starters, we leverage cognitive bias. Now, this won’t exactly come as a surprise to experienced sales and marketing professionals; they talk about things like scarcity, anchoring effect, and confirmation bias often enough. While these biases are extremely powerful, however, they don’t represent the full scope of potential nudge points.
When consistently building growth, affinity, and new behaviors, we must expand our toolkit. If we embrace things like reframing, the availability heuristic, mirroring, and a nuanced understanding of cognitive dissonance, our performance turns up to eleven.
Case in point: Trinity College in Dublin dumping standard early bird pricing for late registration penalties. This simple reframing immediately boosted registrations by a whopping 39%. A similar reframing I crafted for global brand, Arcserve increased app downloads by 300%.
Added to this mix are social neuroscience findings. By leveraging studies of how humans interact, we can further boost influence, instill loyalty, and build strong communities.
And last, but by far not least, is the science of applied anthropology. What we know about our minds and behaviors is far outstripped by what we don’t know. But, there is a practical path forward: Resonant narratives and influence approaches, proven over millennia, fill in our clinical observation blanks. While we may not yet know all the whys and hows, proven story patterns and behavioral observations that repeat throughout time provide us powerful tools for influence, engagement, and behavioral change.
Through this multidisciplinary approach, we create consistently more powerful methods for building audiences and creating spaces that people find welcoming. I see this as a kind of behavioral Kintsugi (that’s that Japanese art of filling in the cracks of pottery with gold).
By leveraging these areas of science—insights that reveal how we learn, think, and act—we get a powerful set of tools for creating change, especially in the digital world. (More on this in the future.)
Of course, it’s one thing to understand the science—it’s entirely another to make that knowledge actionable.
So, how do you get a team to consistently leverage and apply behavioral insight?
What I’ve discovered from working with many marketing, app dev, and design teams over the decades, is that a collection of evidence-based concepts doesn’t necessarily translate to consistent success. Teams need more resources in order to consistently bring these insights into marketing, experience, and sales projects.
This is where actionable frameworks come in, like the game-changing work of Stanford University’s Dr. BJ Fogg. Director of the university’s Behavior Design Lab, his work takes behavior science research and makes the findings simple to apply for digital designers. Demonstrating, for instance, how we can prompt our target audiences to engage in our desired behavior by increasing their ability, uncovering motivation, and creating prompts.
Well, that’s precisely what led me to build our influence and environing frameworks—to make the path to marketing success and business growth both easier to navigate and more repeatable.
It worked just as I’d hoped.
In the case of Arcserve, we powerfully communicated the pain of data loss and demonstrated empathy with specificity. Harnessing the loss aversion heuristic in this way, we were able to validate the pain our IT audiences experienced following a breach or natural disaster, and engender trust. We also presented Arcserve as a simple, elegant solution, despite the complexity the end users would never see. Why? It enabled us to tap the fluency heuristic, helping audiences perceive Arcserve solutions as easy and more valuable. Lastly, we consistently shared simple, user-centric narratives across brand touchpoints, putting decision-makers at the center of the success story while eliminating cognitive dissonance, a corrosive aspect of every brand and one that kills deals every day.
As a result of our science-based approach, we influenced 15,000 MQLS per quarter through the Arcserve website, social channels, and content marketing, driving 5,000 leads per month—a 167% increase.
More recently, we applied our same methodology to create behavior-designed engagement sessions for insurtech start-up, Loadsure. In the end, our approach generated extensive band visibility for the cash-strapped, pre-Series A start-up for free. In fact, in just three months, 1,985 companies gained awareness of Loadsure through FreightWaves events, including a combined 346K emails and brand mentions in 182K session streams. And, again, our client didn’t pay FreightWaves a single dime for that valuable exposure.
The secret? We tapped into the similarity heuristic to foster FreightWaves loyalty early, sharing something we believed the massive brand would want to be part of, that sounded like them—and we were right. Leveraging the extraordinary talent of our comedian hosts, we also delivered our audience some much-needed surprise and delight amid the pandemic—good humor that nurtured massive reciprocity.
As a result, our client’s largely unknown brand at the outset punched way above its weight class, capturing broad recognition across the transportation industry and raising $12M in Series A funding.
But what am I most excited about today?
The fact that we can create real and actionable change for good. We can help teams work together with less friction and more harmony. We can help people make important decisions faster. We can help people find happier ways to live and work.
If you have any interest in supercharging your marketing or app metrics—and driving change and growth, please drop me a line.