Has this ever happened to you?
You create an email doing everything right. And yet your metrics still disappoint.
You can change this outcome. But first you have to understand how people make decisions.
Up to 95% of decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind
According to social scientists, up to 95% of decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind.
We all like to think we, and our customers, make thoughtful, considered decisions. But very often people simply rely on decision-making shortcuts – automatic, instinctive, reflexive behaviors.
Humans have developed these over the millennia as a way to conserve mental agency. And today these hardwired decision defaults impact everything from what people read, to whom they trust and when they buy.
The good news? You can create emails that take advantage of them, prompting people to automatically take the actions you want.
Here are three ways to start.
# 1. The Zeigarnik Effect – or why just getting started can be so powerful
Social scientists have found that people don’t like to leave things incomplete. Once we start something, we feel compelled to finish.
Think about a book you read to the end, even if it wasn’t as good as you’d hoped. Or about a TV series you couldn’t wait for the final episode of, so you could see the conclusion.
They’re all evidence of the Zeigarnik Effect in action.
And email marketers can use this principle very effectively. For example, send a message that reminds prospects they began customizing a product on your website, but never finished. Or that they added several items to their cart, but never checked out. Or that, based on your loyalty program, they are only three purchases away from a free gift.
#2. Availability Bias – or what to ask before you ask for the sale
People will determine the likelihood of something happening based on whether they can recall an instance of it. That’s why people who rarely fly often believe flying is less safe than it is.
They think back to the news reports they’ve heard about planes, remember many of those stories involved casualties, and based on this information that’s “available” to them, determine that flying is risky.
What they don’t have available to them is many stories of perfectly safe plane landings – because that’s not news.
So how do you use Availability Bias in email marketing? Before you ask your prospect to buy your product, first get them to think of a situation in the past when they could have used it. Or to imagine a time in the future when it might fit nicely into their lives.
This will make them more receptive to your message, because they’ll judge the likelihood of the event (in this case their need for what you’re selling) to be higher.
#3. The Scarcity Principle – or why people want what they cannot have
Researchers have found that people place more value on items that are scarce. If something is readily available, we get it if we’re interested and ignore it if we’re not.
However, when people know that the product is available only to certain people or only for a certain time, this can make them want it.
That is the Scarcity Principle in action.
Email marketers can easily tap the Scarcity Principle using deadlines, exclusive offers, and limited quantities. Include expiration dates in your emails, emphasize that your target is receiving the offer because they are part of a certain group, or underscore how rare, hard-to-get or nearly sold out your product is.
You can use many other social science principles to improve your emails. For more advice, contact email@example.com.
About the Author
Nancy Harhut is passionate about the impact behavioral science can have on marketing. A Hatch Top 100 Creative Influencer, Online Marketing Institute Top 40 Digital Strategist, and Social Top 50 Email Marketing Leader, she has creative directed integrated campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands. She and her teams have won over 175 awards for digital and direct marketing effectiveness. The Chief Creative Officer of HBT Marketing, Harhut is known for her interesting and actionable insights that focus on the application of behavioral science to marketing. A top-ranked speaker, she’s wowed audiences from the US Department of Defense to Moscow marketers to SXSW attendees. Companies seeking an added advantage tap her for campaign development, consulting and content creation. Follow her on twitter at @nharhut