Frame the gain or is loss the boss? The nuance of prevention vs promotion focus

Having working with hundreds of people over the eight years since I founded People Patterns I have observed two distinct approaches to new information or techniques.

According to Regulatory Fit Theory (RFT), some people are motivated by a prevention focus where they are attracted to resolving a perceived gap in their business. These clients tend to feel they are missing something and seek answers about how behavioural science can help.

Others are attracted to opportunity. Their promotion focus means they like identifying new ideas that can immediately improve their business.

The end point might be the same – applying behavioural science to improve everyday business and personal effectiveness – but the message that resonates is different. Life is easier for some, and less difficult for others.

How to apply Prevention and Promotion in your business

Your customers and staff will tend to have either a prevention or promotion focus too, which means you should adjust how you engage them accordingly.

For example, promotion-focussed diners in a restaurant spent more time on higher-level information (e.g. entrees, mains), where those in a prevention mindset were more goal-directed (e.g. specific dishes). When the structure of the menu matched their mindset, diners were willing to pay 17% more.

For customers or stakeholders who are prevention-minded, loss is boss. Speaking about the avoidance of negative consequences is powerful so use words and phrases like “gaps”, “missing out”, “waste”, and “avoid”.

For customers or staff with a promotion-mindset, frame the gain. “Opportunity”, “growth”, “win” and “save” will be your go-to words.

Which are you?

To make it easier for people to work out which of my products and services are best for them, I developed a short personality-based matching tool. To find out whether you are a Sleuth, Prospector, Mechanic or Physician, jump on the free online tool right now. Let me know whether your profile reflects your approach.

How expectations change ‘parformance’

Does labelling a hole par four or five change golfer performance?

Through a quirk of United States’ Golf Administration (USGA) decision-making, holes at Pebble Beach and Oakmont Country Club have been assessed as par four for some US Open tournaments, and par five in others. Same hole, different par.

This created a fascinating opportunity for behavioural scientists Elmore and Urbaczewski (2019) to look at how expectations impact behaviour. They hypothesised that when the hole was par four (so it is expected you should need only four strokes to hole the ball) professional golfers would tend to take fewer strokes than when that same hole was par five.

Indeed, that’s what they found, and the affect was significant. According to the researchers “we would expect that a professional golfer playing a hole as a par 5 to score between 0.22 and 0.31 strokes higher than when the same hole is rated a par 4. In other words, the results lend support to the notion that players tend to exert more effort when the hole is playing at a more difficult rating.”

Why do golfers behave this way? If they can take fewer strokes when a hole is a par four why should that change just because the rating is higher?

Loss aversion. People hate to lose more than they love to win, so if I miss par by taking five strokes on a par four hole I will feel worse than if I use five strokes on a par five (in which case I have met expectation and held my score – I haven’t “lost” a stoke). 

Again from the researchers; “The total effect over four rounds is potentially greater than one stroke, which is often the difference between 1st and 2nd place at the tournament.”

Implications for you

There are three main implications from this research to take into your day-to-day business life.

1. How expectations are framed changes behaviour

In our golf example, the difficulty of the hole didn’t change but its rating did. When golfers thought it was more difficult (par four), they tried harder than when they thought it wasn’t (par five). This is the curious thing about behaviour – the objective reality is often much less important than the subjective reality.

When managing staff this means paying attention to how they see the world. What’s on paper is unlikely to be what they are responding to.

With customers, you might think are superior to a customer on objective grounds but that may not compel them to choose you.

2.  Numbers are magnetic

Numbers tend to anchor people, so if I have par five in mind I am likely to be drawn close to it. When it comes to promotions, that means you can encourage people to buy more of an item than they perhaps intend by stating there is a “limit of five per customer”.

3.  Loss aversion impacts most aspects of business

When customers, staff, suppliers or investors feel there is something to lose, their behavour is likely to change. This can be good if you want them to focus and put more effort in (like having a par four), but they may not choose to play at all if what they stand to lose is much greater than what they may gain. If there’s no way I can make par four then I may not even try.

Why people reject change

In January we experienced two public debates that reinforced the essential equation when influencing people to change behaviour; what they gain must exceed what they stand to lose.

Getting people to accept a proposed change

Two important issues have been hotly debated this past month –  whether to change the date of Australia Day and whether people should opt-out of My Health Record. 

This blog won’t be dealing with the merits of either. Instead I want to focus on what we can learn about how these issues have been framed by those seeking to get Australians to accept a change.

Australia Day

It is my view that those who want(ed) to have the date changed from 26 January needed to propose firm alternatives earlier in the discussion.  Much of the resistance has come from the sense of “losing” the 26 January, without any reassurance that another date would be suitable.  Rather than being framed as a shift to something, it was a changeaway from the status quo, and that can be uncomfortable.  Instead of framing the debate as whether it should be moved, advocates should ideally have framed it as which date to move it to.

My Health Record

My Health Record, a centralised database of personal medical information, is fast becoming a case study in how not to roll out an online service. What should have been good news has instead been drowned out by data security and privacy concerns. Whether these fears are justified is almost secondary to the perception that has taken hold, and in my view this is also largely due to poor framing.  The agencies responsible were either too late or too quiet and their message around the benefits of a record has simply not cut through. Last I heard over one million people had opted-out, and given we are predisposed to leave things as they are, this rate of activity signals a significant and unfortunate rejection of the system as it stands.

Lessons for you

When trying to get people to accept a change, whether it’s a customer moving from not buying to buying, a website visitor moving from not clicking to clicking, or a colleague moving from not producing to producing, you need to carefully consider how you frame the message. If they feel that they have more to lose than gain, there’s no way they’ll bother. Nullify their sense of loss and amplify their sense of gain and you’ll be much more likely to move together in a mutually beneficial direction.

Hot tips from the tennis

With the Australian Open heading towards the finals there are three business lessons from tennis I’d like to share.

1. Tennis umpires wear sneakers:

Walk in your customer’s shoes if you want to influence them

Tennis umpires wear tennis shoes, and not just for how they look. They wear sneakers so if they have to walk the court to assess its condition (e.g. after rain), they experience it the same as the players do.

The lesson: Empathy – your ability to see a situation from your customer’s point of view by walking in their shoes – is paramount if you want to successfully influence behaviour. By starting in their world you can anticipate why they may resist your offer and devise strategies to compel them to act. .

2. Second serve is always slower:

Behaviour changes when there’s something to lose

Same player, same task, but different behaviour because the stakes have changed; that’s the difference between the first and second serve in tennis. The first serve is harder, faster and closer to the line. Why? Because if you miss it you get a do-over. The second serve is softer, slower and further from the line because if you miss this time you lose the point.

The lesson: Your customer’s behaviour will change dramatically as soon as they have something to lose. If you are putting too much pressure on them they are likely to walk away because that is safer than losing their time, money and credibility with you. To overcome this issue you need to make them feel safe to commit, using money back guarantees and returns polices for example.

3. Hawk-Eye challenges:

Let your customers complain

Players are able to challenge a line-call three times per set of tennis. When they do, Hawk-Eye technology is used to model the precise location a ball landed, either confirming or correcting the decision of the line official.  The opportunity to dispute the call is important because it gives players a feeling of control over their circumstances, reducing the likelihood they will lose their temper.

The lesson: Your customers need to feel they have access to and are afforded due process. That means letting them know how they can return goods or lodge complaints, and making it easy to do so. As soon as a customer feels they have no recourse they will get extremely angry and make a bigger issue out of something than it needed to be.

The birdbath principle: Attracting customers by reducing fear

If you’ve noticed customers baulking at the entrance to your store, abandoning your online process, or avoiding contract discussions, it could be due to the birdbath principle.

Birdbath positioning

Birdbaths serve two purposes in a garden. They can be used as a structural element to attract the eye, and they can be used to attract birds that like to drink and bathe.  It is this second, more functional purpose, where I see things break down because, much like engaging customers, there’s a right and wrong way to position your birdbath.

The right way is to nestle your birdbath amongst foliage. The wrong way is to place it in the middle of a barren landscape.

Why? Birds need to feel safe. They are very vulnerable when taking a drink or bath, so it’s important they feelprotected and have an escape. When a birdbath is stuck out on its own, birds are too scared to approach.

Birdbath principle

The birdbath principle

Poorly placed birdbaths remind me of retail outlets where customers are anxious about entering the store for fear of being pounced on by a predator (you). In effect, they haven’t been provided enough “cover” to feel safe to come in. As a result, many shoppers bypass stores that are empty of customers in favour of those where others have dared to enter.

I call this the “birdbath principle”; when people feel exposed, they will avoid you. It not only happens in retail. The same goes for:

  • Restaurants, where people will feel awkward about entering an empty space,
  • Online, where customers will feel very vulnerable if you ask them personal or sensitive questions (like date of birth or credit card details) without assurances,
  • Networking events, where people (particularly those who are introverted) don’t know where to stand or what to do with their hands
  • Contract discussions where they feel the pressure of being the decision-maker

How to make customers feel safe

Your role is to make customers (and staff) feel safe to proceed. Like the birdbath nestled amongst the plants, look for opportunities to give customers a safe environment to enter, and an easy path to exit.

In retail, have sufficient stock just inside the entrance to give them a sense of protection, and try to look busy when they come in so they don’t feel all eyes are on them. Acknowledge them, but keep it brief and wait for them to loiter over something before actively engaging with prompts.

In hospitality, if your customers are first to arrive (someone has to be), they’ll probably be feeling a little weird. Greeting them like being first is no big deal is important, so keep it low key. Seating them and offering water will help to anchor them. Having background music playing, possibly a little louder than later on, will help fill the void until other diners arrive.

Online, whenever you request sensitive information, be sure to explain why you need it (and get rid of any that you really don’t need!) For example, when asking for an email, let them know it’s so their confirmation can be sent to them straight away. Also, make sure you confirm any important action, providing an order number or thank you page, for example.

At networking events, the registration desk is a good place to make them feel comfortable and get their bearings. Consider pointing out people they know, or where they can get a drink. A small information card can be a helpful device for them to hold and give them something to read when not in conversation (and keep them off their phones). Provide plenty of physical anchor points, like bar tables, where they can plant themselves.

In contract discussions, give them ways to save face to colleagues if they need to recant on a decision or make a concession. Diminish their sense of risk if they proceed with you, while making them feel nervous if they don’t.

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.

Make de-prioritising a priority

Where should you invest time and money?  With finite resources and infinite choices, that seems to be one of the biggest challenges in business.  But perhaps a bigger challenge is deciding where NOT to invest your resources. Saying no to initiatives is the harder thing to do, and is why too many businesses overpromise and under deliver. Let’s change that.

Prioritisation processes

Imagine yourself in a boardroom. You, your boss and your colleagues have just been through a prioritisation exercise. You’ve nominated all the possible initiatives for the year ahead and assessed them for effort required vs. value generated.

Perhaps you’ve plotted each initiative on something like this prioritisation quadrant (figure 1)?

Prioritisation matrix

The idea is to prioritise the high value, low effort initiatives (quadrant 1) and forget about those with high effort, low value (quadrant 4). High value, high effort tasks you can choose to chip away at (quadrant 2), while low effort, low value tasks (quadrant 3) can slot in when there is any downtime.

Great in theory right?

The problem is most businesses end up with something more like figure 2 (below)– too many priorities to deal with.

Reality of prioritisation

This is the “eyes too big for their belly” problem. Everything but the most inane projects becomes important, staff get exhausted before they’ve even began and you’ve set yourselves up for failure because everyone is spread too thin. All because we don’t want to say NO.

Why we end up with too many priorities

If you end up with too many priorities it’s usually a function of the following.


Two aspects of organisational politics exacerbate over-prioritisation. The first is leadership. If your boss proclaims everything a priority, it can be a ‘career limiting move’ to challenge them.

The second is status. People will champion projects that impact their standing in the organisation. If their business unit is not represented as a priority, for example, it makes them feel vulnerable.  It is also often the case that some areas of the business become perennial priorities (e.g. sales), which demotivates other lines of business.

Pet projects

The “toothbrush principle” holds that just like a toothbrush, while everyone likes ideas, it doesn’t mean they want to use anyone else’s. When it comes to prioritisation, people will naturally pay more attention to, and take greater ownership of, their own initiatives.  This not only makes it more difficult for them to de-prioritise something in which they are emotionally invested, it also means they may not really be paying attention to other projects – failing to challenge the inclusion of some initiatives because it’s outside their purview.

Planning fallacy

The planning fallacy is our tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a project, even if we compare it with similar projects. Our over optimism means we will fail to take into account likely delays or obstacles. This leads to overcommitting the business to too many projects based on unrealistic expectations.

Loss aversion

Saying no to a project can be psychologically painful because it can feel like you are losing its potential benefits rather than gaining capacity to focus on other initiatives. We fail to see the opportunity cost of what taking on another task means.

How to make de-prioritisation a priority

To change prioritisation requires we approach it as a behaviour change exercise, and that means anticipating barriers to doing things differently.

First, get clear on the current and desired behaviours.

  • Current behaviour: Nominating too many priorities
  • Desired behaviour: Nominating a realistic number of priorities (I’d say 5 is a good number for most businesses, but it depends on your size and resourcing)

Then, look at each of the three barriers to change.

Apathy: Get them invested in the practice of fewer priorities

With apathy, the central problem is it feels easier to include more priorities rather than less. We need to punctuate this ‘path of least resistance’ thinking by highlighting the downside of such apathetic behaviour. Table the organisation’s previous poor track record of completing a long list of priorities, for instance, or share this study on how company revenue growth declined relative to peers once the executive team’s priority list grew.

In the thick of a prioritisation process, you might also like to try the following exercise. Give people $100 in physical currency which they can put against any of the ideas. It will remind them that real money is at stake with these decisions, force them to place their bets and shift them from abstract to concrete (I’ve seen this done with stickers, but it lacks the psychological connection with money).

Paralysis: Clarify the priorities so similar items can be consolidated

There’s something comfortable about having a long list of priorities – it makes us feel we’ve covered all bases. However, when it comes time to managing them – including scoping, measuring, reporting, let alone doing – it can feel overwhelming. Don’t forget, every employee, every day will be grappling with where they should spend their time. The more options they have to contemplate, the more time they waste in decision rather than doing mode.

The answer lies in clarifying the ideas up front, and consolidating where you can to reduce the sheer number you have to juggle.

One idea is to set a hard-limit upfront (e.g. 5 priorities) to force some decisions. Another is to use a prioritisation matrix (see below) that encourages only the ideas in the very top right to be prioritised. The smaller you make the cut off line, the fewer ideas will be made a priority (this is an example of using your decision-making environment to nudge behaviour.)

Anxiety: Give them nothing to fear if their idea is de-prioritised, but something to fear if we end up with too many

Fear of not being represented on the list, of missing good ideas, of not contributing ideas, of getting people off side by not supporting their ideas or looking like you are not crazy-busy can create over-commitment.  There are two strategies to employ when addressing fear – give people nothing to fear by de-prioritising ideas, and something to fear if they end up with too many.

I’ve only scratched the surface on some solutions to changing the behaviour of your organisation. For it to be most meaningful requires delving into the players and culture involved, which is something you are well placed to do. Let me know if you would like some support in tackling the thorny but vital issue of prioritisation.

Two-speed consumers

You may have heard of two-speed economies, where some sectors are booming while others flat line? I believe there is such a thing as two-speed consumers as well, and by understanding the difference we can be more effective in how we go to market.

Two-speed consumers

The easiest way to describe two-speed consumers is to start by comparing them to a house.

In a house you have core structures like walls, a floor and a roof. Let’s call them the “foundations”.  These things form the basis of the home and don’t change without significant renovation.  At this base level, my house is the same as my neighbour’s because they are both made using the same universal design principles.

You also have soft furnishings within a house – things like curtains and cushions, as well as surface materials like paint, wallpaper, floorboards and carpet. Let’s call these types of things the “furnishings”. These you can change more regularly without needing to alter the home’s structure and is how I differentiate my house from my neighbour’s.

Behavioural foundations vs. furnishings

Behavioural foundations

In behavioural terms, there are deeply ingrained patterns of behaviour that are like the foundations of a house. You can’t build a house without them, and you can’t be human without them either.  I’m talking about universals of human behaviour like:

  • Social Norms – consumers are influenced by what other people do
  • Loss Aversion – consumers are more motivated to avoid loss than seek gain
  • Short-term Bias – consumers will be more interested in immediate gratification than long term payoffs

These foundations of how people behave have been identified through fields such as behavioural economics, and with 170 principles and counting, it means there’s a lot we can draw on to anticipate how our consumers will respond to a campaign or promotion we are running.

The foundations are the basis of my Behaviour Change Model, which distills behavioural economics down to three central universals. To get consumers to buy you need to overcome apathy (can’t be bothered), paralysis (can’t decide) and anxiety (worried about proceeding). 

Behavioural furnishings

Behavioural furnishings, like the furnishings in a house, are more changeable and prone to trends. One week people might be flock to your store, the next they stay away. The frustrating thing is you don’t know why.

To understand behavioural furnishings requires you be on top of the latest trends in technology, social media, politics and consumption. It’s ‘being on the pulse’ and seeing where the winds of change are blowing.

You need to be a two-speed marketer

My observation is that most marketers are trying to keep abreast of the “furnishings” part of the behavioural landscape, jumping from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat without really exploring why.  As a result they’re getting exhausted, irritated and angry.

The answer lies in going back to the foundations of behaviour to understand what’s driving the latest trend. People are people and the fundamentals of human behaviour haven’t substantially changed over time. The veneer of behaviour may change (people use social media to connect for example), but the principles don’t (people will be influenced by what others do, for instance).  Step back from plumping the cushions of consumer behaviour, and consider whether you know how the house is constructed first.

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.

What tennis tells us about why customers don’t buy

If you’ve been watching the Australian Open Tennis you will have been enjoying a serving of behavioural economics in action. Here’s what a couple of fuzzy balls can teach us about decision-making and getting customers to buy.

The do-over

Tennis is an interesting sport – whacky scoring (love-15-30-40-deuce), confusing court positions where you face your opponent diagonally, and, perhaps strangest of all, a “do-over” whereby the server gets another go if their first serve is out.  Is there any other sport that let’s you try again?

It’s these two serves and the difference between them that I want to focus on.  A player like world number two Novak Djokovic, for example, gets around 65% of first serves in at an average of 188 km/h and wins 73% of points. His second serve, by contrast, is in 90% of the time but slower at 154 km/h and he wins only 55% of points.

As these and stats across the tennis rankings attest, when players have nothing to lose on their first serve they can risk more, hitting harder and closer to the service line. On their second, the risk is greater because a double fault will see them lose a point. The behavioural result? Second serves are usually slower and aimed more conservatively within the service box. 

This graphic of now retired Andy Roddick’s serve at Wimbledon a few years ago tells the story.

Loss aversion and perceived risk

The behavioural principle underlying this human reaction to risk is loss aversion: avoiding loss is more important than seeking gain.

If loss aversion was not at work, tennis players would hit their second serve as hard as their first, caring more about winning the point than losing.

This reminds us about the importance of perceived risk when it comes to customer behaviour.  When it comes to doing business with you, what does your customer stand to lose?

Four things your customers stand to lose and how to address each

You can address loss aversion by breaking your customer’s perceived risk down into four main categories.

1. Financial

Perhaps the risk that looms largest because it is so tangible, your customer will likely be paying you for your product or service which means they are risking not generating a return on this investment. They don’t want to blow their dough.

To address: To reduce your customer’s sense of financial risk consider offering them money back guarantees, staggered payments by instalment and/or waiving shipping or administrative fees.

2. Time

Doing business with you takes time; time your customer could be using on other things and something they cannot get back if things go badly.

To address: To reduce your customer’s fear of wasting time, simplify your sign-up processes, tell them all the things you will do on their behalf to save them time and keep communications and meetings brief and to the point.

3. Effort

Anything new requires mental and physical effort. Your customer will have to think about you, which chews up their mental reserves, and may have to expend physical effort like meeting you, travelling to your store, clicking buttons or filling out forms. Are their exertions going to be worthwhile?

To address: To reduce effort make sure you eliminate friction (think Amazon 1-click), reduce data entry required by them, have a website and store that is easy to access and navigate, keep your communications jargon and acronym-free so they are easy to understand, and be clear in what steps your customer needs to follow.

4. Credibility

The risk your customer will talk least about is that to their credibility. What will they look like if this all goes wrong? How will they hold their head up to their boss, colleagues, friends and family?

To address: To reduce risk to their credibility you need to develop confidence and trust in you. That means including your own credibility markers like media coverage, testimonials and case studies, maintaining appropriate and relevant accreditations and affiliations and ensuring you do what you say you’ll do. It will also help to arm them with reasons for doing business with you so they can explain their decision to their stakeholders and get collective buy-in.

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.

Hiding between success and failure

The football team I have supported since childhood has always felt like a safe choice, but not in a way that you might expect. They were safe not because they won, but because they rarely did.

The Western Bulldogs are a working class club with only one premiership in their history, way back in 1954. A team for the battlers, being a “Doggies” supporter has come with equal doses affection and sympathy. “Everyone’s second team” has been safe because they didn’t upset the ranks. Where powerhouse clubs like Collingwood, Hawthorn and Essendon (in their day) have been hated for their success, it is a burden the Dogs have not had to carry.

Until now. The Bulldogs are on their way to the Grand Final, the biggest stage in the AFL year.

Suddenly it doesn’t feel safe to be a Dogs supporter anymore.

Suddenly there is something at stake.

Suddenly I realise that there is comfort in not being successful, and risk if you endeavour to be.

Your playing small does not serve the world

Being a Dogs supporter has become part of my personal narrative. Enjoying some success without too much. Risking a little without really going for it. Feeling safe by not asking for more.

Does this resonate with you?

You may work in a corporate environment, a government organisation or small business, be single or coupled. My question to you is whether you fear success, however you choose to define it?

I do.

I believe there are two components to this.

1. Success means risking failure

Success has a flip side, and that of course is failure. It follows, then, that to avoid failure we have to deny ourselves the chance of success, sticking with the status quo rather than reaching towards our goal.

Loss aversion is the behavioural principle at the heart of this inertia – a fear of losing that cripples motivation to take action. We might stay in jobs or relationships that don’t serve us because there is comfort in the devil we know.

To overcome loss aversion we can give ourselves nothing to fear about the change and/or something greater to fear. As writer Anaïs Nin so elegantly put it “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

But from personal experience, overcoming fear is not all there is to it. The flipside of failure is not necessarily success – it’s not failing, and that’s different.

Which brings me to the second part of this challenge of risking success – feeling like you deserve it.

2. Success means rewriting your story

The Dogs are known to be a team that tries hard but always falls short – it’s their narrative. Unfortunately stories like these tend to stick because they give us a sense of comfort in believing we know how things will turn out.

To chase success means you have to rewrite your story and that, frankly, is hard to do. You and everyone around you have been complicit in crafting your narrative. People think they know who you are and you end up locked into the story of your own making.

“I can’t because people don’t expect that of me”.
“I won’t because they’ll think I’m full of myself”.
“I shouldn’t because it’s not the responsible thing to do”.

Risking success means rewriting your story – giving up the narrative that is comfortable in its familiarity – and feeling good about putting a new version out in the world.

Not everyone may like it.
Not everyone may get it.
But in the words of Marianne Williamson “your playing small does not serve the world”.

Go Doggies.
P.S. Marianne Williamson’s quote in full

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The point of pain to influence behaviour

How do you get people to consider a product they haven’t recognised a need for? In other words, how do you get your customer to be bothered to think about you?

One option is to create a pain point.

Take this example of an advertisement for eye drops, for instance.

The ad asks us to “take the 10 second dry eye test” before providing;

  • a faux diagnosis (“you may have…”) and
  • solution (their range of eye drops).

Now as you’ve probably realised, staring at any image for 10 seconds will more than likely cause them to sting, burn or water. That is, after all, what we try to avoid by blinking every every 2-10 seconds.

But setting aside the ethics of their approach, I do have to commend them on how behaviourally effective the ad is.

You see the ad creates a pain point, and once that is established, we’re motivated to find a solution.

If we view it through the lens of my Behaviour Change Model, to bump people out of their existing status quo (not buying eye drops) this business needed to overcome System 1 “Apathy”.

In simple terms, they needed to get us to be bothered.

To do this they have created a pain point about dry eyes and provided a path to the new status quo (buying eye drops). The Elephant has a reason to be bothered and a straightforward solution to resolve the issue.

And it doesn’t just work for eye drops.

Upgrading from free to paid software

My computer was running more slowly than I wanted. In my research I came across Clean My Mac 3, a free download that diagnoses the reasons for poor speed.

Free indeed. So why do I now happily pay?

This business has successfully moved me no software to paid software by influencing me to take action across two steps.

Step 1. Move me from no software to free trial
Step 2. Move me from free trial to paid.

How did they do it? In short they first ran a diagnostic, then it showed me very clearly where the problems lay, then it cleaned 500MB of redundant data for free.

Finally, I got a screen that showed me what other data I needed to clean beyond my free allocation.

In terms of the Behaviour Change Model, Clean My Mac3 tackled two key behavioural barriers, Anxiety and Apathy.

To overcome Anxiety about the purchase they gave me;
1. nothing to lose by trying their solution (500MB free) and
2. something to lose if I didn’t purchase (the remaining redundant data)

And to address Apathy they engaged my System 1 ‘path of least resistance’ brain by making the process extremely easy; easy to understand and easy take action, which meant reward was greater than effort.

Lessons for your business

  • To make people care about taking action, consider identifying a pain point
  • Pain points are most effective if they are delivered without judgment (don’t personalise the issue or your customer will get too defensive)
  • Ensure the pain point is significant from the customer’s perspective, not only yours
  • Don’t confuse a pain point with something you are doing that frustrates them!
  • The solution must seem easy – don’t overwhelm them with options or caveats

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.