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What Does Psychology Have to Do with Marketing?

When it comes to marketing, any little edge you can gain has maximum impact. Today’s consumer is inundated with ads. The average person sees ads on billboards, hears them on the radio, sees them on social media and watches them on television. It’s easy to tune out yet another marketing message. However, if you can reach the consumer on a deeper, emotional level, then you stand a better chance of that consumer sitting up and taking notice.

Psychology is a science with a lot of different studies to back up its findings. Fortunately for you, you can utilize this information to improve the message you give to consumers and how you interact with them.

1. Reciprocity

The rule of reciprocity states that if a person gives you something, you will feel obliged to return the favor and give them something in return. For this principle to work, the item needs to be small and not overly valuable. The other person needs to feel that they are capable of reciprocating in a similar manner.

In one experiment, a research assistant posing as a fellow student gifted the student with something small, such as a can of soda. At the end of the class, when the assistant asked the student to buy a raffle ticket, the ones who'd received a gift were more likely to purchase the ticket.

The takeaway for marketers is that if you offer site visitors something, they are more likely to give you, say, an email address — or even an order. Your free item could be as simple as an e-book.

2. Prime Your Customers

People tend to associate certain words with certain objects. For example, the color green is typically associated with money or grass. In one study, researchers made the background of a website green with pennies. Users who looked at the landing page with the green and pennies were much more likely to look at price information than those who didn't see that background.

You can actually prime your customers and encourage them to look at a specific part of your page, such as the prices of your products. Think about what words are associated with what colors, and this will help you prime your customers and guide them in the direction you most want them to go.

3. Persuasion

In order to persuade someone to your way of thinking, you must first start by building a rapport. Scientific studies have shown that in primates, a sense of connection is built through non-verbal movements. These non-verbal movements are called "mirroring" and are the biggest part of building that rapport, where you mirror what the other person is doing.

This obviously is much more challenging in an online marketing environment, but mirroring can still be achieved through the use of videos and thinking through what your target audience wants and needs.

4. Positioning

Some schools of thought in psychology believe there is only so much room in the human brain for brands. So, if you love McDonald’s, then you might not think about Wendy’s as often, and vice versa. Because there is a limited capacity to slot a brand into the person's brain, you need to position yourself so you are the one occupying the consumer's mind.

Essentially, you have to tap into something that is important to the consumer. One example of this type of positioning can be seen from Chipotle. Imagine going up against a long-established chain like Taco Bell. You better have something different and special if you want to succeed. Chipotle’s slogan became “We’re not afraid to say we’re real chickens” along with showing an image of diced and cooked chicken. Instead of trying to compete on price, they showed consumers why their food was higher quality, thus positioning themselves as a healthier option than Taco Bell.

5. Framing

Framing is simply how you present something to the public. In an experiment conducted by Daniel Kahneman, it was discovered that our brains make quick decisions based on some simple rules. The more certain something seems, the more likely the person is to go with that choice. So, if you present a couple of different choices to the consumer, such as "Lose 10 pounds in two weeks" or "You could possibly lose up to 10 pounds in two weeks," the consumer is going to go with the sure thing.

You can easily clean up your marketing copy by making sure things are worded in a positive way that will resonate with your followers. Of course, you always want to be honest. It won’t serve your brand well to not present things as they truly are. However, if you have the choice between a yes and a maybe, highlight the yes.

6. The Foot-in-the-Door Method of Sales

If you’ve ever been in sales, then you’ve likely heard that you just have to “get your foot in the door” to make a sale. There is some psychology behind this, which has been studied pretty extensively. In a study conducted as far back as 1966, it was found that if a salesperson first called and did a survey and then called back a few days later, those who responded to the survey were twice as likely to allow the person to come into their home for a follow-up.

What does this mean for you and your company? If you can get that person to come to your website, open your email or connect on social media, then you stand a better chance of converting them into a customer. The key is to make that initial connection, which we’ve discussed in the other points in this article. Then, you are much more likely to convert that site visitor into a customer.

Understanding Your Target Audience

Making small changes that allow you to better communicate with your target audience can help your business reach new heights of success. Applying principles of psychology to the way you interact both online and off gives you a slight edge over the competition and does help you get that initial foot in the door that will help you make more sales.

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Lexie Lu

Lexie Lu

Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.