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Content Writing Hacks Stolen from a Psychology Class

New technologies that monitor customer behavior online allow us to gradually learn more about them and their preferences. But that’s not all, since we can also pick up on many habits that make their future behavior easier to predict. This is a consequence of the rules that govern our thinking, which have much to offer in terms of gaining insights into customer needs and doing a better job of matching our marketing messages to a specific audience. Let’s find out how to leverage these rules in content writing.

 

1. The Halo Effect

The order that information comes in is very important. Each product has its own distinctive characteristics and elements that determine how competitive it is, but also its weaker features. It’s important to always start presenting them from their good sides with their stronger attributes. Let’s use the example of two ways to look at the same apartment to show why:

Offer 1

The apartment is located 10km from the center (1km from the nearest public transport, 6km from the beach). It has views of neighboring buildings, parking space, two spacious rooms, a pool, large balcony and a fully furnished kitchen.

Offer 2

The apartment has two spacious rooms, a pool, a large balcony and fully furnished kitchen and parking space. It is located 10km from the center (1km from the nearest public transport, 6km from the beach) and has views of neighboring buildings.

So which one looks better? We’re talking about the same place but one description is clearly better than the other. This is the halo effect, the power that first impressions have on us. When you first learn about the positive aspects of something, you tend to downplay the negative parts that you learn later. When you start out with the negative, you tend to stay there.

The image presents the content writing process - communication formats emerging from an open head.

 

2. The 2-in-1 Rule

The way we formulate promotions and offers influences how it is perceived by the user. Let’s take these two offers to illustrate the point:

Offer 1

Buy two pairs from Collection X and get a 50% discount!

Offer 2

But one pair from Collection X and get one for free!

They both sound good but one is probably more tempting than the other even though work out to the same thing. Our brains, however, process them differently. The first encourages us to buy two products and to make an additional purchasing decision even if we don’t feel the need for that second product. The other offer is all about getting something for free, which always gets attention. Who doesn’t want free stuff?

This basically amounts to cheating our brains. If the products were different prices – say, the first was $100 and the second $80 – the first offer (with 50% discount) would cost us $90 and the second $100.

 

3. Percent and nominal value

There is a difference between nominal value and percentage discounts. Here’s why it matters:

Offer 1

If you buy product A and product B, you save $50

Offer 2

If you buy product A and product B you get a 15% discount

Which one would you take? As Jonah Berger puts it (ited in Enterpreneuer.com), most of us would take the 15% discount. Calculating the percentage demands action from our brains but 15% sounds like a good offer. Thinking about $50, we consider what we could buy with that money.

However, using this strategy is not the only option to sway most people one way or the other–both are effective in different situations. It makes sense to use percentage discounts with the amount involved is small and nominal value when they are larger. Framing the offer in the right way does much to move the customer in the right direction.

 

4. Profit & loss

Nobel-winning economist Daniel Kahneman researches consumer behavior and psychology. He has shown that people are much more motivated by avoiding a loss than we are achieving a gain. Let’s start with two more offers:

Offer 1

If you pay up front for a year, you get an additional $50

Offer 2

If you pay up front for a year, you save $50

We’re talking about the same amount in both cases – the only difference is how we perceive them. According to a famous experiment by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, executives are more likely to make decisions based on their attempts to mitigate risks than desires to gain a profit. Turning your benefit-driven copy into fear-driven is a great content writing exercise.

 

5. Social proof

Anyone who thinks they’re not influenced by the opinion of others is fooling themselves. The views of others always give us information about the quality of a product and how it works. This is why online stores promote bestseller lists and ask for customer reviews – to convince others to get more interested. Seeing that something sells well and satisfies those who buy it makes us think about taking a look at what so many others have found that we haven’t.

A report from BrightLocal indicates that 85% of customers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

 

6. Choosing from multiple options

For many products, there are often several different options available that can vary in number and price. This is sometimes done to emphasize the optimum value of the middle packages of features since it serves as a reference point.

When comparing between, say, three options, most of us may come to the conclusion that the lowest has the least advantages and options, and the highest may contain a lot of functions that we do not really need. Therefore, the medium seems even more optimal and even more attractive for us to buy.

 

7. Rule of Scarcity

Another important mechanism is the rule of scarcity – the more exclusive and brief an offer is, the more it stimulates interest and moves us to make a decision. Common marketing phrases that fall into this category include:

  • 20% off until…
  • Last few items available!
  • Limited edition
  • New product premiere! Presale 20% off!
  • These are all tools to encourage people who were already interested in your product to make a purchase—it’s about moving customers further along. For such tactics to be effective, the user must express an initial interest in the product.

     

    8. Conditional free delivery

    With today’s customers demanding instant gratification after they purchase, free delivery on has become a commonly used incentive. Of course, to make it worthwhile, the minimum value of the cart must be slightly higher than your average. If you offer this option for purchases of at least $100, a customer who has $85 in his cart is likely to buy something else in order to qualify.

    Free shipping can be very effective for customers who say that shipping costs are the primary reason they buy less or don’t buy online at all. This mechanism not only encourages customers to buy more, but also increases the average value of carts. Research from Future of Retail 2017 study says that 80% of respondents would choose free delivery as a top factor that would improve their online shopping experience.

     

    Psychology Is Your Tool to Master Content Writing

    Comprehensive and successful marketing strategies need more than tools to make the message effective. Using the knowledge of consumer psychology is the starting point for marketing, both online and offline. Focusing on the technological aspect of marketing (automation, SEO, targeted advertising, etc.) pushes content into the background, while it is the content that drives sales and new technologies only streamline communication and product promotions.
     

    Content Writing Hacks Stolen from a Psychology Class
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