The psychology behind great products, experiences and lasting growth.
I was a Economics major. If it taught me one lesson, it was this: that deep down, people do things that give them utility — that make them feel good. It’s not a massive surprise. But it can be incredibly powerful way to grow your business if you bake it into everything you do.
Mo money. Mo Motivation.
Here’s a cold hard fact: for most of us that utility most often comes in the form of money. It’s often seen as a cynical Economist take on human behaviour. But there’s power in that thinking: a rational consumer balances ‘cost’ and ‘gain’ in every decision they make. It shows you how much they value something by what they’re willing to sacrifice for it, whether it’s time, kudos, happiness or the money behind those things.
Freakonomics sensationalised this thinking, digging to find new patterns behind trends. Levitt and Dubner showed us that unexpected things are often connected, if you can uncover hidden motivations. It’s why drug dealers still live with their mums (but still take the risk), why Sumo Wrestlers cheat and why your estate agent’s house will sell for more than yours.
In pure economic terms, persuading people to change what they do is as simple as tipping the balance between cost and gain.
You can do it with money. Increase someone’s pay. They’ll feel a bit happier at work. Decrease the cost of doing business with you, they’ll likely buy more or at least like you more as a supplier.
Are you rational?
But money isn’t the only or often the best motivator. Your over-paid team might still be lazy. Your under-paying customers might still be unsatisfied with your product.
Traditional economic assumes that people are rational and find patterns. That they make rational trade offs between money, happiness, time, kudos. Progressive, psychology and behavioural based economics challenges that view and embraces irrationality.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman unveils a powerful method of persuasion by not only appealing to people’s reason, but their intuition too. It’s cutting-edge and Nobel-Prize-Winning research. But the idea is pretty simple. There are two routes to influencing and persuasion, based on the two ways people think:
1. Rational thinking. This is how the classic ‘economics’ subject thinks. They’re slow, considered and deliberate in their actions, taking time top balance the ‘costs’ and ‘gains’ of a decision.
2. Intuitive thinking. Fast and emotional thinking. It’s automatic, based on heuristics and cognitive biases (read guesstimates based on experience), impressions and feelings. In essence, it’s not all too rational.
These two ways of thinking have an osmotic balance that means as you learn and develop rational thinking, your intuition improves too.
Using psychology to create better products and experiences.
In practice, using these ways of thinking together can help you create influence and persuade more effectively by creating better products and powerful messages. Here’s how.
Use intuitive thinking to make sure your product is an instant hit. Create traction by making it instantly appealing. By creating an emotional response. Even if it’s complex, find a way to make sure it can be used right away. Inspire love, lust or social currency. Find ways to link sharing with kudos, and you’ll attract intuitive thinkers. Measure your success through downloads and purchases.
Use rational thinking to plan for long-term happiness of your users. Create traction by explaining the problems you’re solving or the upside you’re bringing your users. Make it ‘sticky’ by reminding them of the value you’re creating. Make it a part of their day-to-day experience. Measure your success not through acquisitions but churn — the people who continue to use your product.
A few last words.
Persuasion is an art. But I hope this little bit of theory has shown you it’s more than a transactional thing. It’s more than money.
Consider both sides of the human brain, and you’ll create products and services that people really want. That entice them in through intuitive thinking (shiny, shiny), but give them long-term value that keeps them coming back. Remember, a product that inspires love might attract intuitive thinkers, but if it’s rubbish, the osmosis effect will eventually slow your sales, however effective your marketing might be.
Our advice: start with your customer. Their needs. Their wants. The problem you’re solving for them. Then consider how your product can give them even more value — both through short-term kudos and long-term value.
Drop me a line with your questions. Let’s grab coffee and a natter or book a free one-on-one advisory session. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jared is a partner at Think Plan Thrive, a London based Strategy company. We help organisations to build from strong foundations, seize opportunities and get results, fast.
See more at thinkplanthrive.com