We had a very interesting conversation with Roger Dooley, world-renowned expert and coach in the fascinating field of neuromarketing. We discussed the science (and power) behind behavioral research and how to use it to improve your marketing, increase your sales, and enhance your overall customer experience.
Roger is the author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing, and writes the popular blog Neuromarketing as well as Brainy Marketing at Forbes.com. He is the founder of Dooley Direct, a marketing consultancy, and co-founded College Confidential, the leading college-bound website. He’s been a serial entrepreneur since he left a senior strategy position at a Fortune 1000 company to enter a then-nascent home computer market. Roger is currently focused on spreading his ideas through writing and speaking, with limited engagements for training, coaching, and facilitation.
Click here to listen to our entire conversation with Roger Dooley.
What Is Neuromarketing?
Roger provides a broad definition of neuromarketing as the use of our understanding of how the brain works to improve one’s marketing. This can include insights from neuroscience and behavior research — any field of study that explores how people are making decisions, and enables you to target your marketing more effectively.
There is also a subset of neuromarketing: active neuromarketing — exposing people to your advertising, brand, or product while monitoring their brain activity. This gives you insight into what they are truly feeling. Since most businesses can’t afford expensive brain monitoring, Roger focuses his work on applying the knowledge of how people make decisions to do better marketing.
The TMI Effect — Cashing in on Emotional Decision Making
Roger wrote about the “TMI Effect” on his blog, where he asserts that the more information you provide about a product or service, the less likely a person will buy it. Roger explains that in some ecommerce settings, when you provide people with many detailed specifications of a product or service, sales are actually reduced.
Impulsivity and emotional decision making are often employed when making purchases online. Providing specific details on a product (such as the dimensions, weight, etc.) will kick people’s brains out of the emotional mode and into the cognitive mode. The decision making slows down and then decreases the chance of the person going through with the purchase. Of course, some products, like electronics and furniture, must be presented with detailed information. Roger says to put that information behind a tab that has to be clicked open so it’s not seen unless specifically wanted.
Roger describes two systems humans use when making decisions. System One is fast, emotional, and non-conscious. System Two thinks, is aware, weighs alternatives, and uses mental spreadsheets. It’s important to appeal to the consumers’ emotions and non-conscious aspects. This is the fundamental reason why neuromarketing works.
Website Best Practices — If It Looks Like a Button, It Should Act Like a Button
Roger has worked with many websites with his customers and knows what makes an effective one. Your website needs to be understood very quickly — what the site is about and what the visitors are supposed to do there. Many sites have too much going on, confusing their visitors.
Make sure things work in a logical way on your website. Don’t have an image that looks like a button and not make it clickable. If it looks like a button, it should act like button. Make sure you test your site. Have your friends look at it. Even bring a computer to a bar and ask people who have had a few drinks to go to your site. This may seem silly at first but the average user can be considered impaired — by distraction.
Chances are your website is one of 15 windows open on any given customer’s computer. A website visitor may get pinged on their phone several times while viewing your site. Keep your site clear and logical. The longer a customer stays on your site, the more likely they are to make a purchase.
Viral Magic Formula?
Is there a unique formula that can be used to ensure that an advertisement or video will go viral? Yes and no. Mostly no. There are definitely common patterns that can be identified in popular things. Hit songs, for example, are more likely to have simple repetitive rhythm or phrases. That doesn’t mean that putting those types of patterns into a song will make it a hit. But more hits have that characteristic.
There is specific brain imaging work that can be done with videos and game content to predict if they have viral potential. They can see which content is most engaging and activates the consumers’ emotions. This isn’t guaranteed, but at least testing tells us it’s engaging and has the potential to be viral.
Framing is the context in which you describe something. The master of framing is Frank I. Luntz, author of Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear. Roger says that this book should be on every marketer’s shelf. The book talks about how to frame things in order to present them differently and more attractively. A textbook example of positive framing is when Luntz came up with the phrase, “death tax,” to replace “estate tax.” “Estate” brought to mind acres of land and millions of dollars worth of fine china and jewels to be left to an heir of that estate — in other words, not something most consumers can relate to. But “death” made things relatable. We all die — so all of a sudden that tax got people’s attention.
Get Yourself into the Marketplace
There was a question from a listener about the timing of a product launch. When is the right time to stop perfecting everything and bite the bullet and launch? Roger insists that getting your product out into market and proving your concept is more important than polishing every aspect of your product and not getting it out.
Of course, you do need a solid version of your product. First impressions are important and you don’t want your first public appearance to look amateurish and not ready. It will never be perfect, but make sure you feel proud of where it is. Get your product out there and then get feedback from your customers.
The Credibility of Pricing
There was another question about new product launching from a listener. Knowing that it makes sense to test a product before a big launch to get customer feedback, is it a good idea to offer the test customers a lower price? What if it’s not financially possible to ‘grandfather’ them in after the initial launch / test phase?
Roger, Scott and Brian all agree that pricing is always important. Depending on the marketing, the price can tell you a lot about the product. The price may be a barrier or, if a luxury item, a high price may make the product more attractive. There’s never a sale on Lamborghinis for a reason.
Roger explains how to approach pricing from a psychological standpoint. The precision of price is important — it can make a price more credible. Roger described a study to illustrate this: a product was shown to a focus group and they were asked, “What is this worth?” One group was shown the product with a price tag of $500. Another group was shown the same exact product with very specific prices all around $500 ($498.89, $501.26, $499.01). The group with the $500 labeled product estimated it down to $400. The group with the more specific prices priced it to an average of $485. Precise pricing gave it credibility.
For most products, there’s a utility factor for purchasing a product. There has to be a connection to the price. Roger sees a lot of “premium” pricing successfully used, particularly in software products — that is when there’s a standard version of a product offered for free or at a low price and then a premium level available at a higher cost with more functionality and features. This gives the customer a chance to use the product before upgrading to premium. It allows the customer to become a fan, and if they like it enough, they’ll upgrade their account. Roger advises that if you’re in testing mode, getting people in at a lower cost, and then getting their data and feedback, is worth the expense. Be careful when you roll out the actual product and price — you don’t want new or existing customers to perceive a price increase.
Click here to listen to our entire conversation with Roger Dooley.
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