The Biggest Mistakes Marketers Make According to Behavioral Experts

In their day-to-day practice, marketers often make mistakes that can easily be avoided. We asked seven behavioral economics experts what the biggest ones are in their opinion, and how to overcome them.

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • How an e-shop increased its revenue by $300 million in a year;
  • What the worst assumption marketers can make is;
  • Why understanding the problem properly should always come before creating solutions;
  • How understanding customers’ true motivations helped a fashion brand to increase conversions by 51%; and
  • How to avoid rolling out solutions that seem like they make sense but can in fact hurt you.
Welcome to InsideBE

InsideBE is the largest behavioral economics and consumer psychology hub for marketers, sales people, and business professionals alike.

About us

InsideBE was founded with a single idea in mind - that Behavioral Economics can play a huge role in business. It can improve customer experience, increase sales, improve communication with customers, and above all, it can raise marketing to another level. At least, that would be the case if marketers were aware of the potential of BE. But often they are not.

So we asked behavioral experts to speak out about what they see as the biggest mistakes marketers make so that you can avoid them. Here they are.

1. Focusing on customers motivations and neglecting the barriers

“When you want your customers to do something, the first thing that comes to mind is motivating them,” says Matej Sucha, CEO of MINDWORX Behavioral Consulting. However, it’s not that simple, and if you put all your effort into increasing customers’ motivation, you may end up throwing money out of the window. 

“Imagine you have a rocket and you want it to fly. If you simply add fuel it won’t help if the rocket is in the shape of a cube. You need to remove friction and make it aerodynamic,” adds Matej. 

Find out how to identify different barriers on your customer's journey
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How To Understand What’s Stopping Customers From Doing What You Want Them To Do

It’s the same thing with customers. It’s not enough to motivate them (add fuel), you need to remove all the reasons that are holding them back (friction). So instead of focusing on reasons why the customers should do something, marketers should concentrate on why they aren't doing it already. 

Choice Overload

Choice overload is a result of too many choices being available. It can result in decision fatigue, sticking to the default option, or even avoiding making a decision altogether.

Very often the barriers are psychological, such as uncertainties, high perceived effort, or too much choice. The first thing marketers must do is to identify these barriers and remove them. That’s exactly what one insurance company did, and it increased conversions by 300%.

2. Assuming that customers are rational utility maximizers

This one is the biggest according to Sam Tatam, Head of Behavioural Science at Ogilvy Growth & Innovation. The first thing every behavioral economics course teaches you is that people are irrational and rely extensively on heuristics when making decisions, instead of logically considering the cost and benefits of every option.

Sam says, “There’s an assumption that we can always educate people and that if we can frame our product to make it feel the best on 'logical metrics', we will win every time."

Believing that people are creatures of logic may lead marketers to try logical arguments to convince customers. As Sam puts it, “There’s an assumption that we can always educate people and that if we can frame our product to make it feel the best on 'logical metrics', we will win every time.”

Instead, marketers need to consider human psychology and all the cognitive biases that lead people astray when making purchase decisions. “By interrogating a problem through the lens of behavioral science, we can ensure we don't fall into these same traps and over-invest in solving the wrong problem”, concludes Sam.

This mistake is nicely illustrated by Ogilvy’s own direct mail campaign case study. During this charitable campaign, Ogilvy tried to persuade people to donate more by a very logical argument - for every pound people gave to the charity, the government would contribute an extra 25 pence minimum.

And did it work? As Rory Sutherland puts it, “Did it bollocks?” It actually reduced the donation level by 50%.

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Case Study: How a Single Question Rooted in Consumer Psychology Increased Adobe Retention by 8.8%

On the other hand, behavioral solutions that didn’t make any logical sense at first glance, like stating that the envelope people could put the donation in was hand-delivered, using higher quality paper, and putting the flap of the envelope along the narrow edge, increased donations by 10% each.

3. Creating too general solutions instead of understanding customers and the specific situation

This is a big one, as three of the Behavioral economics experts agreed on it. Before creating a solution, one needs to understand the context in which the decisions happen. 

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