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A Marketer Must-Read: Using Behavioral Science in Marketing by Nancy Harhut

By: Ed Carr

The success of a marketing campaign hinges on buyer behavior. In a world saturated with brands, messages, and products, your efforts risk fading into obscurity unless you determine what truly captivates your potential customers. Behavioral science provides the essential tools for B2B marketers to go beyond mere visibility, aiming for a lasting impact by tailoring strategies to align with the intricate workings of the human mind.

For marketers ready to take their efforts to the next level, Nancy Harhut’s book, Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, stands out as a valuable resource, presenting complex concepts in an engaging and accessible manner. It equips marketers with practical strategies, bridging the gap between theory and application. It essentially serves as a comprehensive guide for marketers to leverage behavioral science, fostering genuine connections, building trust, and creating campaigns that resonate and drive tangible results in today’s competitive landscape.

Let’s break down why behavioral science is essential to good marketing and how the strategies in this book can be utilized.

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What is Behavioral Science?

Behavioral science is a multidisciplinary field that investigates human and animal behavior through systematic observation and experimentation. Behavioral science combines disciplines like psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, and neuroscience to understand, predict, and modify behavior at individual and collective levels. Psychology delves into the intricacies of the mind; sociology explores societal structures and interactions; anthropology studies human cultures, while economics examines decision-making processes. Neuroscience contributes by investigating the nervous system’s role, particularly the brain, in shaping behavior.

Marketing Benefits of Behavioral Science

Marketers can harness the power of behavioral science to gain insight into human decision-making, allowing them to tailor their strategies to align seamlessly with how individuals make purchase choices. This deeper understanding allows for the creation of more effective communication, enabling marketers to craft messages that resonate with their target audience. It also provides a framework for optimizing user experiences across various platforms, ensuring that websites, apps, and other channels are designed to encourage desired behaviors based on behavioral science principles.

Behavioral science can also be crucial in building trust and personalizing marketing efforts. Marketers can establish and strengthen positive client relationships by implementing transparent communication, consistent messaging, and personalized strategies based on individual preferences. This enhances the overall customer experience and increases the likelihood of conversion.

3 Steps to Building and Measuring Brand Trust

The Marketer’s Behavioral Science Handbook

Now that you know the value of behavioral science, imagine having a step-by-step guide to tap into hardwired buyer behavior and automatic responses to boost engagement, response rates, and return on investment in marketing. That’s exactly what Nancy Harhut’s book Using Behavioral Science in Marketing is.

Using Behavioral Science in Marketing is a comprehensive guide that equips marketers with the tools to leverage behavioral science principles across various marketing channels. Harhut takes readers through practical applications in marketing communications, direct mail, email campaigns, digital ad campaigns, social media marketing, and sales funnel conversion strategies. The book unveils the secrets behind increasing prospect involvement and engagement, conveying exclusivity and desirability, and prompting customer action and loyalty. It introduces scientifically proven principles like the human emotional response, loss aversion, and the Von Restorff effect, providing marketers with a roadmap to enhance their strategies.

Key Highlights for B2B Marketers

Harhut’s book on behavioral science in marketing provides insightful principles and practical applications that B2B marketers can immediately integrate into their campaigns, enhancing the effectiveness of various marketing initiatives. Armed with these actionable insights, B2B marketers can employ behavioral science strategies to optimize their campaigns and resonate more effectively with their target audience.

Including case studies featuring industry giants like AT&T and Apple enriches the reader’s understanding of how Harhut, the co-founder of HBT Marketing and the winner of numerous marketing awards, used behavioral science successfully in real-world scenarios. Through these examples, marketers can glean valuable lessons and inspiration to apply similar strategies to their campaigns. Harhut goes a step further by sharing personal anecdotes from her personal life as well, providing a relatable and practical dimension to the application of behavioral science.

Practical Lessons in Using Behavioral Science in Marketing

In a book packed with incredible insights backed by hands-on experience, a few principles truly stood out. Whether it was because they were surprising or put a name to concepts Sagefrog uses daily, let’s explore some of the standout strategies Harhut suggests.

Combine the Emotional & Rational in Your B2B Marketing

We tend to think that the decision process is paced, cautious, and planned and that people often weigh their options before deciding. That isn’t true for the majority of decisions. According to Harhut’s research, people make up their minds based on their emotions and then justify their decisions rationally. Humans process emotions faster than rational thought, and emotions focus our attention. This was an evolutionary advantage, Harhut reminds us, when our ancestors lived much more dangerous lives.

According to Harhut, Emotion drives action, so your marketing must create an emotional connection. This can be as simple as making someone excited to use your product by painting a picture of the experience. But since they will use rational thought again to justify their emotional decision, you need to find a balance of both. Paint the picture, but also ensure you’re providing the pertinent reasons your product or service stands out. Harhut points out that shoppers often compare their options, so even though the emotional, gut decision may come first, they may still go elsewhere if your competitor provided valuable information about the product that you didn’t.

The Connection Between B2B Content Marketing and Behavioral Psychology

Why Are You Always So Positive?

The ultimate goal of marketing is to ensure prospective buyers know the benefits of a product or service. This is a vital part of the entire industry. But Harhut reminds us that sometimes we can influence with negatives. Instead of pointing out the positives they gain from buying a product or service, you point out the negatives they avoid. Loss aversion is a powerful motivator and can be used along with providing benefits. Harhut points out that researchers found that avoiding loss was often a more significant motivator than gaining. According to the book, we’re “biologically programmed to accumulate or add to what [we] have, not subtract from it.”

One of the early lessons often learned as a marketer and copywriter is to always write positively (for example, writing ‘always write positively’ just now rather than ‘never write negatively’). But by staying positive all the time, you’re missing the chance to point out the downsides to not purchasing, which can be a stronger motivator, according to Harhut’s research.

The Von Restorff Effect

When it comes to marketing, the whole name of the game is ensuring you stand out from the crowd. Why? Standing out from the crowd makes your product, service, and brand more memorable. According to Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, the human tendency to remember or notice something that stands out is called the Von Restorff Effect. Harhut reminds us that this is another one of those behaviors that would have been valuable to an ancient ancestor peering out of a cave to assess danger. Changes in a familiar environment would be alarming and focus attention. For that reason, we are still extra observant of things that jump out from the rest of their environment.

At Sagefrog, we use this principle a lot. Whether it’s building a memorable brand by looking at the colors competitors are using and finding something that will stand out from the pack, making sure that calls to action catch the eye, or even including a relevant emoji in an email headline (one of the tactics directly suggested in the book), finding ways to make our clients, their products, and their messaging stand out is part of what we do and do well.

But it’s important to note that Harhut includes some excellent points about when standing out becomes a liability. When you go too far trying to stand out that you forget to inform your prospect about your brand or the service provided, you’ve missed the point. Harhut mentions “vampire video” ads, where the action of the ad is memorable, but people can’t remember who or what the ad was for. When that happens, your ad is entertaining, not advertising, which Harhut points out. The key is to be strategic and ensure the surprise underscores your brand or offering.

Making an Impact with B2B Marketing

Harhut mentions that a key to marketing is making sure a prospect understands what’s in it for them. By understanding how people think and behave, you can show them more clearly what that is, ensure they remember it, and encourage them to take advantage of it. Good marketers will recognize the value of Harhut’s book and improve their understanding of behavioral science in general.

If you’re looking for a marketing partner who can help you implement marketing strategies that pull from a playbook built on understanding the behaviors that motivate, Sagefrog is standing by. Hop on over and say hello.

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