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Online Marketing: How to Prevent Your Own Biases From Leading You Astray

“Nobody would actually BUY this stuff… right??”

Not long ago, I wrote some posts on psychological biases. The crux: knowing your customers' biases can help you create messages that truly resonate.

But there's an interesting flip side. Because as marketers, we're equally biased. We tend to assume our customers will share our own feelings and beliefs.

Biases such as False Consensus and Confirmation Bias can prevent us from recognizing what our customers really want, including:

  • Which products and services will be of interest?
  • What messaging will resonate with readers?
  • Which special offers will motivate them?

Consciously or not, we assume that if something is not appealing to us, it won't appeal to our customers. And how wrong we can be. Here are a few of my personal examples:

Twitter

If the developers of Twitter had asked my opinion on the viability of their service, I'd likely have scoffed at the concept. Why? Because the idea that the world cares what I'm doing every minute of every day would, to me, have been laughable.

I have zero interest in Tweeting. Surely everyone else feels the same way. Right?

Payday Loans

Twenty years ago, if someone asked me if payday loans were a viable business, I'd have been sceptical. Why? because no matter how broke I was, I'd never let someone take advantage of my misfortune with an overpriced loan.

I'd never take out a payday loan. And surely nobody else would either. Right?

Premium Vodka

Research proves that people can't tell the difference between regular and super-premium vodkas. So I'd never shell out for a bottle of Grey Goose.

And if I'd never buy it, nobody else would either. Right?

Swiffer TV Ads

I find these ads absolutely unwatchable. When one starts, I LEAP for the remote to change channels. If I were a Swiffer product manager — and my agency presented this creative — I'd have sent them packing.

If I'd never respond to these insipid ads, nobody would. So the Swiffer product line doesn't stand a chance. Right?

Data-Driven Web Marketing

My own psychological biases have prevented me from recognizing some amazing business opportunities. I've simply assumed that if something doesn't appeal to me, it won't appeal to others.

This is what happens when we take an intuitive approach to marketing, rather than an data-driven approach.

We should always test our ideas, and we should find other sources of intelligence. In particular:

  • Get to know your customers. Find out what their real motivations are. Their feelings and beliefs, their drivers and blockers. See my posts on developing effective messaging.
  • Rather than relying on creative hunches, test your hypotheses. Free tools like Google Website Optimizer make this easy.

Of course, I'm not suggesting we never use our intuition. If nothing else, it can help us come up with concepts to test. But it's important to recognize how our own biases and preferences can lead us astray.

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