Whatever business you are in, at some stage you need to change the behaviour of your customers. You may want them to consider buying a new service, you may want them to upgrade their existing contract with you, or you may simply want them to do something differently which will make you even more indispensable to them. Similarly, if you are trying to gain new business you have to change the behaviour of those potential customers so they take action and buy from you. Selling is all about promoting behavioural change. But how can you do it?

There are two ways. Firstly you can “drip feed” information to them – the typical multi-media marketing approach with an advert here and an article there a poster here and a leaflet there. Provide them with enough hints about your wonderful product and eventually they will crumble. The second technique is where you get your potential customers to actually reflect on things, to consider their own position and to therefore work out for themselves that they really need your product or service. This is the technique of the seminar selling route or the market trader doing a demonstration of the latest kitchen gadget.

Sales arrive either by “nudging” people to remind them of your fantastic offer, or getting them to think things through.

Now, new research has looked at these techniques for behavioural change and discovered that neither really works brilliantly. The nudge technique works well at first, but its impact does not last – people go back to their old ways after a relatively short period of time, which is why marketing has to be repeated time and time again to have any long-term impact. The think technique is a “slow burn” taking a much longer time to have any impact on the behaviour of people.

But what the researchers did find was that the two techniques in combination work better. So, rather than having a marketing campaign for your business which is all “reminder” stuff, the nudge, nudge approach, you would do better if you added into the mix some “think, think”, such as seminars, demonstrations and hands-on workshops. This combination appears to have the greatest impact in terms of changed behaviour according to the researchers.

Importantly, though, they also found that a dose of real world, face-to-face persuasion was valuable. Simply relying on the world of the web only goes part of the way it seems in helping to change behaviour, especially when using the “think” techniques. It turns out that people value the ability to discuss things live, with a real person face-to-face.

And that means only one thing – businesses will improve their online success if they add some offline “think marketing” to their strategy.


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