Tidbits from Psychology to refine your Inbound Marketing strategy.


Have you ever had a song stuck in your head?

Into the Unknown” from Disney’s Frozen II has been stuck in mine for some time now.

Musical psychologists call this the earworm and also consider it a measure to look for OCD. (Don’t worry, just because a catchy song makes a place in your mind, doesn’t mean you have it).

Speaking of the unknown, as much as you would like to peek into the minds of your consumers (and raise some serious questions about one’s privacy), the truth is you can’t.

What you can, however, do is look at their behavior and draw insights from that to benefit them.

Psychology studies this behavior and gives us principles (some are listed below) to help us control a few of the many variables of the unknown.

1. Commitment and Consistency.

Freedman J. and Fraser S. conducted an experiment in 1966 that tested how people responded to big and small requests.

They found out that if you can get people to say “yes” to smaller requests of yours (such as signing up for your newsletter or downloading your e-book), it becomes easier for you to get them to make a purchase.

It is known as the foot-in-the door technique.

But this doesn’t end there, Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University found that once people commit, they tend to stay consistent, also referred to as Behavioral Consistency. This is because we love the ease in our decision-making and would not prefer making a new decision every time we are faced with one.

So once, you have gotten your users to commit, nurture and incentivize them to stay consistent.

2. Social Proof

The purchasing behavior of a consumer is no longer what it used to be.

GE Shopper Research Study (2019) states that about 81% of buyers research their products online before purchasing.

Not only that, but they also ask their family and friends and even strangers for recommendations because apparently, they believe what others say about the brand rather than what brands say about themselves.

Social Proof is where you consciously or subconsciously rely on the behavior of others to guide your own.

The way to harness Social proof to your benefit is to use your Socials. Users take into account others’ perceptions of your content, product and services.

In order to remove their decision making uncertainty, let them know that people (if possible, people familiar to them) like your content. For example, if you want them to download your e-book, let them know how many people have downloaded and benefited from your resource.

That being said, adding Social Proof features is known to increase the page loading time and also distract people from the CTA. So, experiment and employ what works best for you.

3. Reciprocity

Have you ever had someone do something for you or give something to you that you benefited from? If and when the need arose, would you not feel indebted to return the favor?

This is the Principle of Reciprocity wherein consumers sometimes feel like they owe the company when they receive something for free.

In 1974, sociologist Philip Kunz sent across 600 Christmas cards to absolute strangers and received nearly 200 replies. French Anthropologist Marcel Mauss describes it as the obligation to repay.

This obligation can be used (not with the intention to exploit) to generate leads or convert by offering your potential customers free content.

4. Scarcity

Worchel, Lee & Adewole conducted an experiment in 1975 to check what effect the supply and demand of an object had on its ratings.

As part of the experiment, people were asked to rate chocolate chip cookies in two separate jars.

The first jar contained 2 and the other contained 10 cookies.

The cookies in the first jar (where they were considered to be scarce) were rated higher even though the cookies in both the jars were identical.

FoMo or the Fear of Missing Out is a real thing and the Principle of Scarcity taps into it. It is because people make swift decisions and are willing to pay more when they believe something is in scarcity.

To benefit from this, you need to let consumers know that they will miss out if they don’t make a certain decision. (Example: You can provide a free trial of your software to the first 1000 people for a month).

5. The Endowment effect

Provided your offering is amazing and helping your customers with their pain-point, they wouldn’t want to let it go once the trial period expires.

This brings us to the Endowment Effect.

It is a cognitive bias where people tend to value an object they possess more.

Helping customers visualize that they own the product, even when it’s in the trial period makes it difficult for them to give it up.

This is also linked to Loss Aversion and can be used in your retargeting campaigns and display ads.

6. The Prospect Theory

In 1989, a US health science professor, Annette O’ Connor did a study to examine the influence of framing a sentence.

This was to check patients’ preferences for cancer chemotherapy treatments. The groups were asked to choose between the following options:

  • Toxic but effective
  • Non-toxic but less effective

The treatments were framed in 3 ways:

  • Probability of living (Positive frame)
  • Probability of dying (Negative frame)
  • Probability of living and dying (Mixed frame)

She found that when sentences were framed negatively, participants were less likely to choose the toxic yet effective option.

Also referred to as the Framing effect, it explains how your readers react is dependent on how you frame your content.

Try the positive frame to let your users see what they stand to gain through their association with you.

Framing your interactions in a certain way can influence how your customers interact with you.

The Prospect Theory

7. Mere Exposure Effect

Here is an interesting study done in 1992 to check the exposure effects in a classroom wherein the students were asked to evaluate four different women. 

And they evaluated the one they had seen the most, more positively than the one they hadn’t seen at all.

This is the tendency to prefer something just because you have been exposed to it.

When Robert Zajonc published his study in 1968, he claimed that when subjects are exposed to a certain stimulus that is familiar to them, they rate it more positively compared to similar stimuli that they had not been exposed to.

Columnist Jeremy Smith suggests that in order to make your website seem familiar and enjoyable, it is essential to make its general layout similar to others in your space. Even the checkout processes should be similar to other websites.

Another step that can be taken is to familiarize your audience with your content. The more they are exposed to it, the more comfortable they get which leads to better conversions.

This also takes into account cognitive fluency which is to speak the language of your consumer.

8. Story-Telling

Everyone likes a good story.

And we have been told over and over again that good story-telling powers great marketing. Stories engage us and our imaginations.

Tell stories to your customers about how their interaction with your content or product could influence their business or lifestyle. Use the ‘Imagine this..’ technique to help your users visualize the benefits and to persuade them to convert.

You can also use the data that you have generated from the users to tell your story.

9. Fitts’ Law

Fitts’ Law states that the time a user takes to move their cursor to your CTA button is a function of the distance of your CTA by the size of it.

The speed at which your page loads influences user behavior. In order to increase conversion for sign ups or sales, you can increase the size of your CTA buttons. Based on this, you can also decrease the size of your  Unsubscribe font to reduce the number of unsubscribes.

10. Decision making autonomy

Lastly, give your users a sense of autonomy in their conversion process.

Buyers don’t like to be pushed or told what to do.

Autonomy in terms of customization offers a satisfactory user experience but take care to not confuse your users or distract them from the CTA with innumerable options.


Comprehending user behavior will not only help you to position yourself better to increase your revenue but also help you to provide your users an elevated experience as they interact with you online.

Consumer psychology is a very extensive field and only a few aspects of it have been covered here.

The idea is to experiment and find out what works best for your users and prioritize and implement what helps you create an experience that your customers will love.

And the good thing about earworms is that they find a way to crawl out.

Time helps.

Sharon Edwin
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