Behavioural science never goes out of fashion
Behavioural science never goes out of fashion
Are you the dominant player in your area or a challenger brand? Either way the approach is always the same.

As this pandemic year draws to a close, some of my clients are reporting their best months ever. This is because they were brave and continued to invest in marketing despite all of the panic and uncertainty that characterised 2020. Marketing is not rocket science. Whether you are the dominant player in your area or a challenger brand, the approach is always the same: get brand presence and deploy behavioural science to leverage it. This might include the following:

The availability heuristic

A mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a person’s mind when evaluating a decision. If you provide short, no nonsense descriptions of key product specifications and USPs of your dental practice all over your website and marketing collateral, you will appeal to your customers’ desire for easily accessible information. You will be simplifying the purchase decision.

The scarcity heuristic

A mental shortcut that places value on items based on how easy it is to miss out on them. The power of now plays on the fact that humans feel the effects of a loss more than a gain, and so the scarcer an item, the more value it holds. You can use tools on your website that reflect the high demand for your big ticket treatments, for example a ticker showing how many discounts are remaining for a promoted treatment, or a calendar to show how many surgery days are already booked out at your practice this month, or even how many spaces are available at the next Invisalign Open Day. Then give your customers something to do about it: booking a free virtual consultation from a limited number of available slots within the next few days. So more urgency, but a free and fast solution. Of course they’ll book that Zoom.

Social proof bias

The pressure we put ourselves under to confirm is enormous. People copy others ceaselessly in an attempt to behave ‘correctly’. Leverage this by offering your customers written and video testimonials from a range of patients reflecting a broad demographic sweep of age, gender and background. That way they’re more likely to see someone they can identify with and trust, and so the way will be open for them to make a booking, reassured that they are doing the right thing.

Authority bias

The tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure and be more influenced by that opinion (no matter what it is), is powerful. So much so that people will administer potentially lethal electric shocks to strangers when asked to by scientists in lab coats, as shown in the Milgram experiment at Yale in 1961, which was repeated around the world with consistent results. Position your practice as a trusted authority. Mention the lengthier training of specialist clinicians, the number of cases they have treated in their careers, and what makes them different from GDPs. If your GDPs have unique capabilities, spell them out and explain how this can support patients. If your practice takes referrals, explain how many practices refer to you. If you run a specialist practice, such as an orthodontic clinic, explain how many cases have been completed on site. If it’s a high number this will immediately make you a trusted source of information and treatment, so use it as a USP throughout your website and marketing collateral.

This stuff really works

These and other behavioural science principles formed the basis of an experiment with real shoppers simulating 310,000 purchases across financial services, consumer packaged goods, retail, travel and utilities. Shoppers were asked to pick their first and second favourite brands within a category, and then cognitive biases were applied to see if they would switch their preference from one brand to another. A fictional challenger brand was included in each category, to which shoppers had no prior exposure.

The results were striking. Even the least effective challenger, a fictional cereal brand, won 28% of shopper preference from the established favourite when it was “supercharged” with benefits including five-star reviews and an offer of 20% extra for free. In the most extreme case, a fictional car insurer won 87% share of consumer preference when it was loaded with advantages across all biases. Get in touch if you’d like to apply some behavioural science to your marketing budget and get 2021 off to a bang.

Luc Wade
By Luc Wade Management Consultant
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