We all like to think that we’re logical, that we make decisions based on a series of careful observations and well-considered evaluations.
The reality? Nothing could be further from the truth.
The human mind is a wonderful, complex, and fascinating thing, but logical it is not.
As it turns out, we’re all subject to internal biases, external pressures, and a host of other factors that actually make our decisions for us.
If you’re in sales and marketing, this is great news.
By understanding how we, as humans, react to certain stimuli, you can tailor your marketing messages and sales pitches to provoke a positive response based on proven psychological principles.
The following 15 human psychology “hacks” will help get you started:
1. Give a Reason – Any Reason
An interesting study by psychologist Dr. Ellen Langer found that, in general, people act mindlessly in most of the things they do. Apparently, we’re geared to respond in automated ways.
In the study, Dr. Langer interrupted people using a photocopy machine. The first experimental variation involved asking, “May I use the copy machine?” which was effective 60% of the time.
The next test involved adding a reason to the interruption: “May I use the copy machine because I’m in a rush.” The two-part statement that included a reason delivered a permitted interruption 95% of the time.
What’s really interesting, though, is Dr. Langer’s team found that the specific reason given in the second part of the sentence didn’t matter.
For instance, “May I use the copy machine because I have to make copies” isn’t a very good reason, but people still moved aside 95% of the time.
Ultimately, her conclusion was that people have a built-in mental script that automatically responds to a two-part statement that resembles a reasoned statement. And, you can use that inner habit to boost your landing page conversions.
You don’t have to offer the most persuasive, compelling reason to ever exist. Just give one.
To implement this principle in your landing page content, it comes down to answering one question that the customer is always asking: “What’s in it for me?”
For example, try something like “You should buy my weight loss product because it provides the fastest solution and has helped thousands of others.”
Or, try adding reasoning to your links, such as “Click here to grab your copy now because this is a real game changer.”
And, don’t forget those essential bullet point lists you commonly include on landing pages.
Change this: “Our new battery means you’ll only need to charge your phone every couple of days” to this: “Our new battery means you’ll only need to charge your phone every couple of days because you never want to run out of juice when it matters most.”
2. Harness the Principle of Reciprocity with Free Content
According to Tom Ninness, “The Law of Reciprocity means to give and take mutually.”
Ninety-six percent of people landing on your website are not going to purchase right away. That makes building trust an essential ingredient to getting them to come back in the future. You can achieve it with free content.
Always be thinking about how you can serve the people in your market, help them more, solve their problems, and speak to their biggest challenges.
True & Co is solving a common problem for women – getting a comfortable bra that fits. It’s an incredibly helpful free service that’s naturally going to result in more sales.
Using the law of reciprocity is most applicable to pre-sales techniques via on-site practices that provide incredible value, such as the True & Co example.
However, sometimes consistently sharing free blog content builds the same mutual benefit. This is something that Pat Flynn, from Smart Passive Income, has pulled off extremely well.
Flynn has built a seven-figure empire off a “free” business model, all due to the law of reciprocity.
When you help people, they feel compelled to give back – and you’ll soon see your efforts being reciprocated through more sales.
3. Trigger the Enjoyment of Anticipation with New Releases
Research by UCLA psychologists and medical doctors demonstrates conclusively that the human brain is attracted to new information.
When confronted with the same old boring familiarity, we languish. Conversely, our sense of motivation and reward responds positively with a bang to novelty.
Capitalize on this effect by regularly rolling out new products, new resources, and new releases, even if your “new” release is simply a minor improvement on a previous version.
If your landing page is perceived by your customers as having the “latest and greatest,” they’ll naturally be inclined to engage with it further.
Another way to use this principle is to simply change your page layout around. As the reader scrolls down the page, keep it interesting and hold their attention by using images, boxes, font sizing, and placement.
The classic page structure – courtesy of Apple, in this case – of image on the left, followed by image on the right, is an example of this principle in practice.
4. Boost Perceived Authority by Affiliating with Credentialed Professionals
Our natural inclination to bend at the heels of authority has been well established since the Milgram experiments back in 1963.
The experiments themselves weren’t all that pretty; to sum things up, participants were led – successfully – to give a person increasingly painful electric shocks, all at the suggestion of someone perceived as a “teacher.”
The bottom line? We’re all susceptible to the influence of someone we believe to be in charge.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how being identified as a leader or expert can improve your business’s bottom line. The downside, of course, is that it can take a long time to achieve this status.
It’s called authority by association.
Many online and offline marketers use this principle as leverage for their business; by associating with experts, you also become a perceived authority in the minds of others.
Take advantage of this effect yourself by including quotes, testimonials, and other resources from experts in your industry on your landing pages.
5. Leave an Air of Mystery
Back in 2011, Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers website burst onto the digital marketing scene, attracting tons of buzz, traffic, readers, and sales.
Naturally, readers were curious how Halpern’s site had grown so quickly, but Derek kept his lips sealed.
In fact, he fed the mystery by releasing charts like the following:
The result? Other sites in his niche devoted posts of their own to trying to understand the secrets behind his success.
Because he cultivated an air of mystery, he actually drove further interest in his website.
As Derek says: “Mystery = sales.”
While your landing page certainly needs to contain enough information to drive conversions, it never hurts to incorporate an element of mystery as well.
In fact, using mystery and intrigue is a common direct response copywriting technique.
A simple method copywriters use to build mystery is to ask strange questions, for example: “Are you embarrassed to eat in a restaurant alone?”
You can even include mystery directly in your headline copy, as in the following examples:
- “Never-before revealed secrets”
- “Undisclosed guest”
- “Highly classified information”
- “Legally prevented from releasing”
6. Be Like Curious George
At all stages of our lives, curiosity drives our behavior.
Way back in 1959, psychologist R. W. White suggested that “curiosity results from a motivation to master one’s environment.”
This one is pretty much a no-brainer to add to your landing pages, especially to the introductory paragraphs that must immediately engage readers’ curiosity to prevent them from bouncing.
How do we infuse curiosity?
Skellie provides some great examples on Problogger:
Make a curious connection, such as a famous author to a famous chef, so that the reader is engaged to find out more about how they’re connected.
For example, “If you could whip up an incredibly tasty Paula Deen piece of content that resembled the words and efforts of Tim Ferriss, what would the common thread look like?”
Make a controversial claim, leaving the reader hanging to hear the justification.
“Can you believe that something as silly as a car made me a million bucks? What’s even funnier is that I don’t even own a car or drive…let me go over an up-and-coming trend – lifestyle marketing – in which people are telling the world about their fancy lives.”
Use anecdotes, stories about past experiences that raise curiosity.
For example, “Yesterday, after 35 years working in the PR industry, I came within an inch of quitting my job in order to write the novel I’ve always wanted to write.”
The more curiosity you can embed in your landing pages, the more unsatisfied a person becomes, driving the need to become more satisfied and experience the mastery of the result.
7. Offer Fewer, Simpler Choices
The Law of Pragnanz, a fundamental principle of Gestalt theory, suggests that:
“People will perceive and interpret ambiguous or complex images as the simplest form(s) possible.”
When confronted with complex shapes, we tend to reorganize them into simpler components or into a simpler whole. We’re more likely to see the left image above composed of the simple circle, square, and triangle, as you see on the right, than as the complex and ambiguous shape the whole forms.
In this case, seeing three distinct objects is simpler than seeing one complex object. In other cases, it’s simpler to see a single object.
When put into practice on landing pages, this law supports the idea that simplicity is easier for consumers to process than more complex sets of options.
Basically, don’t include ten options when five will do. Don’t list every possible package inclusion if there’s a simpler way to convey each option’s value.
As for how effective this practice can be in the real world, Neil Patel says:
“By reducing the number of options in your form fields from 6 to 3, you can increase your conversion rate, on average, by 66%.”
8. Put Your Target Price Center Stage
Interestingly, consumer research shows that our brains have built-in sensors for choosing the middle option when it comes to pricing and product layouts, perhaps because positioning popular options center stage influences the consumer’s sense of product popularity:
In the marketing world, this is known as price framing.
Instead of comparing your product or service to another product or service, consumers compare the three pricing packages to each other.
The middle option here appeals to consumers, as they’re getting more value for their money than they would with the lowest package, but they’re still saving money over the top-tier option.
For even greater effect, test highlighting the middle package – as seen above – on your website to increase its perceived popularity.
9. Go beyond Benefits
Jeff Thull, CEO and President of Prime Resource Group, says:
“Quit selling your solution as you would sell any other product, and start selling like a “business advisor,” a job that requires the diagnostic skills of a doctor. You must help customers unearth and comprehend their most compelling problems.”
With the myriad complexities of modern life, most consumers don’t really know what their problems are.
You need to help them recognize their pain and visualize the solution you provide as the answer to what they’re suffering.
Dig deep and really understand their experience in day-to-day reality.
Then, when you can convey these benefits on your landing pages, you’ll become a resource they can’t live without.
One way to add solution selling to your product, particularly if it’s a digital product, is to add a “personalized experiential” component.
Consider getting on the phone or providing a component of personal email support to help the customer diagnose his or her problems and customize a solution.
10. Chime in with a Rhyme
Is your copy dead boring?
If the answer is yes, it’s unlikely you’ll persuade others to buy.
Interesting stories, engaging scripts, and persuasive reasons can all help encourage your readers to say yes.
But, surprisingly, it can be even more effective to incorporate rhymes into your landing pages.
You don’t have to be Dr. Seuss to sell, but even subtle rhyming will have a way of sticking in your readers’ minds, compelling them toward eventual conversions.
Check out this example from Animoto:
11. Be Scarce
You’ve no doubt seen scarcity used on landing pages, often quite effectively.
Typically, scarcity takes the form of things, such as “Doors closing in five hours,” or “Limited time offer,” either in a landing page’s headline or in a call to action.
There’s a reason people use scarcity.
Here are two real world examples that prove just how powerful scarcity can be:
Using a limited stock suggestion:
Using a limited timeframe suggestion:
12. Use Our Tendency to Follow
Call it social influence, peer pressure, social proof, or “monkey see, monkey do,” the reality is: the larger the crowd, the more people will follow. And it’s not a new phenomenon.
Consumers see engagement occurring, and our natural inclination is to follow suit.
It’s why we’ll wait in line outside crowded restaurants and clubs, even when there are options with immediate occupancy nearby.
And it’s why we all jostled around the lunch table in junior high, hoping to be seen as part of the “cool kids.”
Fortunately, you don’t need to resort to middle school shenanigans to get your landing pages noticed.
Now that we live in the age of social media, proof and persuasion can be created instantly simply by adding social media buttons, stats, and engagement metrics to any page.
Amazon uses social influence well by driving reviews and adding options suggesting, “Customers who bought this also bought….”
Here’s another example of how London Drugs uses scarcity and social influence to drive contest admissions:
13. Charge People More
People pay for convenience.
People pay for a sense of ownership and accomplishment.
People pay for results.
Stop turning to your competitors for pricing comparisons. Stop downplaying your skills and expertise.
Instead, focus on how you can better cater to your chosen target market and, by doing so, increase the authority and perceived value of your products or services.
And, most importantly, point out how you can increase convenience and deliver better results.
As Derek Halpern says:
“If you can generate more results or make it more convenient, it doesn’t matter what you charge. People will pay.”
Play up your credentials. Embed customer testimonials. Display any proven results.
Your landing pages – and their conversion rates – will thank you.
14. Get Positive
People are motivated to act based on their expected perception of the result.
By playing up the positives, you get consumers to envision and experience the outcome, before they’ve even said yes to your product.
It’s an element that can be used in the copy for all your landing pages. And the more you can do this, the more consumers can evaluate the efficacy of the outcome to their desire.
The closer it matches their desire, the more likely they’ll be to make a purchase decision.
It’s called expectancy theory.
As an example, Ray Edwards, copywriting expert, suggests using a transformational story:
“Telling the story of Bob, the frustrated business owner who was on the edge of bankruptcy, whose family had lost faith in him, and who, out of desperation tried one last idea that saved his business… is infinitely more powerful than simply saying, “One day, Bob figured out the answer.”
The story helps connect the consumer to the positive transformation.
Use this principle on your landing pages to build up the value of your specified outcome. The more a person believes the outcome is possible, the more likely they’ll put in the effort to achieve that outcome.
15. Get Negative
Ray Edwards also suggests trying this negative strategy: first present the problem and then amplify it.
Drill down and get the buyer to experience what it will be like if they don’t solve their problem. By doing so, you’ll help them viscerally understand the cost of not doing anything.
Using the negative can help instill a real and legitimate fear that induces people to take action.
Certainly, this is a big departure from the recommendation immediately above. But, according to Ray Edwards, the contrast can work very effectively.
It’s up to you to determine whether positive or negative appeals will be more effective for your audience. Split testing can help, but much of the decision will be based on gut feel as well.
If you aren’t confident which direction to go, pick one and iterate from there with a series of small changes.
As Robert Cialdini, author of YES – 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive, simply states:
“Small changes can make a big difference in your powers of persuasion.”
Go ahead, put these simple psychology hacks to the test, and your landing page conversions are sure to skyrocket to the next level.
Have you already used one of these hacks and had good results? Do you have another great psychology lesson to add to this list? I’d love to hear about it, so please share your successes in the comments below.
Featured Image: Nevit Dilmen
About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including IBM, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaronat Louder Online, his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Googl