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How to successfully change Customer Behaviour

Thursday 14th January 2016 by David Jones

David colour backdrop smileJanuary is traditionally a time when many of us try and change our behaviour – whether that is through making New Year Resolutions or trying to create a New You. We give up alcohol, go to the gym more, try a new diet, read the latest self-help book and so on. All too often, we don’t manage to achieve our goals. The same is equally true when it comes to Customer Marketing. Many marketers will have annual objectives to encourage customers to buy more, to engage more, to be more loyal or to recommend the brand. Many new objectives are set in January but remain unmet at the end of the year.

The reality is that we fail to transform ourselves and the behaviour of our customers for similar reasons. To be successful we need to know and understand much more about what drives and determines behaviour and apply the principles at work or at home. Thankfully on the Customer Marketing front the tools at our disposal to influence customer behaviour are expanding and getting easier to use all the time – online video, podcasts, social networks, data metrics can all be successfully harnessed to help us.

bj-foggs-behavior-model-14-638B J Fogg, an American academic at Stanford University and a guru of persuasive technology, has created a simple model to understand the propensity for a human to act or exhibit a given behaviour. He contends that for a behaviour (B) to happen the customer or individual’s motivation (M) and ability (A) have to be right and their needs to be a strong and compelling trigger (T) to initiate things. This model is neatly summed up in the equation B = MAT. As I have stated in my earlier blog post on Habit Formation, the job of the marketer is to optimise motivation and ability (or know how to tap these at their peak) and then deliver timely external triggers (emails, texts, signs, messages, content, etc) or ideally encourage customers to internalise the trigger, e.g. when I don’t know I’ll Google it, when I’m feeling lonely I’ll go on Facebook, when I want to capture the moment I’ll use Instagram and so on.

Fogg helpfully identifies six factors that can increase or inhibit motivation and six factors that can enhance or decrease ability. Understanding these factors and how they influence customer behaviour in your market or product category, is the key to successfully encouraging your customer to change their behaviour in the way you want. So let’s look at each of these factors in turn…

The Six Factors that determine Motivation (M)

The factors here can be paired together. The nature of the product category or market will determine whether capitalising on a positive or mitigating a negative is likely to be more powerful in driving behaviour.

Motivators

Seeking Pleasure/Avoiding Pain
A pretty primitive influence on behaviour but nonetheless very powerful in certain situations. The influence here can be highly immediate and quite instinctive. Hunger, sex drive, self-preservation all come in to play here. Identifying ways to associate your brand with pleasurable experiences or making engaging with it a highly pleasurable experience can be extremely effective, as can demonstrating how the brand or product protects the customer or potential customer from danger, risk or more painful alternatives. But bear in mind it is the instincts or intuition that customers or prospects have about the outcomes from the behaviour or action you want from them, rather than what it is actually like that counts here.

Seeking Hope/Avoiding Fear
This is all about amplifying the positivity and optimism of your brand or product proposition and/or demonstrating how it can reduce stress, anxiety, problems and the unexpected. The motivation here is about anticipation – expecting something good or bad to happen as a result of the behaviour. Be aware too, that the motivations can sometimes play off between each other – people will be prepared to suffer the pain of a flu jab in order to reduce their fear of getting flu.

Social Acceptance/Social Rejection
Our motivations here can influence the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, even the language we use. The vast majority of us are motivated to do things that win social acceptance or at least avoid acting in a way that might lead to social rejection or stigma. Playing upon the desire for Social Acceptance sits at the heart of Facebook’s success. Use of social proof, testimonials, ratings, peer reviews, etc can all foster a sense that a band or product will be socially acceptable. The wisdom of crowds, herd instinct, big is beautiful all denote social acceptability. But bear in mind too, that perceptions of social acceptance can relate to a very specific closed-group, segment or circle. Is this brand – Hip? Cool? Awesome? Is it for people like me?

The six factors that determine Ability (A)

The six factors here are all interconnected, like links in a chain. If one factor breaks, ability is lost. For a given customer or prospect the ability to perform a desired action or behaviour is only as strong as the weakest link at a given moment. Also bear in mind that ability correlates very closely with simplicity.Ability factors

Time
For many of us time is precious and in short supply. Generally the longer a behaviour or action takes the less likely it is to be attempted or completed. Reducing the steps or accelerating the speed of a process or experience will usually pay dividends unless it impacts other factors that drive ability. Emphasising or demonstrating just how little time is involved could well be worthwhile.

Money
The wealth, disposable income, payment methods available now, all come in to play here for a given customer or customer segment. The perceived and comparative cost of following through a behaviour or acting to buy a product are key factors in determining ability. As with motivations, there is often an interplay between different determinants of ability. Some people will gladly pay more to save time – queueing, boarding an airline, getting served.

Physical Effort
Outside of body builders and fitness enthusiasts few people want to exert themselves in order to undertake an action or complete a behaviour. Taking my smartphone out of my pocket or typing my name in a field, can be way too much effort if my motivation is low. However, running a 10k (in support of the charity I admire) or walking across town to a retail store (of the brand I love) can be fine if my motivation for doing so is high.

Brain Cycles
Most people don’t want to think long or hard in order to do something. Thinking deeply or in new ways can be taxing. Making experiences as instinctive, intuitive and simple as possible will usefully minimise the need for conscious thought. Not only that, but if repeated the action or behaviour has an excellent chance of becoming a habit.

Social Deviance
If a behaviour requires you to deviate from social norms, it in turn requires more commitment and motivation. Emphasising how normal and acceptable a behaviour is can be worthwhile. As can in certain circumstances celebrating the fact that it is daring, unconventional, risky – to innovators, early adopters and avant gardistas.

Non-Routine
It normally pays to capitalise upon existing routines and habits. Embedding your service or product in an existing routine, rather than requiring investment to build new habits. For instance, conservation charities are likely to have more success in appealing to people who routinely go out in, enjoy and value the countryside – dog owners, walking enthusiasts, campers, etc. Even better if they can supply a relevant trigger to them whilst they are pursuing these routines. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – triggers will be the subject of a future post.

habit-changeIf succeeding in truly and sustainably changing customer behaviour has caught your interest do get in touch. We can help clients understand how the factors determining motivation and ability apply to their market, brand and product. We can run market research to systematically deepen understanding of how these factors have cumulatively driven customer behaviour or jointly and severally conspired to inhibit the desired behaviour amongst different customer segments.

The bottom line message here is clear. If you want to change your customers’ behaviour, or indeed your own, change the way you approach things, such that motivation, ability and a powerful trigger all closely align. Put change on your agenda!