I just started reading Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing (affiliate link) the other day, and the very first chapter (in fact, the only one I’ve read so far) got me thinking in a big way. The specific passage that has me thinking is this (bolded emphasis is mine):
Customers generally can’t understand or accurately explain why they make choices in the marketplace, and efforts to tease out that information by asking them questions are mostly doomed to failure. Furthermore, marketing efforts based mostly on customer statements and self-reports of their experiences, preferences, and intentions are equally doomed.
Essentially, what people tell you about their preferences generally aren’t true.
In the email marketing space, there’s been a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of preference centers. Some will say they’re useless, while others will swear they’re really effective. (Loren McDonald has a great post about this debate in the Email Insider – worth a read.)
Andrew Kordek, over on the Trendline Interactive blog, has the right idea: focus on subscriber behavior, not self-reported preferences. Use behavior to create “a rich profile of [your subscribers] to then test, target and optimize your program.”
Essentially, actions matter more than words.
A brief personal example: When the Manti Te’o story broke, I told my wife and myself I didn’t care about it. Yet, every time there has been a new development in the story, I’ve read up about it. (To be fair, the Te’o story is truly bizarre.)
So, if you were to not target an email message to me based on what I told you, what would happen? Nothing.
If you targeted an email message based on my continued actions of reading stories? Who knows exactly what I’d do. But you can bet you’d have a better chance of getting additional action out of me.
This brings to mind the old Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
People need a push in the right direction (whether that’s right for them or for your bottom line–hopefully it’s both). Harnessing the data around their engagement and behavior, while difficult (as Andrew noted), can be extremely effective. In fact, I know from my experience that more engagement equals better conversion rates.
Seems so simple, right? If someone acts on your message, they’re more likely to buy. Rarely does conversion come out of nowhere.
Does this mean you ignore what your subscribers or customers are telling you? No.
But it does mean you should take it all with a grain of salt.