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Ask almost any marketer what customers think about when viewing a website and they’ll tell you it comes down to, What’s in it for me? It's generally agreed that’s the big thing we have to get across. It's incentive to keep reading or to take action. The presumption is that “what’s in it for me?” neatly distils our buyers’ motivations into a very clear question. Or does it?


Lately, I’ve been studying the brain science behind action, motivation, and persuasion. I’m not an expert by any means, but I think the WIIFM-based perspective we tend to bring to marketing is overly simplistic.

In order to set ourselves apart, and make real impressions on buyers, we need to think in deeper terms.

I had an opportunity to participate in the Landmark Forum recently. At the event, the speaker covered the topic of “Already Always Listening”. The recognition of that little voice in our head that is vetting everything we see and hear.

In thinking about the issues that matter to the people we serve at Kayak, the speaker reminded me of the deeper questions being asked - and answered - internally.

Questions like:

    1. Is this statement true or is it false?
    2. Is this service good or is it bad?
    3. Should I or shouldn't I buy it?
    4. Is this choice right or is it wrong?
    5. Can I trust this company or person or not?
    6. Do I agree or disagree with what this says?
    7. How does it work?
    8. Why does it work that way?
    9. What's the problem?
    10. What's the answer/solution?
    11. What's in it for me/them?
    12. In order to do this, what do I need to do first?

I would invite you to take a full minute or so and think through these questions. (It's likely you are asking yourself some – or all – of them right now.)


Think about the kinds of assumptions and worries they represent, and the bigger concerns being brought up.

They speak to trust, integrity, and future consequences. They get into the process of choosing and implementing a solution, not to mention the perception of a challenge or situation.

When you look at things in that light, you start to see that “what’s in it for me?” isn’t the only question that really matters, or even the first one.

For example, you don’t worry about the potential payoff of making a purchase until you have decided whether or not you trust the company offering it.

Likewise, you can’t really see yourself taking advantage of a product’s benefits if you don’t understand well enough how it works.

Things get even more complicated when you take a higher-level view. Most of us aren’t as concerned with the actual needs and risks, as we are the perceptions.


When we probe deeper into the kinds of questions people ask about a product or service, we start to touch on topics of identity, standing, and image.

For example, someone might come to an agency looking for website design services. As they scan portfolios and case studies, they are seeing images and words, all aesthetically arranged. But in the back of their minds, they are considering how a decision to work with that agency might affect their income, their career prospects, or even their credibility.

They want to know whether choosing a vendor will help them to score a win with their bosses or peers. Likewise, they are worried that the wrong decision might make them look poor or harm the view they have of themselves.

These aren’t things we can consciously observe in other people, of course, but we can spot them in ourselves and look for clues as marketers.

Most of all, we can be aware that there are many questions that need to be answered before a conversion can take place or a decision can be made.

In recent months we have explored the cognitive biases individuals bring to marketing situations, along with the differences between people thinking in terms of product, process, or performance.

Each of these gives insight into a person’s frame of mind and can help predict the course they may take in the future. In other words, if you know why someone is making a decision, and which ideas they are bringing to the interaction, it gets easier to anticipate the positive emotional triggers that will move them to action. In fact, we can even guide our prospects towards outcomes that will help them.


Before that can happen, though, we have to let go of simplistic ideas that hold us back.

"What’s in it for me?" might be easy shorthand for the way customers think, and it can even help us distil the value we offer into usable bullet points and sound bites. However, once we start thinking of our prospects as being multi-dimensional, we gain real insight into what guides them to respond to our offers or keep looking for answers elsewhere.

In most situations, there are at least a dozen things your customers want to know before they'll take our products or services seriously as a solution. It all boils down to the ultimate consideration...

"will it make me look good, or will it make me look bad?"

When viewing content through this type of lens, we are presented with an opportunity to answer all of the questions, even those that've gone unsaid.

 

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12 questions prospects are asking, whether they know it or not