5 Psychological Truths That Can be Used to Trigger Growth

Deep down in your personas, audience demographics, target markets and strategic goals, hidden in plain sight, is the truth that every company, product and service aims at solving the needs of the people making the decisions. That’s right: people. As in humans.

In a nutshell, growth is about getting those people to quickly adopt your product or service and become evangelists for your brand. In order to do that, you need to capture their attention and create a memorable enough experience that you can break through the noise and stand out.

Lots has been written about the importance of triggering an emotion and how getting your audience to feel emotional is the way to their wallets.

Here are some truths about how humans think that can help your next growth initiative:

People look at screens based on past experience and expectation

The World Wide Web became publicly available in August 1991. Therefore, most people living in an industrialized country in the last 27 years have had access to screens. During that time, we have collectively learned that you don’t look at the screen edges, and that the top of the screen probably contains logos, blank space and navigation. Therefore the part of the screen they look at first will be the center. After that first glance, people will move to their culturally normal reading pattern (left to right, right to left, top to bottom) and will only pull away for large images or animated matter like video or animation.

Breaking this mental model can confuse people and can also make them miss important information you might want them to see.

Growth takeaways: Always design screens so people can move in their normal reading pattern. Avoid putting important information at the very top or near the edges. The center of the screen is a great place for important information.

People process information better in chunks

A mistake excited marketers often make is giving too much information at once.

Implementing the concept of Progressive Disclosure, allows the audience to dig as deep as they want to without overwhelming the skimmers with information they don’t need. A great example of Progressive Disclosure is the What’s New section of Mailchimp’s site:

MailChimp screen 2.png

As you can see, each new feature is prominently displayed with a headline and a short blurb. Then each blurb has a call to action or a linked piece of content where you can decide to click if you want to learn more. Purists may argue that more clicks amplify the opportunity for someone to bounce off the site; but we think people are willing to click multiple times as long as they continue receiving the right amount of information to keep them going down the right path.

If you want to read more about Progressive Disclosure, you can click here.

Growth takeaways: Spend time doing your research and find out what most people want and when they want it. Once you’ve done that, you can implement progressive disclosure for them to get more information. In content initiatives, consider related topics. In blogs, consider related articles. In demos, consider small tutorials.

Appeal to the caveman within us

The day to day of a caveman was very simple. It focused on food, because without it you’ll die. It focused on sex, because without it the species will go extinct. It focused on danger, because if you die, food and sex no longer matter.

Within us, the instinct of survival is still alive and well. Even under the soporiferous effect of our dull desk-driven lives. This means that a person cannot resist food, sex and danger no matter how hard they try to ignore it. You won’t try to flirt with an attractive stranger in the train, but you will certainly notice their presence.

caveman 2.jpg

Growth takeaways: It’s a good idea to A/B test images of up-close faces versus other images and measure how they convert. The term food-porn exists for a reason, if your topic is even mildly related to food, investing in great food photography will pay off. Similarly images of dangerous activities will attract attention.

Create goals, and make them attainable

There are multiple psychological studies regarding goals and rewards. In 2006, a research project proved that when presented with a customer loyalty card that rewarded a frequent shopper with a free cup of coffee, the people who received a card with 12 slots and had the first 2 slots already stamped were more eager and completed the card quicker than the people who received a card with 12 empty slots. This is called the goal-gradient effect. You can read the full study here.

The goal-gradient effect determines that you will accelerate your behavior as you progress closer to your goal.

The goal-gradient effect also determines the following consumer truths:

  1. People will be more motivated the closer they are to the goal at hand.

  2. Showing the illusion of progress provides as much motivation as real progress.

  3. People enjoy being part of a reward program. The study cited above shows that people who belong to a reward program are overall chattier and nicer to employees than the ones who aren’t.

  4. You’re at risk of losing your client after a reward is reached, and it is hard to re-engage.

Growth takeaways: Create a goal structured path for your customers. And visually show them each step that they have completed and what is remaining to be accomplished. Use rewards programs or reward-based campaigns.

People learn best from examples

Don’t just tell people what to do, show them. Whether this applies to turning a series of instructions into a story with beginning, middle and end; or providing pictures/screenshots as visual aides; or better yet, turning some of your content into video format.

This post featuring 8 critical shortcuts in Sketch explains each shortcut in detail, but also shows you animations of each shortcut in action to better explain what each shortcut does within the app.

What do you think? Have you experienced success bringing psychology into marketing practices? Let’s schedule some time to discuss the best tests we can use to boost growth.


Astrid Storey