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One key part of being a great marketer is understanding how (and why) people think and act the way they do. It's much harder to create compelling content marketing, for example, if you don’t know why it would be compelling to your audience in the first place.

Before you jump into the tactical nitty-gritty of marketing, it’s really helpful to understand how people operate … which is essentially what the entire field of psychology attempts to explain. Understanding some key principles of psychology can take your marketing from good to amazing, all because the right audience is reading and identifying with it (and most likely converting on it, too).

Psychology and Marketing: 10 Important Principles of Psychology You Should Use

1) Priming

Have you ever played the game where one person says a word, and the other immediately responds with the first thing that comes to mind?

That's kind of how priming works. You're exposed to one stimulus, and it affects how you respond to another stimulus. Psychology Today gives the example of two groups of people reading the word "yellow" followed by either "sky" or "banana." Because people have a semantic association between the fruit and its color, the "yellow-banana" group will recognize the word "banana" faster than the "yellow-sky" group recognizes "sky."

What's this got to do with marketing? Lots. Using subtle priming techniques, you could help your website visitors remember key information about your brand -- and maybe even influence their buying behavior.

It's been tested before. In a study by Naomi Mandel and Eric J. Johnson, researchers manipulated the background design of a website to see if it'd affect consumers' product choices. Participants were asked to choose between two products in one category (like a Toyota vs. a Lexus). According to Psychology Today, "they found that visitors who had been primed on money (the website’s background was green with pennies on it) looked at price information longer than those who had been primed on safety. Similarly, consumers who had been primed on comfort looked at comfort information longer than those primed on money."

So if you're trying to make use of priming in your marketing, think about the small details. They could be the difference between someone buying your highest product price point and bouncing from your page.

2) Reciprocity

Introduced in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the concept of “reciprocity” is simple -- if someone does something for you, you naturally will want to do something for them.

If you've ever gotten a mint with your bill at a restaurant, you've been the victim of reciprocity. According to Cialdini, when servers bring a check to their patrons without a mint, the diners will tip according to their perceptions of the service given. With one mint, the tip jumps up 3.3%. Two mints? The tip jumps "through the roof" to roughly 20%.

In your marketing, there are a lot of ways to take advantage of reciprocity. You don’t have to be rolling in dough to give something away; it can be anything from a branded sweatshirt, to an exclusive ebook, to a free desktop background, to your expertise on a difficult subject matter. Even something as simple as a hand-written note can go a long way in establishing reciprocity. Just be sure you're giving away the free thing before you ask for something in return.

3) Social Proof

Most marketers are aware of this concept already, but it was too important to leave out from this list. If you're not familiar with it, social proof is the theory that people will adopt the beliefs or actions of a group of people they like or trust. In other words, it’s the “me too” effect. Think of this like an awkward middle school dance -- few people want to be the first one on the dance floor, but once a few people are there, everyone else wants to join in. (Keep in mind, this desire to conform doesn’t go away when you get older and less bashful about your dance moves.)

One easy way to make the most of social proof is on your blog. If you're not already, use social sharing and follow buttons that display the number of followers your accounts have or the number of shares a piece of content has. If those numbers are front and center and you already have a few people sharing your post, people who stumble on your post later will be much more likely to share.

4) Decoy Effect

You'll often see this effect in pricing models -- one price point is intentionally included to entice you to choose the most expensive option.

In Dan Airley's famous TED talk, "Are we in control of our own decisions?", he describes an ad from The Economist outlining their latest subscription packages. Here's what they offered:

  • Online subscription: $59

  • Print subscription: $125

  • Online and print subscription: $125

Crazy, right? You could get the print only subscription and the online and print subscription for the same price. Why would they offer that?

That's what Airley thought, too. He reached out to the folks at The Economist, but he never got a straight answer from them.

So he decided to run his own study with 100 MIT students. He gave them the pricing packages outlined above and asked which one they'd want to buy. When all three options were there, students chose the combo subscription -- it was the best deal, right? But when he removed the "useless" option (the print subscription for $125), the students preferred the cheapest option.

Turns out that middle option wasn't that useless after all -- it gave students a frame of reference for how "good" the combo deal was and enticed them to pay more for that deal.

So if you're looking to increase conversions on a landing page with two options, you might want to add a third. It could help increase the conversion rate of the option you'd ultimately want people to take.

5) Scarcity

Ever gone to buy airline tickets and seen a tagline that says “Only 3 seats left at this price!” Yup, that’s scarcity (another Cialdini concept). This psychology principle goes back to the simple formula of supply and demand: The more rare the opportunity, content, or product is, the more valuable it is.

In 1975, Worchel, Lee, and Adewole conducted a study to see how scarcity affected people's perception. At the start of the study, they asked people to rate chocolate chip cookies. According to an article by my colleague Lanya Olmstead that describes the experiment, "[The researchers] put 10 cookies in one jar, and two of the same cookies in another jar. The cookies from the two-cookie jar received ratings twice as high as the 10 cookie jar even though the cookies were exactly the same."

But if you want to properly use this principle, you need to be careful how you word it. If you approach the scarcity concept as if there used to be a ton of a product or service, but due to popular demand there’s a few left, people will be very receptive. On the other hand, if you approach it from the angle that there are only a few products total, so get it now, the principle won’t be as effective. Check out this post from Nir and Far for a deeper explanation on why that distinction is important.

6) Anchoring

Ever wondered why it's so hard to resist a sale at your favorite clothing store?

Often, it has to do with anchoring -- people base decisions on the first piece of information they receive. So if my favorite store typically retails jeans for $50, but I find them on sale for $35, I'll be ecstatic. "I just got a crazy deal on these jeans," I'll think. I'll probably even buy them. But if my friend typically shops for jeans that are $20, she won't be nearly as impressed.

For marketers, anchoring is important to know -- especially if you're ever running a sale. You'll want to clearly state the initial price of the product (this is "setting" the anchor), and then display the sale price right next to it. You might even explain how much of a percentage off your customers will receive with the sale.

7) The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Ever heard about a product and then start seeing it everywhere you look? You can thank the The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. It starts happening after you encounter something for the first time, and then you start noticing it cropping up in everyday life. Suddenly you see ads for the product every time you watch TV. And when you go to the grocery store, you happen to walk down the aisle and spot it. And alllllll of your friends all have the product.

It's weird right? Here's why you're suddenly seeing this new thing everywhere.

According to PS Mag, this phenomenon (also called "the frequency illusion") is caused by two processes. "The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence."

For marketers, this phenomenon is precisely why nurturing is incredibly important. Once someone starts noticing your brand (aka clicking around on your website), you'll want to help them start seeing you "everywhere." Send them targeted nurturing emails and retargeting ads based on their behavior, and you could increase the possibility of them converting.

8) Verbatim Effect

According to a study by Poppenk, Joanisse, Danckert, and Köhler, people are more likely to remember the gist of what someone said, not the specific details. So when you attend a session on how to blog for your business, you're most likely going to remember details like "Have another person edit your work," not "Send a Google Doc three business days ahead of time to a peer so they can edit your work. Don't forget to use Track Changes so you know what you missed!"

They called this the "verbatim effect." And it can have a huge effect on how your content performs.

To begin with, people are spending less and less time actually reading online. According to data from Chartbeat, more than half of your visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on your site. So if people aren't reading your content and not likely to remember specific details, what's a marketer to do?

I'd recommend spending even more time than you already are on perfecting your headline. Not only should it be search- and sharing-friendly, but it should also accurately describe what's in your article. This way, when people are looking for more information on a given topic, they'll think of that one helpful article they read a while ago and Google the topic to find it again. If you've done the work, you should appear in the search results. If you need some help writing compelling headline copy, check out this post on our blog.

9) Clustering

People have a limited amount of space in their short-term memory. In fact, most people can only remember seven pieces of information (plus or minus two pieces in any given situation) at a time.

To cope, most people tend to cluster similar pieces of information together. For example, if you had a whole grocery list of random items, most people would tend to mentally group items into certain categories (dairy, grain, meat, etc.) to be able to better remember what exactly was on the list.

So when you're creating content, keep clustering in mind. How can you design and lay out your content to increase memory retention? One way to do it is by grouping similar topics together -- either under numbered bullet points or with different header sizes. Besides being much easier to scan, your writing will be much easier to remember and recall down the road -- especially if you’re creating long lists of content.

10) Loss Aversion

Loss aversion means pretty much exactly what it sounds like: Once someone has something, they realllllly don't like to lose it.

When Daniel Kahneman studied this concept, participants were given mugs, chocolate, or nothing. Then, they were asked to make a choice, they were give two options: If they were given an object, they could trade their objects, or if they were given nothing, they could choose one of the two items. The result? Roughly half of the participants who started with no items chose mugs, but 86% of those given mugs to begin with stuck with that item.

Moral of the story? People don't like to lose what they've already gained.

Though this could open up some semi-sketchy doors for certain types of marketers, loss aversion could have a significant factor in freemium products and increased product adoption. For example, you could ungate a feature for the free version of your product for a certain amount of time. After that time period is up, that feature could be removed unless you upgrade to becoming a paying customer. While you certainly have to be careful how you play to this psychological need, loss aversion is a very important concept for every marketer to know.

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  • Writer's pictureJürgen Teichert

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

Do you use hashtags on your LinkedIn posts? Should you?

Over the last week, we polled our audience on LinkedIn to get their perspective on whether they’ve added hashtags into their LinkedIn approach, and the overwhelming majority now have, according to the over 3,000 people that took part.

But still, 15% have not – so the question is should you bother using hashtags on your LinkedIn posts, and are hashtags actually helping to improve your content performance?

As a quick refresh, LinkedIn actually supported hashtags back in 2013, before deactivating them for several years due to lack of usage, the re-instating support again in 2016. Given the platform’s own shifts on such, it makes sense that questions remain as to whether people should or shouldn’t use them, but over the last couple of years, in particular, LinkedIn’s worked to put more emphasis on hashtags as a connective tool, in helping to show users more relevant content, and helping brands link-into niche interests.

For example, users can now manage their followed hashtags as a means to control their news feed, while company pages can also attach themselves to certain tags via the ‘Community Hashtags’ feature, which then enables you to post as your brand in related discussions.

We actually spoke with LinkedIn about hashtag use on the platform last year, and they recommended these key practices:

  • Use them correctly - Be sure to include the # sign before any keyword or phrase. Avoid any spaces, punctuation, special symbols or emojis

  • Don’t overdo it - We recommend using no more than three hashtags per post, and leveraging both broad and niche hashtags for increased exposure

  • Do your research - Before including a hashtag, type it into the LinkedIn search bar to make sure it has strong usage in order to connect you to the most relevant audiences.

  • Go niche - Try going as specific as possible for increased exposure (#TED2021 vs. #marketing)

So we have some insight here into optimal hashtag use on LinkedIn, direct from LinkedIn itself, as well as some helpful tips on how to find the right tags for your posts.

But do they actually help?

It’s hard to say. In our experience, posting to the SMT page, we haven’t seen a significant boost in traffic from LinkedIn as a result of using hashtags. We add two hashtags to every post, and in comparing our referral traffic numbers, the results are relatively steady over the past two years, if not lower last year than previous, while we’ve been adding tags.

Of course, it also depends on your focus – we’re generally focused on referral traffic, and we measure that over in-app performance, so it’s possible that while we may not be driving a heap more clicks, we could be generating more discussion on LinkedIn as a result of linking into certain tags. Certainly, our LinkedIn follower count has increased over time, and that can have its own benefits. But results will vary, and the only way to know for sure what the best hashtag approach is for your audience is to take baseline performance measurements, then test for 3-6 months, or more, to see if any changes you make impact those numbers.

If you’re looking for further LinkedIn hashtag insight, you can test out the tags that LinkedIn recommends below each of your posts in the composer, while you can also search for hashtags in the app to glean more insight into how many followers each has and other, related tags.

LinkedIn also recommends following LinkedIn Editor Dan Roth’s Creator Weekly newsletter, in which he regularly shares trending topics on the platform, which could highlight new hashtag opportunities.

The consensus, based on our poll, would suggest that you should be using hashtags, but our recommendation is to conduct a more conclusive test of your own to measure their effectiveness. And maybe, as the new year is shifting into gear, now is the right time to try them out and see what results you get.

Need help with your LinkedIn Strategies?

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  • Writer's pictureArmin Wieland

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

The phrase “marketing plan” can mean many things, from your social media/ad campaign schedule to your lead nurture pipeline to your overall strategic goals. Ideally, you’ll bring all these tactics together in a cohesive strategy. And this will become your capital-letter Marketing Plan!

This can be a daunting task, especially if you want to grow or scale up your (or your client’s) business. It’s always better to plan first, take action second! Especially if you want to optimize your budget, as you likely do.

With that said, let’s explore the core elements of a strong marketing plan — step by step.

What is a Marketing Plan, and What Does It Include?

No two marketing plans are alike. Depending on your industry, business model, and target audience, you’ll have your own mix of channels, goals, and brand alignment tactics. However, most marketing plans have 9 key sections that will guide your strategy.

Your Business’s Marketing Goals

What’s the point of planning if not to meet (and surpass!) your goals? The foundation of your marketing plan comprises your business’s main initiatives — at least with regard to marketing.

Determine what you’d like to achieve in terms of brand-building. Is it paid advertising, social media growth, website visitors? And so on. The SMART framework can help you structure these goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

For example, “Get more followers on our business’s Twitter page” is not a well-defined goal. The SMART version might read: “Get 1,000 more Twitter followers by the end of Q2 2022.” You would then measure your follower growth at regular intervals until that deadline.

Don’t forget to declare the benefits of achieving this goal. This is where “relevant” comes in. Is your Twitter goal going to help you drive more web traffic? Establish your brand authority? Context is everything!

Target Customers

There are many ways to describe your target audience. As marketing is ultimately about connecting with potential customers, this is the bread-and-butter of your marketing strategy. No matter your industry or business model, you absolutely must know your audience before you try to reach them.

Many companies create a buyer “persona.” This is a hypothetical construct that describes your ideal customer. If your target audience comprises several distinct segments, you can create a unique persona for each one. The persona may include any of the following, depending on your industry and offering:

What is included?

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Geographic Location

  • Education

  • Profession/Industry

  • Favorite Hobbies and Social Activities

  • Worldview/Religious, Philosophical, or Political Views

  • Preferred Media, Social Channels, and Information Sources

  • Core Desires/Pain Points/Aspirations

As we’ll discuss in a moment, it’s especially important to know the last two. There’s no benefit in marketing your acne cream to those who don’t have acne or setting up a Facebook page if most of your audience is on TikTok or Snapchat.

Another model is the Ideal Customer Avatar aka Ideal Client Avatar (ICA), which is often used by service-based businesses. As the name suggests, this model describes the ideal person you’d like to reach — someone who is especially likely to seek and book your services. The ICA is often more easily defined after you’ve been in business for a while. That way, you can profile your most frequent customers.

Either way, when describing your target audience, it’s important to align them with your business’s overall market position. You likely defined this in your overall business plan. If not, or if you need to create a marketing plan for a client, consider which needs or wants the business fulfills. Then, reverse-engineer those desires into your persona.

All personas/avatars should meet these two qualifications:

(A) their primary goals, desires, and pain points could be solved by your business’s offering

(B) their interests, location, age, economic status, and social behavior put them in a position where they can encounter your business

For example, you can target health-conscious Gen Z college students all you want, but they likely aren’t willing or able to buy your home gym equipment. It isn’t worth your while to figure out how to market to them.

On the flip side, be sure that you’re aligning your persona with your market position. You may think that middle-aged homeowners earning six figures are your ICA, but actually, your offering better suits millennial renters who need fitness equipment that doesn’t require modifying the house.

Marketing Plan Example: ICA and Persona Marketing Templates

Here’s a handy grid for mapping out your ideal client/customer avatar.

And here’s a marketing plan template for your target persona:

Competitor Analysis

It’s not business without competition. There will always be other companies clamoring for the same target customers that you’re seeking. The good news is, there are several ways to make your brand distinctive — and they all start with understanding your competitors top-to-bottom.

You likely defined your competitors in your business plan, but they’re worth another look specifically for your marketing strategy. Someone who may seem like a hot competitor on paper may have a weak social media presence — which would allow you to gain dominance in that regard. By the same token, a company with lackluster products may still claim the lion’s share if they can beat you in advertising. (For example, many retailers face a constant battle with a certain river-themed eCommerce site.)

When evaluating your competitors, make note of their successes, drawbacks, and limitations. Look for gaps you can fill or audience segments/marketing channels where you can gain an advantage. Here are some questions to ask about each competitor:

  • What’s their website/digital presence like, in terms of style, engagement, and activity level?

  • How does their ideal audience differ from mine? (e.g., their ICA is a working mom, while your target audience includes all moms)

  • Are they relying on outbound tactics (e.g., paid ads, cold messaging, PR) or inbound tactics (e.g., social videos, lead magnets, viral campaigns)?

  • Who seems to be interacting with their social media, and how do those people compare to my ICA?

Take notes on any confusing or underdeveloped aspects of their brand presence, especially if those would be annoying to your shared ICA. By fulfilling your target audience’s needs, you can position yourself as a more compelling brand. For example, your competitor may also be targeting eco-minded beauty fans — but none of their makeup product pages list the ingredients. If you do so, you’ll immediately align your website with your ICA’s prevailing concerns about that.


Marketing Plan Example: Competitor Analysis

Here’s a handy table to evaluate your competitor’s advantages and drawbacks.

SWOT Analysis

Your SWOT analysis is an honest look at your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Again, you likely did this in your business plan, but let’s revisit SWOT for marketing (or on behalf of your client).

Once you’ve analyzed your competitors (which are part of your threats), you should have a good idea of how your business’s strengths can put you at an advantage. Codify those strengths in terms of your marketing presence. Will you be able to produce high-value social content? Run affordable ads on low-competition keywords? Identifying these strengths will help you prioritize your marketing strategies.

Be honest about your weaknesses as well. Is your marketing budget too tight to invest in paid advertising? If so, consider how your strengths could help tweak your strategy (e.g., you have good customer data that you can use for retargeting campaigns). Is your brand identity a bit muddled? If so, how can you clarify your value and purpose to your audience?

Opportunities may include digital channels that you could dominate for your target audience and new technology that will make your campaigns more efficient. You should also consider whether certain channels or tactics are giving you a good ROI. If not, these could also be “threats” to your marketing success.

Marketing Plan Example: SWOT

Here’s a handy table to help identify your business’s or client’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Market Strategy

Once you’ve assessed your target audience, competitors, ideal channels, and positioning, it’s time to put it all together. The market strategy portion of your marketing plan guides your overall campaigns and tactics. It typically includes the “seven Ps of marketing,” which are:

Product: This is probably self-explanatory. Your “Product” is, of course, the core offering that you’re putting before your target audience. It should provide a solution to their most pressing desires and pain points.

Price: When setting your price point, consider how it aligns with your ICA’s preferences. Will they accept the cost for the value they receive? How do you present your offering’s value and price, and how does that compare to your competitors?

Place: When you created your personas, you should have identified where your ideal customers spend time, both physically and virtually. Which channels will help you get your product in front of them? Moreover, where are they most likely to buy? For example, your audience may be active on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean they’re amenable to shopping there. That’s why it’s crucial to understand each persona’s buying journey — especially if you’re implementing an omnichannel marketing strategy.

Positioning: Product, Price, and Place all feed into your market position, i.e., the specific niche you serve and the gaps you fill. The Positioning part of your market strategy defines the nexus of your offering, appeal, and overall value. It is crucial for distinguishing yourself from your competitors.

Promotion: “Promotion” describes how you get your product in front of your target audience. Are you focused on “interruptive” advertising, such as paid ads and sponsored content? Do you use salespeople or influencers? Again, these decisions entirely depend on your ideal customers, where they spend time, and how they make purchasing decisions.

People: You’ve spent a lot of time studying your potential customers. Now, shift the focus to your team. Who will perform the tasks in your marketing strategy? What are their proficiencies? How can they best fulfill their role? Too many business owners forget about this, and before long, they find their campaigns struggling because they didn’t procure the right designers, copywriters, sales reps, etc.

Packaging/Physical Evidence: You can say all you want about your brand, but if your presentation doesn’t jibe with your target audience, you’ll struggle to reach them. As the saying goes, an image is worth a thousand words. Your overall visual branding (product packaging, digital aesthetic, store design, etc.) plays a huge role in your marketing’s success. It creates recognizability, which, in turn, breeds trust and loyalty among your customers.

Helping Your Clients Create A Marketing Plan For Bigger Growth

When a client books your agency to help with marketing, they usually haven’t gone through all the steps above. Often, they’ve focused on their go-to-market plan rather than their marketing plan! Guiding them through the process can help them clarify their goals and identify new opportunities.

That said, don’t expect them to know all the marketing lingo and techniques. Instead, gather details about their target audience, ideal customers or clients, competitors, and goals. Having a conversation can be more illuminating than giving them a chart to fill out.

To reveal their strengths and weaknesses, ask some strategic questions:

  • Are there any sales tactics or marketing channels you feel aren’t delivering results?

  • Where are you spending the most money, and what is your return from that?

  • What questions and concerns do you hear most from your audience?

  • What aspects of your business do you feel people don’t understand?

  • Are there certain marketing or sales tasks that take up too much time?

Help your clients understand that the marketing plan is their roadmap to landing their best customers. Many business owners confuse marketing with development. While it supports their operations and sales, marketing is ultimately about building a strong brand — one that speaks to and attracts their ideal audience. A good marketing plan focuses on how to forge and sustain those connections.

Leverage the Power of Marketing Automation

Whether you’re developing a marketing plan for yourself or a client, you probably want to trim expenses as much as possible. Thanks to the rise of digital marketing, many effective tactics are much more affordable. However, marketing still requires a lot of time — and that can prevent your team from focusing on the strategy at hand!

Automation frees up your schedule and ensures accuracy. As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t require a human touch, let the bots do it. New marketing automation tools can handle everything from email drip sequences to social posting. This saves many hours and reduces the likelihood of errors and lost leads.

Plus, marketing automation reduces your overall campaign spending, which boosts your ROI and allows you to scale up your efforts. If you have backburnered your digital marketing due to budget concerns, look into automation as a way to run sustainable campaigns.

This benefit is something you can pass on to your clients, if applicable. Not only can you handle a higher campaign load but also deliver better results for clients. Check out our client plan for marketing automation to start leveraging this technology for your agency.

Wrapping Up

A marketing plan may seem like a lot of work — and honestly, it can be. However, it’s well worth your efforts so you can clarify your business’s or client’s value and effectively present it to your ideal audience. Plus, it can help you identify opportunities to refine your niche, avoid wasteful tactics, and close market gaps … all of which empower you to boost profitability for yourself or your client.

Want to see how V5 Digital can help your business grow?

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