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The psychology of marketing

A clever psychologist called Daniel Kahneman has a theory: when making decisions there are two systems in our mind. System one works subconsciously without us knowing it. Using intuition and beliefs about how the world works, it makes a rapid assessment then quickly settles on a course of action. In contrast, system two works consciously. Using deliberative reasoning and logic, it carefully evaluates the situation before reaching a conclusion.

In everyday life we rely mostly on system one, but occasionally system two is called in. This usually happens in complex scenarios or when the situation is new.

What does this mean for B2B marketers?
B2B purchase decisions are often complex and need to be justified. So when your target market is choosing between suppliers they’re likely to be using system two. Appeal to this – present a logical case for your product and make it easy for system two to assimilate this.

However, even if system two takes the reins, system one still puts forward impressions, feelings and a sense of what the ‘right’ answer is. This means even though system two believes itself to be in control, system one can be subtly guiding it. 

This has two further implications. Firstly, you can influence the case presented to system two using ‘cognitive biases’ – predictable errors. 
For example:

• People often assess new information using an anchoring reference point. Use early engagement in the buying process to ensure competitors fight on your battleground.

• People tend to give preferential treatment to those they see as ‘one of us’. Position yourself as an active citizen in your target market’s industry.

• People are more likely to prefer things they are familiar with. Be omnipresent in your target market’s environment.

Secondly, be careful when using research to guide your marketing activities. In B2B there is a tendency for research respondents to give an overly rational account of themselves. So, don’t take everything your customers
say at face value and be sure to use techniques that probe deeper.