These 3 behavioural biases will help you supercharge your marketing to contractors.

These 3 behavioural biases will help you supercharge your marketing to contractors.

As individuals, we think that we’re rational beings. The reality, however, is that our actions are far less logical and well-reasoned than we think. We’re all human and subject to countless cognitive biases. The good news is that the same is true for everyone else!

Consumer behaviour is shaped by the same cognitive biases that most people share. This blog describes 3 of the biases that, if harnessed correctly, can improve your marketing to contractors or in fact any other group of consumers.

Social Proof

As you drive to the station you spot a huddle of pedestrians staring up transfixed at a tree. You crane your neck round to see the cause of the excitement. A stranded cat maybe? Or perhaps the tree is about to be felled? Before you find out, the lights change and you have to go.

Everyone is capable of being influenced by social proof, becoming interested in an event just because others are. It’s an established bias first noted in 1935 by Mouzafer Sherif, one of the founders of modern social psychology, and more recently applied to marketing by Robert Cialdini.

How to apply this effect?

State Popularity

Simply state the popularity of your services or products and back it up with testimonials from your clients. Or, mention how many satisfied customers you have. In 1955, McDonald’s displayed signs saying they had served 1 million burgers that year and continued to update this number in its advertising each year. By 1994 they were shouting about 99 billion!

Tailor The Claim

Stating your popularity works, but you can be more effective with just a little bit of extra effort. The best tactic is to state your brand’s popularity in a way that relates to your audience. As an example, when you market locally to, say, Mancunians – you can use a claim like ‘Manchester’s favourite’. And when you’re considering different advertising mediums like magazines or an online platform, you can do the same thing. Tailor your popularity boasts to the audience you’re reaching.

Don’t assume your scale is known

Many brands assume their popularity is known. The marketers are usually aware of their market share, but they wrongly assume that their customers are aware too. In a recent survey, over 1,000 UK consumers were asked what the most popular craft lager brand in the UK was. Do you know?  Only 24% answered correctly – that it’s Carling. Did you get it right? Don’t assume that people know you’re popular, tell them.

Be creative

Some companies might think that social proof will not fit their communication style, as they’re not market leaders. With a little bit of creativity this shouldn’t be a problem. You can reference your number of sales, talk about rapid growth or perhaps you can identify a small sub-category that you’re successful in and talk about that. Additionally, the brand that will put extra effort in to express their social proof message a little differently – with charm and a tasteful sense of humor, will enjoy even more success.

Ford Convertible Ad, 1953

Confirmation Bias

In 2015, a survey was carried out on over 1,000 UK voters. They were asked about their views on raising VAT by a penny to fund 10,000 extra nurses. The catch? Half the respondents were told that it was a Labour party policy and half that it was Tory.

When Labour supporters thought that the policy came from their own party, there was strong support with 14% in complete agreement. However, when they thought it was a Conservative policy, this number dropped to less than a quarter of the original level. This was true on the other side too. Tories were also 4 times more likely to agree completely when they thought it was a Conservative policy. It is clear that the policy is far less influential than the existing party affiliation.

How to make use of this bias?

When you’re marketing with a limited budget to potential customers, you should be more selective with the audience that you want to reach. Now we know that there will always be unconditional fans of your brand, as well as unconditional opponents of your brand. Both of these groups won’t be swayed much by your messaging. The fans will be your advocates, who are naturally interested in what you have to say and most likely already your loyal customers – you shouldn’t target them specifically. The opponents will be negatively biased against your brand and it will be extremely difficult to change their mind with any type of messaging. Success with this group very much comes at a cost. The smart way to go about your communication, is identifying the audience that might change their mind depending on the communication they receive.

In other words, split your audience into 3 groups:

  1. Those likely to buy regardless of communications
  2. Those unlikely to buy regardless of communications
  3. Those for whom communication might make a difference

Then target only group 3 using the full budget that you would normally have spent on your general audience.

The Curse of Knowledge

People immersed in the specifics of their business often fall victims to the curse of knowledge – the difficulty of imagining what it’s like not to know something they know.

As a result, the communication that should be designed to focus on the consumer often uses  language which isn’t understandable by them.. This includes specific acronyms or industry specific slang. Moreover, when weighing up what text content should be run in marketing communications, people tend to pore over the content, scrutinizing each element of it, applying their full attention for a considerable length of time to make sure it meets all their objectives. By doing this, they may lose sight of the bigger picture.

Consumer’s perspective

The consumer is busy with their everyday life and has a split second to glance over a banner, magazine ad, poster or social media post. Communications that don’t catch the attention in an instant is ignored.  This disconnect leads to ineffective communication and wasted marketing budget.

How to make use of this bias?

The challenge here is to put yourself in the shoes of a listener, not a maker. Marketers should force themselves to change the context of evaluation. If you evaluate the effectiveness of an ad in the environment like a marketing agency office, you are in the maker mode. Checking how it resonates with the public on the page of a magazine or as an online banner will give you a truer picture of how good the ad really is.

What do we do wrong?

Before you approach creating any type of marketing communication consider carefully which words, phrases and mental shortcuts might spoil the clarity of your message. Pay attention when you refer to specific industry knowledge assuming that the consumer will know what that means. The simpler the better.

Be careful with using acronyms. Everyone in the work environment tends to create them to simplify the everyday communication and they become part of a language. As the time passes these acronyms might make their way to your marketing communications and spoil them.

Think like a consumer, speak like a consumer.

Focus on what the consumer is saying. How they describe their problems and worries. How they talk about needed solutions. How they describe the way they feel about a product or service. Insights from listening to consumers can help you vastly improve the quality of your marketing communications and bring the right results. Finally, remember that your marketing message doesn’t have to be excessive in the points it covers, you don’t need to squeeze in all the features and benefits of your product or service in every social post or magazine ad. Instead, you can create a number of messages for each feature. This will focus your consumers’ attention on the right things, help with engaging them and it’ll be easier to highlight  the benefits that really matter.


There are many other behavioural biases that can be used in the context of marketing and communication. Make sure to do your own research and discover which one’s can be leveraged to support your marketing efforts and business goals.