4 Human Behavior Hacks That Increase Engagement and Response

Posted by Rebecca Key


In today’s crowded competitive landscape, your customers are being bombarded with marketing messages every day. To stand out, you need more than a targeted list with a compelling offer. You need to tap into the decision-making shortcuts people use when they engage with your organizations.

Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at The Wilde Agency, is passionate about the impact that decision science can have on marketing. At The Financial Brand Forum 2017, Harhut gave a brilliant presentation about behavior hacks that can increase engagement and response to financial institution’s email and digital marketing efforts. Here are some of the top takeaways:

Why is “Engagement Hacking” So Essential?

With crowded inboxes and surging unsubscribes, Harhut’s research confirmed that email engagement is growing increasingly difficult. There are over 27 million pieces of content being created each day yet users are only spending 10 seconds on a page. Additionally, our attention spans getting shorter, with the average human attention span clocking in at 8 seconds — one second less than a goldfish’s. As the space gets louder and more crowded, smart marketers are leveraging “engagement hacking” in order to cut through the noise.

Empower Your Buyer with Decision-Making Shortcuts

Research shows that 95% of decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. That means much of what we do is done on autopilot or, as Daniel Kahneman puts it in Thinking Fast and Slow, ”The brain will take any shortcut it can.” These “engagement hacks” allow you to tap into those psychological behaviors to get your target to open, read and respond to your digital marketing efforts:

1. Availability Bias

Availability Bias refers to the fact that people are more likely to act on something if they can recall it easily. When it comes to your digital marketing, use visual support and copy that allows your target to picture themselves benefitting from your services or product: “This could be you!” with information about a loan offer that would help them purchase a house. Stir people’s imaginations by providing clear examples of what they could do if they partnered with your organization.

2. Social Proof

Science shows that when we are uncertain of what to do, we look to others and follow their lead — especially people that are similar to us. Facebook does a great job of tapping into this by showing you which of your friends like a brand or are going to an event. For your customers, this often means relying on peer reviews and word-of-mouth in order to make a decision. In your marketing, draw on the power of social proof by sending your target offers with your institution’s “most popular products” or information about what their peers are purchasing.

3. Scarcity and Urgency

Scarcity refers to the idea that people place a higher value on an object that is limited and a lower value on those that are abundant. For example, when promoting a webinar or event, you’ll often find marketing copy that says, “Hurry, there are only a few spots left!” or “Sign up today — space is limited!” For financial marketers, the best way to inspire a response is to communicate urgency and exclusivity. This approach triggers your target’s sense of scarcity, making users more likely to click the “register” button or engage with your call-to-action.

4. Commitment and Consistency

Research shows that people tend to prioritize consistency with their previous behavior and they like to be rewarded for their loyalty. Using language like “Thanks for your ongoing support” to remind them of their relationship with your financial institution will reinforce a pattern of behavior. You can also use this principle to offer a free trial or a low-price offer to establish the relationship and get your foot in the door — then escalate your ask later on, once you’ve established a rapport with the customer.

Although they may seem like small adjustments, making these changes to your marketing communications has been proven to increase their effectiveness. These psychological, automatic responses will ultimately determine how people engage with and respond to your digital marketing efforts. To learn more about decision science and its impact on marketing, you can follow Harhut and read more of her work here.


Topics: Sales & Marketing, Customer Experience