You strive to transform your customers — to solve a problem or enhance their life in some important way.
But how exactly do you change their behavior? You can’t transform customers in one giant leap. People change their behavior in small steps. So what do you need to do to help them take these small steps?
And more importantly, is there a framework that you could use to make decisions about what to say and how to say it in your online marketing?
What are the principles behind behavior change?
BJ Fogg at Stanford University developed a useful model to evaluate what causes behavior change. It’s power lies in its simplicity.
My Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.
As you create the material to help buyers move forward on their journey, this model can help you identify what stops people from performing the behavior that you seek.
Motivation is the hardest to change
Fogg identifies three Core Motivators: Sensation, Anticipation, and Social Cohesion. These universal motivators apply to everyone. Each has two sides:
- Sensation – pleasure and pain
- Anticipation – hope and fear
- Social Cohesion – acceptance and rejection
Of the three elements in the Behavior Model, Motivation is the hardest for the marketer or the designer to change. Yes, you can use education to change a person’s motivation, but it takes time and effort. You have more control over changes to Ability and Triggers.
Ability — make the behavior simpler to do
Since it’s harder to move the needle on your buyer’s Motivation, let’s turn to Ability. In order for the buyer to perform the behavior you are asking, the person must be able to do so.
Here’s where you are likely to get tripped up. You are likely to overestimate your buyer’s ability. Of course, you can train your buyers. But that’s hard work. And people are lazy about learning something new. That’s just how we are.
Instead, make the behavior as simple as possible to perform. For example, instead of asking for lots of information on a form, just ask for their email address.
Fogg points out that “simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment.” He divides ability into six dimensions. Any one of these could be the scarcest resource at the moment for a particular person.
- Physical effort
- Brain cycles
- Social deviance – It’s harder for a person to do something when they are asked to behave differently from their peers.
- Non-routine – We like our routines. It’s easier to stick with a known routine than to make a change, even if that change will save effort in the long term.
In this video Fogg explains more about simplicity and behavior change:
Triggers prompt a person to take an action
Triggers are the third element in Fogg’s Behavior Model. A trigger (or prompt or cue or call-to-action) is simply an event that stimulates a person to behave in the way they associate with the trigger. It could be the firing of a starting gun that stimulates runners to begin their race. Or it could be when I pass through the kitchen and am reminded of the treats in the cookie jar.
Fogg identifies three types of triggers: Facilitator, Signal, and Spark whose usefulness is a function of the ability and motivation of the person.
Where do you start?
The next time you develop a component of your online marketing strategy, look at what you are asking your buyers to do. What do you think their motivation is? Do they have the ability to behave in the way you are asking them? Could you make it simpler to accomplish? Are you using the right trigger?
The Fogg Behavior Model will improve your effectiveness in online marketing. It encourages you to ask people to do simple things. And simplicity changes behavior.