The brain is the most powerful instrument there is. Modern marketing is trying to catch up on how the mind works luckily we can now understand a bit more on how to make the most out of mental momentum.

Expressions like “the first step is the hardest” or “In for a penny, in for a pound” become popular sayings for a reason. They are known to be true and more interestingly, describe a state of mind.

Keep on reading. In this article I will share some practical examples of how you can harness the mental momentum in email marketing. And how this persuasion technique can improve list growth and at the same time increase order value.

What is the mental momentum?

First a bit of marketing psychology. We are all hard-wired to stay consistent, that is why there is a strong urge to be consistent in everything we do in life. Psychologists call consistency a “decision heuristic”, a shortcut for making decisions.

Once we make a decision or perform an action, we are prone to stick by it and very likely to make all future behaviour match this first step. Life is just too complex (and too short!) to weigh every aspect in every possible circumstance and situation. So mental shortcuts help us to quickly make reasonable or even good decisions.

The steps in this process are much like Newton’s cradle, once the initial step is taken, the following steps become much easier, provided there isn’t anything in the way. You might recognize something from a previous post I wrote about the power of micro-yesses. This rule of consistency is also why changing behaviour or even changing your mind is much harder than staying consistent. But how does it apply to your marketing?

The mental momentum; action mode.

The first form of mental momentum is what we call “action mode”. It is often hard for prospects to take the first step, but once they are in the process of doing something… they are building up mental momentum. This is an important point to be aware of if you are optimizing processes.

Think about the last time you bought something online, may it be a t-shirt or a holiday, maybe even a service. Once you are going through the check out, chances are they ask you to consider an add-on, show an additional recommended product or ask you to do something else.

They ask for that “bonus action”, not just because they happen to sell those products, but they ask you at that moment, because it works. Purchases are even a big step, but for instance a Facebook like, registration for an email newsletter or answering a small question regarding your preferences are small steps that are easier taken while in action mode.

But this is where many brands go wrong. For instance a registration thank you page only stating “thank you”, or even worse; prominently featuring an unsubscribe instruction and link to the privacy policy for instance. What? Why? That will bring the momentum to a full stop.

Astley Clarke makes great use of the registration flow, by asking three pieces of crucial information after first regestering: Marketing preferences, Interests and Favorite designers.

Tips for a great foot-in-the-door

We want to know how to get people in action mode and use that mental momentum. The “foot-in-the-door” technique does work:
Ask a small request first, before asking big questions (trial, small question, poll, …)
Add extra possibilities for interaction (game, chat, comment, etc)
Make the first interaction seem very “logical” (I should do this, everybody does it, it is normal)
Make it seem very very easy. (approachable, low barrier, casual, simple)

Painting a perceived environment
Those last two points needs some clarification. Because for an psychological effect to work, it doesn’t have to BE logical, easy or even true, it just has to seem that way to the user. The effect works because of perceived environment; how we see and experience our reality. Not the actual reality. That is why sometimes you just need to state the obvious. For instance try to change your button from “sign up” to “sign up now” or “Sign up in seconds”. Ah…. the beauty of the mind.

Another form of mental momentum is setting the stage for future interaction, i’ll give an example.

Getting new subscribers with the right mind-set

List growth is one of the major themes in email marketing. Incentives, awards, premiums, gifts, contest and other motivators can all increase the number of sign-ups. But time and again it shows that the type of incentive you provide, influences future conversions.

If prospects signed up because they wanted the gift and it is unrelated to your product, they will not be as likely to buy later on. In other words: Giving the wrong incentive prevents them from taking that first step towards your product, your offer, your conversion.

On the other hand, if you offer an incentive that is very closely related to your product or service, mental momentum is building. Around that time they are starting to think: “This is something that someone like me is interested in, something someone like me would use or buy” or “This is a topic I like”, “It was a good experience”.

The reason for signing up or registering does matter: Even if it is the exact same person that is signing up. Using different sign up mechanisms means different results down the line.

In building trust and relationships, previous momentum can be activated:

Remember customers of their previous behaviour (recently viewed items, etc.).
Emphasize the existing relations (recently bought, VIP client, etc).

How to harness the mental momentum

By now you are probably thinking, that is great stuff, but how can I use this in my own situation? There are probably a lot of quick wins to be had. Well it is all in the wrist, practice thinking about processes and interactions and before long all your campaigns will be action oriented.

Have a look at all the customer touchpoints and especially in processes like registration, subscription, lead generation and sales conversions. For every interaction consider the current state of commitments, for instance by asking:
Do I need to create a commitment to sell this?
Where is my immediate momentum / action mode slowed down?
Which previous commitment can I leverage to make conversion more simple?
What would the perceived level of commitment be?