One key ingredient in becoming a great marketer is understanding how and why people think and act the way they do. Creating compelling content marketing is much more challenging if you don't know why it would be apparent to your audience in the first place.

It's helpful to understand how people operate, which is what the entire field of psychology attempts to explain. But, of course, psychology isn't going to give you mind tricks. Still, it will allow you to get your message in front of the right audience and recognize the relative cognitive biases – to get people to engage with your content and buy your products. All you need is an understanding of how the human brain works.

What Are Cognitive Biases?

A cognitive bias is an innate flaw in reasoning. What's helpful about cognitive biases is that they are something we all share. We are all susceptible to them, and that's what makes them practical for marketing.

What's especially interesting about cognitive biases is that they can work on us even if we understand and guard against them. Of course, it is possible to avoid them, but it takes work and a real commitment to seek out alternate points of view.

There's a field of marketing known as neuromarketing designed to use psychology to "program" buyers' brains. Please keep reading to learn about some cognitive biases that can be useful in marketing and tips on using them to grow your audience.

The Bandwagon Effect 

The Bandwagon Effect has historical roots. Initially, the bandwagon was a parade float where a band played, and spectators would be encouraged to jump. The implication was that the people on the bandwagon had more fun than those on the sidelines.

Over time, the term became useful to describe the behavior of voters in the waning days of a political campaign, when people who were on the fence decided to vote for the person who seemed likely to win. A similar thing happens when a professional sports team is on the road to a championship, and suddenly, people who never cared about them become avid fans.

You can harness the bandwagon effect by highlighting the popularity of your company or its products and services. Some ways to do that include touting the number of people who have visited your site, the number of downloads, or using a slide-in that announces each sale you make. That last one is often used on landing pages and is highly effective.

The Reciprocity Bias  

We have all experienced reciprocity bias. It's what happens at the holidays when someone gives you a gift, and even if you've never exchanged gifts with the person in question, you need to give them something in return. When someone gives you something, you want to give back.

In marketing, there are many ways to trigger the reciprocity bias. One popular method is to create a lead magnet that you give away for free in return for a visitor's email address.

Another way to use reciprocity to build your audience is to give away a free sample of your product. Pieces are inexpensive and don't cost much to provide, but they trigger a desire in the recipient to make up for the fact that you gave them something for free. Of course, the easiest way for them to do that is to buy your product. You can use this bias with services as well. For example, many online software providers give away a free trial to get people to buy a subscription.

The Scarcity Effect

The scarcity effect is something people talk about every day. You've heard of FOMO! It's the Fear Of Missing Out and one of the most potent cognitive biases to use in marketing.

When people know something isn't going to be around for long or are available in limited numbers, they are more likely to buy it than if they believed there was an unlimited supply. We have all done it. Even when there's something we might not love, we start to wonder whether we'll want it in the future and imagine how sad we'll be that we didn't take the opportunity to get it when we could.

You can use scarcity in your marketing in a variety of ways. For example, a limited-time offer is a great way to introduce a sense of urgency to a deal. The same is true of a limited edition product. Many sales pages mention that the price offered won't be available forever, and some even display a countdown clock.

The Frequency Illusion 

The frequency illusion is sometimes referred to as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It refers to a cognitive bias that makes us believe that a thing is frequently occurring simply because we notice it. A good example is when you learn a new word, and suddenly it seems to be everywhere. The term isn't being used more frequently than it was before. All that's changed is that you now notice it.

One of the best ways to use the frequency illusion in marketing is with retargeting. Brand recognition is all about repetition. When someone visits your website, you can target them with ads on Facebook or Google. Each time they see your company name, it creates a frequency illusion, and suddenly your brand is everywhere. The more familiar your brand is, the more likely people will choose you over your competitors.

Loss Aversion 

Have you ever felt not want to give something up even when it no longer serves you? That's a cognitive bias known as loss aversion, and it's something that affects us all. It's closely related to the sunk costs fallacy, which encourages us to keep putting money into something even when it hasn't delivered the expected returns.

Loss aversion can be used in marketing by offering something free at the end of a webinar. Even when people might want to leave the webinar, they have already received the freebie you're offering – at least in their minds. They don't want to give it up, so they keep watching.

Rewards programs can work the same way. They encourage people to come back and buy from you repeatedly because they want the free product or reward they'll get at the end. Quizzes can also be an effective way to learn about your audience and trigger loss aversion.

The human brain is always fascinating and highly susceptible to Jedi mind tricks like the ones we've explained here. So if you want to attract more subscribers and customers, harnessing the power of cognitive biases is an excellent way to do it!