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What Your Customer Messages Miss (And How to Fix Them)

What Your Customer Messages Miss (And How to Fix Them)

By Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing

This blog post is part of the INBOUND Speaker Insights series: where industry leaders share their expertise, actionable tips, and innovative strategies for success in sales, marketing, leadership, and more.

Do you make these marketing mistakes?

  • Your message includes everything you want prospects to know about you
  • You stick to the facts, providing a logical argument to act now
  • You focus on why people should choose you, versus why they do not

If you follow these practices, you’re not alone. But you may be surprised to hear them referred to as mistakes. And at face value, they’re not bad practices.

However, they overlook a key driver of human behavior: People often don’t make logical, well-thought-out decisions. Instead, they rely on decision-making shortcuts—automatic, reflexive, hardwired behaviors that help them navigate life while exerting as little mental energy as possible.

As a result, they frequently make decisions imperfectly. Rather than weighing the appropriate information in rational ways, they are influenced by factors they’re not consciously aware of.

They’re less concerned with what you want them to know, and instead gravitate to what they want to hear. They prioritize feelings over facts. And they fail to choose you not because your product or service isn’t good, but because the path of least resistance leads them elsewhere.

But there’s good news for marketers. Once you discover the decision-making shortcuts people rely on, you can use them to prompt the actions you seek.

To trigger these hardwired behaviors, marketers must demonstrate a deeper understanding of their customers. You need to get out of your own head and into theirs, thinking about their needs, their situations, and most importantly, their decision-making shortcuts.

Fortunately, behavioral science offers numerous tactics to trigger those shortcuts. I cover 25 of them in my book, Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, Drive Customer Action and Loyalty By Prompting Instinctive Responses.

The following are merely a few that, properly applied, automatically increase the likelihood people engage with and respond to your marketing messages. By working with the human brain, you make it easier for people to absorb and respond to your content.


Behavioral scientists have proven that people make decisions for emotional reasons, and then later justify those decisions with rational reasons. That means the most effective marketing messages contain both emotional and rational selling points.

HubSpot research shows that emotion-driven subject lines get 47% higher open rates. Even The B2B Institute finds strategies that appeal to emotion are 7 times more effective at driving sales, profits, and revenue. This means that whatever you are marketing—including boring, practical, and professional products—benefits from adding emotion to your content.


People will judge the likelihood of an event happening based on how easily they recall a similar occurrence. If people readily recall a relevant example, they believe it’s more likely to happen again. That’s why sales of flood insurance increase after a flood. It’s top-of-mind, and people think it will probably reoccur.

So, before you ask someone to buy, first get them to recall a time in the past when if they’d had your product, it would have come in handy. Or get them to imagine benefiting from it in the future. Set the stage for the need, and then provide the appropriate details.


Your customers and prospects have a deep-seated desire to exert some control over themselves and their environments. Behavioral scientists refer to this as Autonomy Bias. People don’t like to feel forced to do things. That’s why it’s smart for marketers to offer choices. By definition, choices mean you have control.

Research from Tulane University finds that having a second option nearly quadruples purchase intent. With one option, your prospects have no context or comparison. But with two options, the question goes from “Do I want this or not?” to “Which of these do I want?”

The above are just some of the human behavior triggers marketers can use to demonstrate a deeper, more empathetic understanding of their customers. The key is to use what science has proven about human behavior to influence it.

Nancy Harhut is the Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing, where she blends best practices with behavioral science to increase results for her clients’ campaigns. She is also the author of the award-winning book, “Using Behavioral Science in Marketing.” Contact her at

Nancy Harhut

Nancy Harhut

Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing.

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