This article will help you make more sales, grow your business, and earn more money.
Every business transaction has pain points throughout the process. There is a constant trade off for customers to pull money out of their wallet and exchange it for a good or service.
What happens when pain is too high? People leave, stop, quit, or cancel. Not good for business.
But if you understand how pain works and how to deal with it in the appropriate way, then some very good things can happen.
You can improve your conversion rate and earn more money from the same amount of visitors.
You can make sales faster and with less hassle, allowing you to get more customers in the same amount of time.
You can even get more referrals because customers will remember their transaction in a positive light … perhaps even more positive than it actually was in reality.
Does that sound good? If so, read on.
The Psychology of Pain Points (And How to Fix Them)
Let me ask you a question: What’s the best way to pull off a bandaid?
Some people rip it off very fast. Lots of pain, but only for a very short time.
Others take it slow. The pain is less intense, but it lasts for much longer.
Is there a right way to do this? As it turns out, there is. And it has some important ramifications for business as well.
Let me explain…
When Dan Ariely was a teenager, he suffered extreme third degree burns on over 70% of his body. Each day nurses would spend hours changing the bandages. The nurses took the quick pull, high intensity approach.
Years later, Ariely would become one of the top behavioral psychologists in the world and started researching how we deal with pain. He shocked, poked, and prodded people to find out how much pain the average person would take and, more importantly, how they dealt with it psychologically (all in the name of research, of course).
Here are a few key takeaways from his research…
You should start with the most painful experience and move towards less painful ones. For example, when the nurses changed his burn bandages, they should have started at his head (which hurt the most) and finished at his feet.
You should give the visitor, patient, or customer breaks in between painful experiences. Imagine two patients waiting in the lobby of the doctor’s office. One waits for 30 minutes. The second waits for 15, gets a free candy bar from the nurse, and then waits for 15 more minutes. Which one do you think will remember their wait more positively? Breaking up the annoying experience of waiting with a positive one makes it much less painful.
How Customers Remember Painful Experiences
Perhaps most importantly, Ariely found that intense spikes of pain should be avoided … even if it means pain for a longer duration. It’s best to build up and taper down from difficult or annoying experiences.
This discovery plays an especially important role in how customers remember their experience with you.
As it turns out, the way we remember experiences isn’t the same as the way they actually are. It seems that we remember experiences as less painful or annoying if they gradually build up and taper down than if they are short and intense. This remains true even if the peak of the gradual build up is more painful than the short, intense burst.
In other words, a pain that builds up to 8 out of 10 and then tapers back down will be remembered as less painful overall than a short burst that jumps from zero to a 6 out of 10 on the pain scale.
Here’s what all of this means for you:
If you want more customers to refer your business, then you want them to remember it as being the least painful experience possible. To do that, you need to limit the short, intense, and painful surprises that they receive.
You can do this in many ways, but one of the simplest ways is by setting expectations.
For example, if you go to a restaurant and ask for extra chicken, then they usually tell you “that will be an additional charge.” This isn’t by accident. Hearing that phrase is a little painful, but it sets your expectation for the coming pain, so that it’s not as intense when you see the charge on your bill.
For comparison, recall a time you saw an unexpected charge on your bill. Painful and annoying wasn’t it? They might not enjoy it, but your customers will remember experiences as less painful if you prepare them for annoyances and difficulties.
The Two Types of Painful Experiences and How They Differ
Building on the above ideas, I would like to add a thought here that could change your approach for business…
There are two kinds of painful experiences: those that happen to us and those that we put ourselves through.
For many businesses, the customer has to put themselves through the pain by signing up to the email list or waiting in line at the store or entering their credit card information to complete the purchase. And at any point in that process, they can choose to avoid those annoying things and leave.
When a painful or annoying experience is happening to us — like getting a cavity filled by the dentist — everything we have already discussed holds true.
However, when the customer is putting themselves through a painful or annoying experience — like waiting in a long line at the grocery store — then a different approach might be necessary.
In Robert Cialdini’s landmark book on psychology and persuasion he discusses the impact that commitment has on our actions. As it turns out, we are wired to remain committed to things that we have already put forth some effort on. Even if it’s just a little step in the right direction, it can make a big difference.
Here’s What That Means for Business…
If there is a process where people have to do something on their own, you should structure your process so that it’s very easy for them to take one step towards completion. Make it as easy as possible for them to commit. Then, you can ask them to do the difficult or annoying part.
For example, let’s say that you’re grocery shopping and there is a really long line at the checkout. You’ll probably take one look and think, “Ugh. Well, I have to wait. I already did all of my shopping.”
In other words, each time you put something in your cart, you became a little bit more committed. By the time you got to the line, you were dedicated to finishing your grocery trip, no matter how painful waiting in that long line would be.
The opposite effect happens when you go to the Post Office to buy some stamps. If there is a long line, you’ll realize that you’ve haven’t really invested much at this point and you’ll probably just leave.
In other words, if you know there will be a painful part of the process for your customers, make sure they are committed to finishing it or they will just quit.
This is why apartment complexes ask people to put down $50 to reserve your spot and give you the chance to buy the apartment when the old tenants move out. When you think about this from the customer’s perspective, this seems insane: you’re paying the apartment complex money, so that you can pay them money. However, it works really well because paying $50 is much less painful than paying $1000/month. But once you’ve paid $50, you’re strongly committed to paying $1000/month. The apartment complex is making it easy to commit and once you have done so, it’s tough to back out.
This strategy can work in almost any business. For example, you could ask people to pay a small fee to get on the private waitlist for your next product or service.
Offering consulting? Pay $25 to get on the waitlist for when you start taking new clients again.
Launching a new product? Pay $10 to be the first one to receive a copy.
In fact, I would suggest doing this even if you don’t have a waitlist right now. In other words, instead of trying to find your next $500 freelance job, spend your time finding someone who will pay $15 to get on your waitlist. Then, contact them in a week and tell them you have a spot opening up. They will be much more likely to shell out $500 after paying $15 to get on the waitlist.
Small commitments mean we are more likely to put ourselves through painful experiences. Get your customers invested in the process before asking them to do something difficult, annoying, or expensive.
What You Should Do Now
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