Emotional Triggers That Drive Customer Action
Emotional Triggers That Drive Customer Action
Discover how emotional triggers can inspire customers to take action and achieve outstanding results. Learn the key emotional cues that motivate and influence consumer behavior
Glenn Burgess
Glenn Burgess

Glenn P Burgess Author, Speaker - UK's No1 Fintech & SaaS Marketing expert.

Emotional Triggers That Drive Customer Action

If your content hasn’t worked well before, you might have been trying to convince your audience with logic. Now, it’s time to focus on the emotional side of decision-making. You need to understand the emotional triggers to get better results.

Did you know that 95% of decisions are made in the subconscious mind?

We marketers often try to appeal to logical and conscious thinking. We use arguments and point out benefits, but this only affects 5% of decision-making.

This article is about the 95% of decisions made subconsciously. Learn the emotional triggers that can influence this subconscious decision-making.

The Goal of Marketing Content

Marketing content always has a goal. You create content to achieve a specific outcome, often to get your audience to take action.

You carefully design your content to persuade your audience to take that action. The action might be signing up for your email list or buying a product. Always create your content with a clear goal in mind. This way, you can optimise it to achieve that goal.

How Content Drives Audience Action

Our content is crafted to help our audience decide to take action, often by highlighting the features and benefits of a product. We educate our audience about the positive effects of doing something, which is straightforward: talk about the benefits, and people might act.

However, a study from Harvard Business Review shows that 95% of our decision-making is subconscious, driven by emotions and psychological factors rather than logic. Simply talking about benefits addresses only the 5% of conscious decision-making.

If you have logical arguments for taking action, great—use them. But if your content can trigger the unconscious mind and nudge it toward the desired action, you engage the other 95% of decision-making that logic alone can’t reach.

This post explores the psychological triggers that influence subconscious decision-making. The goal is to inspire action from your audience. I will present the most important mental triggers for marketing and share ideas on how to incorporate them into your content.

Why Harness Psychological Triggers?

Have you ever wondered why some products succeed over similar ones that offer the same benefits at a lower price? Often, it’s because one brand is better at using psychological triggers to bypass rational thinking. They appeal to our emotions, and we respond.

I remember how important it was for me in school to have certain clothes or shoes to avoid feeling like an outsider. There was no logical reason I needed that specific pair of Nikes; a cheaper pair would have worked just as well. But the sense of belonging and peer pressure made it worth the extra cost.

Mental triggers tap into human emotions, prompting irrational actions. Sometimes we want to avoid a feeling, like not wanting to feel left out without the right shoes. Other times, we want to create a feeling. In both cases, emotions and psychology drive the action, not logic.

In marketing, psychological triggers can set you apart in a crowded market. When competition is fierce, using these triggers can help you win. If you offer the same benefits as your competitors but marketing better triggers emotional decisions, you will outperform them. If winning with logic is tough, leveraging the factors responsible for 95% of decision-making can change the game.

Storytelling is a powerful tool in marketing for this reason. However, using emotional appeals without delivering on your promises can quickly damage your brand. You’ve probably seen emotional storytelling online that sells something it can’t deliver.

Shady marketers use emotional stories to make quick money, but where there’s money and powerful tools, fraud isn’t far behind. Avoid shady emotional tactics!

Key Mental Triggers in Marketing

For most of the following mental triggers, you’ll think, “Oh, yes, that makes sense” when you read about them. Some will instantly remind you of newsletters, sales emails, or product landing pages you’ve seen.

Once you learn about these triggers, you’ll start recognising them everywhere. You’ll see how they’re used to persuade you to buy or take action.

1. Emotional Triggers: Authority

Some people are natural leaders, exuding an aura of authority that others instinctively follow. However, even if leadership doesn’t come naturally to you, you can still build authority in your chosen niche or topic.

Your actions, the value you provide, and the community you build all contribute to your authority. You want others to see as an expert in your field, turning to you for advice & help.

Here are ways to build authority:

  • Share valuable tips and show expertise
  • Answer questions and give advice
  • Share praise from customers, clients, or social media followers
  • Tell stories that showcase your expertise and authority

Building authority involves long-term effort and consistency in maintaining your reputation and expertise. Once established, your authority makes it much easier to convert customers.

2. Novelty

This is about the “shiny new thing” syndrome. When something is new, some people just have to have it. Apple used this strategy with every new iPhone. People camped out in front of Apple stores just to be the first to get one, even though they didn’t need a new phone.

However, be cautious: not every new piece of content or product will attract people. Simply renaming an old idea doesn’t make it “new.”

For example, you can’t expect the 20th course on how to start a blog to be seen as new, even if it’s recently created.

Novelty involves more than just being new; it’s about presenting new ideas, perspectives, gadgets, or shiny things. A fresh angle, new take, or even some controversy can help make something feel new.

When launching products, rehashing something you’ve offered multiple times before won’t create the excitement of true novelty.

3. Reciprocity

In my circle of friends, we like to look out for each other. When someone mentions a need or wish, we think about how we can help them achieve it. This creates a fulfilling sense of mutual support. This also creates a feeling of wanting to give back. When I’ve received so much from my friends, I naturally want to do something for them in return.

For example, when a friend on Twitter launched something, I was happy to help promote it. She immediately offered to return the favor whenever I needed it.

You can develop a Twitter strategy based on this principle. Give shoutouts and mentions to fellow Twitter users occasionally. You’ll build a network of friends who will eventually share your content. The same goes for comments: when you comment on others’ tweets, they will start commenting on yours.

In marketing or sales, reciprocity works similarly. By providing a lot of value through emails, blog posts, freebies, or answering personal questions, people will feel inclined to reciprocate. Eventually, they might share your content or even buy your products.

4. Trust

Trust or distrust is a powerful emotional trigger in buying decisions. The more expensive a product is, the more trust people need to take the leap. When people trust you, you have a lot more influence over them than if they don’t know you or, worse, distrust you.

When we have a question, we usually turn to someone we trust. Why would we ask someone we don’t trust when we have a problem? Trust is something that takes time to build, but be careful—it can be lost with one mistake.

I had a friendship that lasted for years, but one betrayal shattered it. The trust was lost, and the friendship never recovered. Since trust is built over time, it’s hard to earn the trust of people who only saw you once or found one piece of content.

Trust, or the lack thereof, makes it difficult to convert website visitors from a search. Most of the time, they don’t know you and aren’t sure if they can trust you. That’s why followers and email subscribers are so valuable.

You have the chance to earn their trust through multiple posts and emails.

5. Community

We often discuss building a community, but we don’t always talk about how a community influences behavior and buying decisions. Our perception of what others around us would do in a situation affects how we behave and the choices we make.

For instance, if we think everyone is going to wear a dress to a party, we probably won’t show up in cargo pants and sneakers. If you can make your audience believe that everyone else is buying your product, they may be more likely to do so too.

You can create this impression by using testimonials or user-generated content that showcases community members using your product. Giving a voice to the community helps convince others within it.

“Community” doesn’t always mean something large. It can refer to work, friend, or social media communities. And communities can differ between individuals, even if they belong to the same broader community.

Community describes a group of people who influence an individual’s thoughts and actions. These ties can vary in strength, but you can strengthen them by engaging and communicating with your community.

Examples of using community as an emotional trigger in the buying process include:

  • During a webinar promotion, the speaker welcomes new customers by name.
  • Website pop-ups that show recent product purchases by other customers.
  • Testimonials, especially from recognisable community members, can be persuasive.

6. Curiosity

We often assume people click on links because they believe there’s something in it for them.

But I’ve clicked on links where I didn’t expect any value for myself. Instead, I clicked out of curiosity, wanting to know what it meant or what was behind it. Sometimes, I clicked because I doubted value & wanted to see how the creators were engaging their audience.

Curiosity is powerful in making people want to know more. It might not be enough to make them pay for something, but it gives you a chance to convince them to take action. By piquing curiosity, you can lure people into checking out your product and potentially convert some of them.

Curiosity can be sparked by mystery, surprise, a sense of adventure, or even cliffhangers.

7. Anticipation

Anticipation is when the excitement of looking forward to something becomes part of the enjoyment itself. It’s like the holiday season leading up to Christmas, where the anticipation of the holiday adds weeks of fun.

For example, my brother calling every few days to discuss plans for my visit to his holiday home in sunny Tuscany this summer. The anticipation of planning our week together is already part of the enjoyment.

Creating anticipation can be a powerful trigger because it builds momentum and captures attention of your audience over time. When done right, anticipation leads them to eagerly open final announcement or launch email because they’ve been waiting & longing for it.

8. Social Proof

Social proof is much more powerful when other people say you’re great than when you constantly praise yourself. Testimonials and reviews hold significant weight for this reason. User-generated content can also be highly effective for your marketing efforts.

It’s worth monitoring mentions of your brand on the web or social media, as these little thank-you tweets and brand mentions can become valuable assets for your marketing strategy.

9. Peer Pressure

Peer pressure isn’t just for kids; it affects adults too. In the solopreneur world, you might feel the urge to use the same email tool as the gurus, or when going out with friends, you might feel out of place if you’re not wearing fancy dresses like everyone else.

We have a natural inclination to belong and fit in. The choices, actions, and attire of our peers often heavily influence our decisions.

The impression that every successful person has bought a certain product can influence our buying decisions. You can trigger this by showcasing your customers on your website or featuring their testimonials.

There are also more subtle tactics, like gradually increasing the price of your product after a certain number have been sold. With each price increase, the perception grows that everyone already has it, and you want it too.

10. Scarcity

Scarcity occurs when a product is limited in availability, either by quantity or time. It creates pressure to buy now instead of waiting.

Scarcity is commonly used in product launches, with tactics like time-limited availability or a restricted number of spots. It’s also employed to prompt signups for freebies on social media, offering something for free but only for a limited time.

Some offers increase the price over time or after a certain number of sales, or include bonuses that are only available before a deadline. However, much of the scarcity we see is artificial. With digital products, there’s often no real limit to availability; scarcity is used to push people to decide quickly.

If your audience realises your scarcity is fake, you risk losing credibility and trust. It’s important to provide a genuine reason for closing the offer or increasing the price.

Despite its sometimes artificial nature, scarcity triggers a fear of missing out that is very real—and highly effective. We’re often motivated to buy now rather than risk paying more later simply because we didn’t act sooner.

11. Controversy

Controversy can be a risky strategy.

Content that presents a unique or different viewpoint often attracts attention and engagement, but it can also alienate potential customers.

While taking a controversial stance may generate buzz, not all of it will be positive. While everyone may have an opinion & engage with content, they may not necessarily agree with.

In sales, using controversy can be like riding a rollercoaster: exhilarating when it works out, but risky and potentially disastrous if it doesn’t.

12. Likeability

Likeability is a powerful factor when it comes to offering help and making buying decisions.

For example, when a friend broke her foot and couldn’t join our morning dog walks, we all volunteered to walk her dog without hesitation. We genuinely like her, so helping her was natural for us. If we didn’t like her, we might have found excuses not to help.

Likewise, when it comes to buying, if I don’t like you, I’ll find many reasons not to buy from you. But if I do like you, I might be willing to support you by sharing your offer and helping spread the word.

While it’s impossible to be liked by everyone, understanding what makes a person likeable can help. Some characteristics that contribute to likeability include friendliness, honesty, tolerance, positivity, humor, happiness, and kindness.

13. Consistency

In psychology, consistency means presenting the same image or message to your audience or customers consistently over time. When people know exactly what you stand for and what you offer, they’re more likely to buy from you.

Consistency is crucial for many other triggers:

1. Trust: Consistency builds trust. When you consistently share similar content, avoid contradictions, & demonstrate expertise in your niche, customers are likely to trust you.

2. Authority: Consistency builds authority. A person who is consistent in their niche becomes the go-to expert for advice, unlike someone who dabbles in many areas.

14. Clustering

Too many choices can overwhelm potential customers. Imagine you’re organising a party. Here are the options:

  • Buffet or plated dinner
  • Band or DJ
  • Hundreds of drink options
  • Starting at 6 or 8
  • Ballroom or terrace
  • One large table or multiple smaller ones

Some customers may want to choose each option, while others prefer predefined packages. Clustering can help simplify decision-making.

15. Simplification

Have you ever tried to configure the perfect version of a complex product with lots of technical specs? I have, and more often than not, I end up not buying anything because I’m overwhelmed and don’t understand half of what the product descriptions say.

When customers feel like they need to do research to make a decision, they often leave the website without buying. You can stand out by providing explanations for the specifications in plain language that everyone can understand. Instead of overwhelming customers with technical details, give them hints about what they need.

By being transparent & open about your products, you can build trust with your customers. This sets you apart from competitors who may seem like they’re hiding something.

Utilising Psychological Triggers in Marketing

Incorporating psychological triggers into the content we share and strategically leveraging their conversion effects can be the difference between a failed launch and breaking income records. If you’re wondering why your content isn’t getting the results you want while others seem to be succeeding, it might be because they’re effectively using mental triggers.

When you read other people’s sales and marketing materials, pay attention to the psychological mechanisms and conversion triggers they employ. Many of these triggers start working long before a product is even offered. Building authority and likeability requires consistent help and advice, while storytelling can help build community and set you apart in a sea of valuable content.

However, simply copying the psychological triggers someone else is using may not work for you. Your online journey stage, reputation, and brand strength are different, so it’s essential to tailor these triggers to fit your unique circumstances.

Conclusion

I’ve emphasised before that trust takes time to build but can be lost quickly. However, it’s essential to understand that all these mental triggers should be used ethically. Don’t fabricate testimonials, lie, or try to deceive anyone—these tactics will backfire.

While it might seem tempting to fake it until you make it, honesty will usually take you further in the long run. I’ve seen too many eye-watering stories promising huge returns that turned out to be fake.

If you want to build a long-term successful brand that you can be proud of, use emotional triggers ethically. Content psychology is a powerful tool, but it must be wielded wisely.

Above all, don’t underestimate your audience’s intelligence or integrity!

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