What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You

(Author of What Your Customer Wants And Can’t Tell You) Melina Palmer helps you make brainy decisions by understanding the consumer’s mind.

A woman in a white dress shops for stiletto shoes

“Our jobs would be so much easier if it wasn’t for the customers.”

the book "What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You"

I’ve heard this said in jest many times; you likely have too. You may have even said or thought it yourself on occasion. For whatever reason, it really resonated with me in January 2020 when the person who was introducing me (for what I didn’t realize would be my last in-person keynote of the year) said it.

It became abundantly clear to me in that moment that this joke is rooted in a deeper problem: an inability to understand what’s going on in the mind of the consumer.

It’s no wonder we have had issues in the past. After all, consumers:

  • say one thing and do another
  • don’t make the choices everyone knows they “should”
  • are a seemingly irrational conundrum that understandably frustrates millions of people working in businesses around the world just like you

As an applied behavioral economist, I know it doesn’t have to be this way.

In case aren’t familiar with behavioral economics, it’s essentially the psychology of why people buy. It’s a mix of economics, psychology, neuroscience, and other fields to help us understand what’s really going on in the brain.

What I do is help people in business to better communicate with the brain of their customers by unlocking the science of behavioral economics.

Brainy Decision Making

Before explaining how to do that, it’s important to share a little about how the brain works. Science has found that 99% of decisions are made by the subconscious brain using rules of thumb it has had success with in the past. In many ways, these rules serve us very well – but much more often than we realize, they are leading us to illogical and irrational choices. This is true of you, your peers, and all those customers making the job more difficult…but are they really the problem? Or is it the way we look at decisions that is to blame?

When you consider decision making as a random experience – where each choice is completely unique – it’s no surprise we got to this place. But now we know better, so it is time to put consumer mindset and behavior at the forefront of your strategy.

You can have the best purpose, vision, and brand, but if it isn’t aligned with the way your customer’s mind works it won’t truly drive behavior.

And all that data you are trying desperately to unlock will not accurately predict behavior if you don’t understand and incorporate the mind of your customer.

Applied Behavioral Economics

The Problem with Traditional Economics

Traditional economics assumes logical people making rational choices; unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. That resulted in a lot of models predicting what people “should” do instead of what they actually do.

These inaccurate models encouraged economists and psychologists to start asking, “Are there any common threads we can use to properly predict behavior?”

Thankfully, the answer is yes. The solution is behavioral economics.

Remember those rules of thumb I talked about that the subconscious brain is using to make 99% of your decisions? Those essentially formed the foundation of the field; the concepts that can be used to more accurately predict behavior. Instead of suffering from a case of the “shoulds,” these concepts are based on scientific studies from around the world (including two Nobel prizes) and are proven across demographics and cultures.

Sophisticated labs can predict whether someone will buy a product with over 80% accuracy – without having to ask them outright. This is done by evaluating brain activity, skin response, eye tracking, and more. In some cases, all those gadgets can fit inside a backpack, allowing a subject to be completely mobile and gathering data in real-time.

The brain of your customer is not as elusive as we have always thought or been led to believe. On the contrary, we now know behavior is very predictable, and there are new advances every day.

The Planning Problem

Your customers use their subconscious brain to make buying decisions, but what part of your brain do you think you and your team use to create the plans, products, and surveys for your business decisions? Your logical, conscious brain expects to communicate with the conscious bran of all those consumers out there, which is a losing strategy. It’s essentially like throwing noodles at the wall hoping something will stick.

That’s why I wrote my new book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You: to help everyone in business to understand what is going on in the brain and get the tools to start properly applying behavioral economics in their businesses right away.

There are simple tweaks in messaging, imagery, and presentation of information that don’t have to cost more but can make a massive difference in conversions. In the book, you’ll learn about the one word in an ad that made a 38% difference in sales (and the concept that made it possible), a client of mine who saw their average sales more than double after using my recommendations, simple nudges that saved the insurance industry hundreds of millions in the UK, and so much more.

“What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You” is broken into four parts: starting with a little about how the brain works to set the stage.

Part 2 explains my top behavioral economics concepts for business, ones I use most often with my own clients and see other businesses have success with around the world. These are short chapters, one for each concept making for an easy reference guide of sorts. You learn about the concepts, the academic research that helped define it (without reading like a boring lecture), and a way to start applying it yourself right then with prompts for each concept.

At the end of each chapter in part 2 is a list of where you will see that concept come up again in the stories and application steps of part 3, to make it easy for you to go back and forth as you begin using this newfound knowledge in your work. And, of course, the end of each of those chapters has a list of the concepts you learned about within it, so you can flip back and be reminded of what priming, framing, or loss aversion is as you begin applying.

Because you’re human, I’m guessing you’ve had that experience of attending a conference or reading a great book and felt inspired to jump in and change your practices “on Monday” – and then when Monday came around you found yourself slipping quickly back into your old routines. The final part of the book is called “Don’t Get Stuck” and identifies a few brain biases that keep us from implementing changes into our lives even when we know we want to so we can change that behavior moving forward.

And that’s because this book isn’t meant to sit on your shelf. It is set up to help you to uplevel your business and career with behavioral economics. What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You will help you start throwing darts, while your competition continues to throw noodles.

Photo by Alexandra Maria from Pexels

Melina Palmer

Melina Palmer

CEO & Podcast HostThe Brainy BusinessMelina Palmer is founder and CEO of The Brainy Business, which provides behavioral economics consulting to businesses of all sizes from around the world. Her podcast, The Brainy Business: Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy, has downloads in over 160 countries and is used as a resource for teaching applied behavioral economics for many universities and businesses. Melina obtained her bachelor’s degree in business administration: marketing and worked in corporate marketing and brand strategy for over a decade before earning her master’s in behavioral economics. A proud member of the Global Association of Applied Behavioral Scientists, Melina has contributed research to the Association for Consumer Research, Filene Research Institute, and runs the Behavioral Economics & Business column for Inc Magazine. She teaches applied behavioral economics through the Texas A&M Human Behavior Lab and her first book, “What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You,” publishes May 2021.


What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You

Unlocking Consumer Decisions with the Science of Behavioral Economics

Behavioral economics is the future of brands and businessesWhat Your Customer Wants (And Can’t Tell You) goes beyond an academic understanding of behavioral economics and into practical applications. When reading this book, you will learn how real businesses and business professionals use science to make their companies better. Author Melina Palmer is a business owner, consultant, and behavioral economics expert. She puts into words how leaders- like you- can utilize the psychology of the consumer, innovation, and truly impactful branding to achieve real, bottom-line benefits.

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