I love to read, in fact I read a lot. I’m in the middle of one book right now that I can’t wait to tell you about, but unfortunately you’ll have to wait to hear about that particular book for another day. Instead, I’d like to share with you something that I’ve been thinking about recently. Something I have spent time pondering and something I think all of us, and especially marketers, would find value in considering.

Are you ready? I’m going to need you to hold on today because rather than going down one of the typical paths I follow I want to take this post and step off-topic a bit. I’d like to share with you a thought or two and draw examples from not just one book, but three that I have finished recently. I’m going to attempt to cram ideas and concepts from three seemingly disparate books into a single post. But I believe each of these share common themes and when taken together prove to be very informative and impactful for marketers.

Before I start pulling bits and pieces from these three books and demonstrating how I believe they are related let me tell you the conclusion (isn’t it great when you get the conclusion first?!). I believe the proper understanding and implementation of human psychology in marketing automation is missing in many businesses today. This leads to inferior results and increased marketing efforts to achieve success. Alright, I’m giving you half the conclusion, you’ll still have to read through to the end to get the other half!

I would never be so bold as to suggest my ideas are new, or revolutionary on this topic and many great marketers, psychologists, authors, and scientists have devoted large portions of their careers to this study and the many nuances of this relationship. But, everyone has a unique perspective based on their background and their life experiences, and so with that lens in place I would like to share with you what I believe is commonly overlooked when exploring human psychology not necessarily in marketing alone, but specifically in marketing automation (you had to know that would be my focus!).

The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz

Let’s dive in with the first book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. Barry wrote this book several years ago but the truths have only become more pronounced with each passing year. His premise is around the negative effects of choice. As most would already believe and tend to consider to be “law” the idea that more choices is better. It’s an easy mistake for a variety of reasons but my goal is not to share with you the theories of the book, you may find those for yourself. Instead, I’ll share with you quickly two negative side effects from choice that Barry presents.

First, choice produces paralysis rather than liberation, to many choices makes the decision making process harder rather than easier. And Barry backs up this statement with a variety of studies and surveys from notable and trustworthy sources.

Second, if the paralysis is overcome the resulting decision leads to a less satisfied result. Barry suggests that for a variety of reasons even after making a decision, the greater the original choices the more dissatisfied the individual is with their selection. More options simply means it is easier for the imagined alternatives to induce regret which subtracts from the satisfaction of decision making.

Those are some powerful statements, and leave some question about what a proper balance should be between freedom of choice and limited options. Schwartz draws one humorous conclusion which holds truth (because doesn’t every joke contain an element of the truth). He shares the secret of happiness to be low expectations. There are several reasons for this statement but I’ll leave those also to your discovery as you read his book.

Takeaway: More choices causes a great deal of anxiety, depression, discouragement, discontent, and other negative feelings in the decision-maker.

The Book of Human Emotions, Tiffany Watt Smith

Let’s jump immediately into book number two, The Book of Human Emotions by Tiffany Watt Smith is a relatively recent publication that I thoroughly enjoyed. I am a big fan of words, I’m constantly attempting to expand my vocabulary and Tiffany had some amazing words in this book. As much as I would love to share some with you, I think I’ll keep all of them to myself (unless you read the book!).

Instead, I’ll share with you why those words were in the book and perhaps that will pique your interest just a little bit more. Tiffany suggests that human emotions are more than physiology. Biologies and cultures influence our cognitive emotions as well. She references Lisa Feldman Barrett who says, words and emotions are dynamic. As humans define or discover new words for emotions a rush of new feelings are sure to follow. This is a fascinating concept and the examples in the book are mind-opening.

But how does this relate to our first book with a paradox of choice. I hope you begin to see the thread that’s forming. Our supposed freedom in choice results in a wide range of negative emotions. Understanding those emotions is the next step in our journey. Our emotional languages tell us not just what we feel but also what we value.

Takeaway: When we name our emotions we do more than just define a word; we imbue them with meaning, weighted with our cultural values and expectations and we use them as a vehicle for our ideals. Our emotions represent a powerful connection between how we think and how we feel.

Drive, Daniel Pink

Our final book we will look at today is Drive, by Daniel Pink. I would imagine that this book may be one you have heard of or even read yourself as it has quickly become a classic that sits on many shelves. Daniel does an incredible job defining how we think about motivation. He goes into great detail defining the many facets of motivation before distilling things down into the three main elements of true motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Daniel is quick to share his conviction that we must resist the temptation to attempt to control people and instead do everything we can do instill in them a deep-sense of autonomy. The concept of the carrot and the stick approach no longer works in the world. Work is more complex, tasks are more difficult, they evolve constantly, and in many cases are more interesting.

People will spend countless hours to gain mastery in a particular skill with no external financial gain, expensive jobs are left for “meaningful” work in other sectors where the “reward” is not strictly monetary. The motivation therefore is driven intrinsic motivators more than external.

Motivation based on purpose comes when people are passionate about a particular subject. That passion increases engagement and this in turn makes them more motivated in accomplishing their goal.

Takeaway: People are motivated by a number of factors but almost unequivocally across the board all motivation is generated more by internal forces rather than external drivers.

Bringing It All Together

Okay, we’ve dug in through a lot in the last three major points and even without reading the books I trust you have gotten a good feel for the concepts found in each (At least if I’ve done a decent job explaining you should have). So what does all this mean and how do these three very different books relate? The astute reader may have already begun to put the pieces together, if so, then I hope to confirm your suspicions.

I believe a common thread can be drawn between them: Motivating factors come from inside each person where their emotions and feelings guide their decision-making. The effects of human psychology are therefore highly relevant not only to marketing but specifically marketing automation.

Marketing automation today is nothing like what it has the potential to be and very few businesses use it effectively. Why? Because most do not take into account the topic of the first book we reviewed. The paradox of choice. 

Marketing automation handles the automation of marketing messages to the contacts, all the messages, all the landing pages, and all the interactions, engagements, promotions, offers that each contact receives. Marketing automation handles this through campaigns. These campaigns are formed from segmented groups of users (typically). And this is where we begin to see the relevancy. Improper segmentation results in an overwhelming number of “options” or messages to a contact with some (or many) being completely irrelevant or off-topic and thus do nothing more than introduce paralysis and decision-making angst.

As marketers we should take full advantage of our knowledge of human psychology not merely to increase our success (though that should be a natural outcome) but to be the most effective marketer possible for the good of each contact as well. Now, let’s get even more practical.

Marketing automation gives us the power to intelligently send the appropriate message to our contacts. Rather than sending an overabundance of messages on a wide variety of topics each message should be tailored to craft the perfect experience for each contact…with the right number of decisions.

Ultimately proper messaging through marketing automation avoids the paralysis of choice, encourage positive emotions, and motivates the contact to make decisions based on their intrinsic positive feelings. And all this comes from the proper attribution of the known traits of human psychology applied to the concept of marketing automation. The marketing choice paradox resolved in a most elegant fashion! I hope this post has been a thought-provoking change of pace from my usual topics and I trust you have derived some value from this diversion.