How Marketers Can Overcome Their Confirmation Bias

AB TastyBlogUser PsychologyHow Marketers Can Overcome Their Confirmation Bias

Ever deliberately shut your eyes to a piece of information because it was incompatible with your ideas? Yes? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s common for us to ignore anything that challenges our beliefs and actively embrace evidence that supports our views.

In the field of cognitive science, this tendency to cherry-pick, favor, recall information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs is known as confirmation bias. Unfortunately, even marketers suffer from it and understandably so.

Here’s an explanation.

Accepting any new evidence is a psychologically draining exercise. As a result, to reduce conflict you selectively acknowledge information that helps you come to conclusions you want to reach. And this is where the problem begins.

Confirmation bias diagram

Even if you believe you are being rational, it’s likely for your brain to take the shortcut and compromise your ability to make unbiased decisions. If it’s any consolation, none of us can really escape this complex bias, but we can make a conscious effort to be as objective in our approach as possible.

The following strategies can help.

Create Buyer Personas

Marketing to an imaginary target audience fleshed out of your assumptions is a serious threat to your business. It’s like shooting an arrow in the dark, which results in more misses than hits. The only logical solution is to create a buyer persona.

A buyer persona is a fictional description of your ideal customer. It includes everything from their demographics, psychographics (attitude, beliefs) to educational background and career path.  Here’s what a sample persona, depending on the data that’s key to you, may look like:

example buyer persona
A sample buyer persona from Xtensio.

The purpose of nailing buyer personas is to get to know your ideal customer and address their common pain points. With this intelligence at your disposal, you can personalize your marketing messages and serve them better.

Personalization yields a much higher ROI because every buyer undergoes a unique journey and responds to relevant messaging. They like it when companies treat them like actual people, not faceless entities!

The Boston Consulting Group recently announced that brands that integrate digital tools and data to create personalized experiences benefit from an increase in revenues from between 6% and 10%, which is two to three times faster than brands that don’t personalize. To add to it, a Salesforce survey revealed that 57% of consumers are willing to trade personal data in exchange for tailored offers or discounts. They also expect companies to anticipate the products they might need next.

Despite the encouraging statistics, Econsultancy’s Digital Trends 2018 report reveals that personalization is lower on the list of marketer’s strategic priorities. Although, when asked about their digital-related area they’ll focus on, 24% of organizations said targeting and personalization.

Personalization chart
Personalization sits low in marketer’s list of priorities

To create buyer personas and develop a deeper bond with your customers and prospects, keep the following in mind.

  • Interview your best customers. They like being heard and take a sense of pride in being able to impact the product they use. Ask why they chose you, what’s the most challenging thing, what they are most happy about, etc.

Don’t forget the unhappy ones, who canceled a purchase or had a poor customer service experience. Listening to their problems will help you to improve your product and meet their expectations.

  • Analyze your existing customer data to recognize some trends and patterns. For instance, how some customers or leads interact with your website. Are you popular among a certain demographic?

Use popular tools like Google Analytics, BuzzSumo, SEMrush, and HubSpot. Also, make the most of Twitter and Facebook audience insights.

  • Listen to your sales team. They come up with the most remarkable information about your prospects and customers. Find out what questions they are most asked. Any problems they keep hearing about? Are there any generalizations they make about some customers? You can use all that intelligence to classify prospects, leads, and customers under matching buyer personas.
content marketing graph
Sales team feedback can be highly valuable for marketers
  • Optimize your lead form. Ask for information that qualifies them to fit a buyer persona. You could use interactive content to make the process more engaging and get them to answer your questions.
  • Keep updating buyer personas as they change over time. Their preferences and behaviors will change five years from now and be obsolete for you. Chances are that as your business grows even you will discover new personas.

Always A/B Test

Your job, as a conversion expert, is to be data-driven and chase scientific truth. Unless you do that, you risk making key marketing decisions based on your hunches. A classic example is believing in conventional advice that a certain color CTA button brings conversions, or, long-form posts increase blog traffic. Do you even have enough proof to establish it as a rule? Have you tested it yourself not once or twice, but long enough to assume it can make a substantial difference?

To avoid make sweeping generalizations based on limited evidence, perform A/B tests. You’ll make a positive impact on your business and mitigate risks.

What is an A/B test?

An A/B test is an experiment where real users are shown two or more variants of a web page or an app, and a statistical analysis is carried out to determine which version performs better and achieves a conversion goal.

A/B Testing

Is it a fool-proof way to avoid confirmation bias? Read our complete guide to A/B testing.

Sadly, no! Confirmation bias is inherent in our reasoning, but you can sniff it out if you’re disciplined and willing to be critical of your own findings.

When interpreting data you may be compelled to confirm the hypothesis.

Solution: Please don’t be emotionally attached to the hypothesis. Objectively analyze the real behavioral data in front of you. If anything, look for information that contradicts your opinion. It pays off to become a skeptic; set aside your ego and question your findings to avoid statistics traps:

  • Was my approach to data analysis unbiased?
  • Was the sample representative or convenient?
  • Did I ask leading questions to match my beliefs?
  • Did I test long enough or stop early?
  • Did I test a data-driven hypothesis or my whims?
  • Did I consider all relevant metrics?
  • Did I tweak or omit any information?
  • Did I analyze multiple data accounts?
  • Are there other factors that could have spiked/tanked conversion?

When the test results marginally confirm your hypothesis you may ignore other valuable insights.

Solution: Don’t be in a hurry to prove yourself right. It’s not why you started out doing the test. Be open-minded and remember you’re testing to learn, not slide in the comfort of victories.

Let’s say your treatment group beat the control group by 6%. Yes, it is a small win, but also a new way your marketing can be more effective. The only way to find out is to keep testing. Your experience will bust the knowledge bubble and put you in a better position to know what works, and why.

It’s a Wrap

There isn’t much you can do to escape confirmation bias. It’s how our brain functions to crush conflicting ideas and see to it that everything is under control. Most times, we can’t even remotely guess what factors we took into account to reach a certain conclusion!

That being said, if we dig beneath the surface we can recognize and banish our temptation to base our marketing decisions on intuition. Your strategy may still not be perfect, but you’ll at least make data-backed decisions.

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