Episode 2: The Power of Prior Decision Making And What It Means for Marketers


This is the second episode in a multi-part series on how B2B organizations can leverage human behavior and heuristics to inspire change among your audience.

Want to have a pretty good idea of how someone will act?

Or a sense of how they will make a decision?

Or even what they will buy?

It doesn’t take a crystal ball or a guessing game to find out these things about people.

People generate so much data about their behaviors on a daily basis. Everywhere we go, everything we do and our every little action we leaves digital dandruff in our wake. And with today’s predictive analytics and machine learning, companies are trying really hard to guess what people are going to do next.

However, there is one tried and true fundamental trait of how humans behave that not only serves as a pretty good predictor, but even induces action:

It’s how they’ve acted before.

Understanding the importance of historical data can generate catalytic results.

People use heuristics, which are shortcuts for the brain, to make decisions. And one of these shortcuts is our desire to stay consistent with prior choices.

If we know of any prior decisions made, chances are we can predict how they will make a decision about purchasing another novel technology. This tendency to stay consistent is so strong in people, that by reminding them of their prior choices, you can change their actions.  

Here’s an example:

Recently, LINUS was asked to generate and warm up leads for a technology company that offered lab software.

These leads were scientists, who through a Digital Dialogue™ had requested to hear from our client’s sales representative for more information on their offerings.

After we sent the first batch of leads to the representative, only 1 percent of respondents, who had asked to hear from the sales rep, replied back.

So why were 99 percent of them not responding?

We rewrote our client’s email, and in it, we reminded the leads that they had requested to be contacted by the sales rep. We even reminded them of the exact day they made that decision.

The results of this simple ‘nudge’ were astounding. The leads were 22 times more likely to respond to the sales rep if reminded of their prior action.  And with another follow-up, we were able to bump the leads who responded up to 40 percent.

Invoking people’s desire for consistency can significantly change how an audience acts. This isn’t only relevant to marketing either, this notion can have a impact in recruitment, workplace branding materials, or even when communicating with internal teams.

Humans are beautifully complex. And our actions are governed by certain patterns. Understand these patterns, and you can inspire people to action and  create Catalytic Results.


Business Examples + Studies

When something positive happens, people are likely to repeat that action. Same goes with the inverse, if something negative happens, then people are likely to learn from their mistakes. Read more about that here.

In this study, researchers conduct a study to determine if prior probability influences decision making.

In an episode on The Knowledge Project podcast, the guest, Michael Mauboussin, suggests that situations are way more powerful thank we think.