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Four brain-science tips successful businesses know

Brain science is your secret weapon to outflanking your competition.

Hold up: What does something as nerdy as brain science have to do with your business success?

A lot, surprisingly!

Because knowing how the human brain works makes your customer communication and marketing on point. You’ll attract more customers to you because you’re working with our innate brain biases (and not against them). That’s especially necessary in our noisy world, where the competition for attention is fierce.

“Neuromarketing” is the study of how our brains respond to marketing and affect our behavior—consciously or unconsciously.

That sounds geeky and high-minded, doesn’t it? It’s not: It simply means we all have hardwired brain biases.

Here are four truth bombs about the human mind, along with how you can use them to attract more business to you.

1. Emotions make a more lasting impression than rational thought

Which means: We might understand complex ideas, but we still have a primitive brain. The amygdala controls our gut reactions and emotions, and it works much faster than our conscious, rational mind—sometimes in milliseconds.

Business takeaway: Aim for a gut reaction, and pay special attention to how your marketing looks when scanned (as opposed to deliberately considered, because one rarely has the time or inclination to do that any more).

Pay attention to things people see first. In email marketing, your subject line and pre-header (the bit of text that’s most prominent on a mobile device, above the body of the email) should grab the reader—and speak to their pain, wants, needs, and emotions.

In blogging or other kinds of online content, pay special attention to headlines. (Spend as much time writing the headlines as you do the rest of the piece.)

In website content, make your pages welcoming and easily understood.

Make your writing sparse, clear, powerful.

2. Our brains love images

Which means: Our brains process images much faster than text. Approximately 90 percent of all data the brain processes is visual. We remember pictures with text more than we remember text alone, according to one study.

Business takeaway: Use images in your brochures, on your website, in your email newsletter, and so on. But say no to stock photos in favor of more authentic, real images.

The camera on your phone is a powerful way to capture real, authentic moments with your customers or your community (a great task for an intern, by the way!)

You could also use something like the Web tool Canva ( or the mobile app Over ( to easily create your own custom images.

If you must tap a stock image site, use one without cheesy stock options. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Death to the Stock Photo
  • Startup Stock Photos
  • Negative Space
  • Unsplash
  • Public Domain Archive

3. Our brains especially love images of faces

Natural selection favored humans who could quickly identify threats from others and build relationships, research suggests.

Which means: We are wired from birth to recognize and pay attention to human faces. The part of the brain that processes human faces is right next to the part of the brain that processes emotions.

Business takeaway: Use real humans in your marketing. But also consider faces on landing pages or emails, or specific web pages designed to drive a desired action.

Eye-tracking studies show that our brains will default to first look at human faces on a web page. What’s more, we’ll look where they are looking.

So entice interaction by including a face that looks toward a call-to-action button or bit of text.

4. We seek belonging

Which means: “When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other,” as author Eric Hoffer once wrote.

Business takeaway: Remove anxiety, signal belonging, and build credibility by using social proof and signals—endorsements from well-known influencers in your market; badges or awards from TrustE or antivirus providers; media logos if those outlets have quoted or referenced you; customer testimonials woven throughout a site (and not exiled to a specific testimonials page); and social widgets and shares, assuming you have a solid social media program in place.

One more tip—use inclusive, specific language on any call to action to signal what Chicago-based marketer Andy Crestodina calls a “call to conform.”

So rather than having a sign-up box for a newsletter that says “We are the nation’s leading resource for home heating and cooling information and supplies. Subscribe now,” you might instead evoke belonging or connecting by saying “Join more than 35,000 contractors and homeowners who seek weekly heating and cooling tips and supplies.”

The first is about you, and it doesn’t offer a reason your visitor should care. The second is about the customer and evokes something much more powerful: belonging.