As businesses reopen, and people emerge from stay at home orders, how can marketers kick start their sales?

To be sure, the world is a different place than it was four months ago. And our customers and prospects won’t be the same, either.

Some will be scared, while others will rush back to their routines. Some will be cautious about spending any money, while others will buy in new categories. And the transition to the new normal will happen in degrees, with behaviors fluctuating based on emotions, experiences, and environments.

As marketers, it’s up to us to figure out how to best attract business amidst these conditions. The answer, I believe, is two-fold.


Double down on practices that are always advisable — and play up the behavioral science principles most likely to trigger hardwired responses right now.

Some content and copywriting practices, which are always smart for marketers to follow, are even more important now with so much in flux:


Create Empathy 

Show your customers and prospects that you understand their situation. Acknowledge what they’re experiencing.  Focus on their pains, problems, goals, or desires. 

When you meet someone where he or she is, that puts you in the best position to ultimately lead that person where you’d like them to go. 

Tip: Don’t push product, prioritize connecting.


Instill Trust 

Right now, many people are uncertain, or even fearful. And that can stop sales – both from long-term customers and potential ones. So reassure customers and prospects that they can trust you. Make them feel that you’ll help them avoid mistakes, that you offer good value, and that you’re a safe choice to do business with. 

Clearly demonstrate how your product or service will help meet the needs of their “new normal.” 

Tip: Highlight guarantees, showcase credibility markers, and frame your benefits to be relevant to the current situation.



While it’s always good to test, it’s arguably more important now. People’s priorities may have shifted. The drivers of their behavior may have changed. They may find themselves identifying with a different group.

As a result, your previous segmentation data may no longer apply. 

Test to see what kind of messages and offers most resonate now — and to see what contact times and cadences currently work. For example, more companies are adding direct mail to their mix. And Worldata recently updated their free Email Marketing Calendar to reflect that Mondays — traditionally awful for email sends – have seen a spike in open rates. 

Tip: Don’t assume what used to work will continue to work. Test different language, channels, timing, etc. to look for lifts.


Choose the behavioral science principles best suited to prompt automatic action now.

Social scientists and behavioral economists have proven that people rely on hardwired decision-making shortcuts, which can be prompted or triggered, causing people to behave while giving that behavior little to no thought. These decision defaults evolved to help humans conserve mental energy.

Today marketers can use them to nudge customers and prospects in the desired direction, making it more likely they’ll engage with and respond to our messages. 

Three behavioral science principles are especially relevant as we try to kick start sales in this phase of the pandemic:


Social Proof 

When people are uncertain of what to do, they look to others, particularly others like themselves, and follow their lead. This effect will be particularly pronounced during the pandemic because people won’t always be sure which actions to take or when to take them. 

In order to increase the likelihood that people will do business with you, show them that others already have. This will make them feel more comfortable making a similar move. 

Tip: Highlight recent testimonials, feature what your target’s neighbors and peers are doing, and flag products/services proving to be popular purchases right now.


Cognitive Fluency

Social scientists have shown that people prefer things that are easy to think about and easy to understand. That’s why choosing simple, jargon-free language along with visuals that illustrate the point is a good practice – particularly now when people are more apt to be distracted and have less time or ability to focus.

The bonus? Not only do people prefer things that are easier to think about, they feel more confident in their ability to make a decision about them. So crafting cognitively fluent marketing messages is critical for sales success.

Tip: Avoid technical terms and acronyms, don’t cram too much information into your marketing communication, and take advantage of rhyme, alliteration and stories to make your content better understood and remembered.


Autonomy Bias 

People have an innate need to feel in control of themselves and their circumstances. Behavioral scientists refer to this as Autonomy Bias. And the desire to exert control is especially strong during  times of uncertainty. 

One way a marketer can make people feel in control is to offer them choices. When people make a choice, they feel they’re exerting some control over their situation.  In fact, research has shown providing options can increase the likelihood of someone making a buying decision versus simply offering a single option. 

Tip: Present two or three products or service levels instead of just one to prompt purchasing.


As marketers begin to feel their way out of lockdown and into what’s next, including these proven techniques in communications will make it easier to prompt response.  And as time passes, and people’s feelings about the pandemic evolve, other behavioral science principles may become even more relevant. The key is to understand your target’s mindset and the little things that can have a big impact on decision-making. You’ll be a lot more likely to get a sale when you do.


Nancy HarhutNancy Harhut is passionate about the impact of behavioral science on marketing. A BostInno “50 on Fire” winner, Online Marketing Institute Top 40 Digital Strategist, and Social Top 50 email marketing leader, she ha spearheaded integrated campaigns for clients large and small. She and her teams have won over 200 awards for marketing effectiveness for clients including AT&T, Sheraton, Nationwide, Dell, and more.

The Chief Creative Officer of HBT Marketing, Harhut is known for her interesting and actionable insights that focus on applying behavioral science to marketing.  A sought-after, top-ranked speaker, she’s wowed audiences with high-energy, example-jammed sessions in London, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Madrid, Moscow, and all over the US — including attendees at SXSW. Follow her on twitter at @nharhut or email her at [email protected]