Make your customers’ choices easier in your content strategy

May 27th, 2016

There are three shelves in the shop filled with brand new laptops. There are laptops in front of me and there are laptops behind me. Prices range from £250 to £900 pounds. The more expensive ones are on the other side. I’m not going there. I want to pick from here

I’m buying this laptop for my son. Only 10 years old and already he needs a laptop. Boy, times have changed since I was 10. But hey, he’s got school stuff he needs to do on it. He loves using Excel to work out schedules for his fantasy football with his friends. And of course, there is gaming.

I’m going between laptops. From left to right and back. Am I going to choose a computer with a lot of power for gaming? Or am I going for the slim one that fits better into his bag? Am I going cheap? Or am I going to pay some more? And if so, how much more? What does he like? Does that matter? All these and more questions are racing through my head.

I like that one, nice size screen, quite thin… And quite expensive… wow. That one is out. For now…

Maybe this one. Good price. Decent stats. Oh wait, this doesn’t have the latest version of Office installed on it. That means I can add the price of that to the buy.

It’s now ten minutes of me pacing between the different laptops. And I’m getting more and more restless. What to decide. What to buy? I can’t choose…


Do you recognise this? Have you ever had this problem? Maybe not with laptops, but with food perhaps? Or holidays? Or shoes even? Or when buying chips at Tesco? I bet you have. This is what psychologist call “choice anxiety”. And these days we all run into it.

Choice anxiety means that there is too much choice. Because of having too much we then do nothing. We can’t choose. So we don’t choose.

When there is too much choice people tend to go back to where they are most comfortable. They ignore the other choices. That is one of the reasons people use 5-8 apps on their phones, even though they have dozens installed.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz  talks about the problem of choice in his book “The paradox of choice”. A book worth reading. Find his TED Talk on the topic here:

Choice and content marketing

So why are we talking about choice here? Choice is good isn’t it? People want to choose and we as marketers should give them options. The internet helps with that. People do research and that’s exactly where we as marketers come in. We offer them lists as a comparison and they will see that we are much better than they are.

With inbound marketing and content marketing, we will get them even more interested. Because we can now showcase what we know and become actual thought leaders. Isn’t that great?

No, it’s not.

Just a few facts about the internet I’ve shared before in presentations. And while reading them, keep the choice anxiety story above in your mind.

All this is content. Content marketing that is filling up the web. But more important: content that is preventing people from making choices. How do we choose what blog posts to read? How do we choose what to buy online? How do we choose what is best for us?

We can’t. It’s too much.

So why are marketers creating more and more content? Are they trying to make choices harder on purpose? There are some marketers out there that indeed are doing that. These are using somewhat shady tactics. But most marketers just don’t know. They don’t realise that the more content they create, the less chance there is of people making the right choice. And that right choice could just be their product.

Content is filling up the web… but marketers should be making content that makes it easier for people, not harder, to make choices

How to change this?

If we want to change this, we need to start thinking more critical about the content we create. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should stop creating content altogether. We shouldn’t. Content can definitely be the driver behind sales and marketing. But it has to be the right content. Content that makes it easier for people, not harder.

As a marketer, you can create content that people feel more comfortable with. Content that will help them make better choices. And it’s not comparison lists.

For my latest course, I created a guideline. They are questions you can keep in mind when creating content:

Am I creating content that solves a problem?

People are turning to the web to find answers to their problems. If your content doesn’t solve any problems, chances are it is useless.

Am I using the right vocabulary?

Many businesses are using their own vocabulary. This means they usually use words that people just don’t understand. You will lose their attention doing that.

Am I speaking to them at the right time?

This has nothing to do with night or day, but all with the buying cycle. Where are people in that process? Are they researching, or buying already? Or before that? Create content that fits where people are.

Did I do my research well?

Did you research what they are looking for? Did you make a proper effort to understand them?

Follow these questions and you are well on your way.

Bas is a keynote speaker at our one-day Benchmark Search Conference on 12th July 2016 at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, which also features industry experts from Google, Microsoft, Late Rooms and 

Last year’s event was awesome, but we’re confident this year will be even better. It’s free to attend, so sign-up today!

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