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Marketing is really its own form of psychology. Marketers have to get inside the heads of their clients and customers to fully understand the buyer’s journey.
But those in the industry sometimes fixate so intently on helping their clients, they can forget to that marketers too need occasional guidance.
We all fall victim to irrational assumptions. These distorted thinking patterns, or “cognitive distortions” as psychologist David Burns calls them, can cause us to unintentionally sour business relationships.
Stay on top of your marketing efforts by watching out for these six dangerous assumptions:
Distorted Thought #1: All-or-Nothing Thinking
“Because the client gave some bad feedback, I completely messed up.”
Sometimes marketers get stuck on extremes. Either you’re slaying because the client loved your work, or you’ve hit rock bottom because they expressed any level of dissatisfaction.
All-or-nothing thinking teeters on the finicky seesaw of perfectionism and failure. Either they love your work or they hate it. Either you succeeded or you fell short.
This viewpoint is unrealistic. Not many things in life are black and white. If you base your marketing relationships on absolutes, you’re setting yourself up to be discouraged and underdeliver.
Embrace the gray.
Instead of viewing any sort of feedback as either negative or positive, remember, any input from your client can help you improve. Suggestions can better prepare you to support their company’s needs, so use their guidance to grow.
Distorted Thought #2: Jumping to Conclusions & Catastrophizing
“Since the client didn’t reply to my email, they must be really mad. There goes my promotion.”
Email tracking shows your client opened your message yesterday, but still no reply. Oh geez. That can’t be good. Obviously, they are pissed / upset / confused / “insert any negative emotion here!” Better tell your coworkers to prepare for the worst.
This tendency to make an assumption without any definite facts can lead to some ill made judgemental calls, hasty decisions or unnecessary tension.
When it comes to jumping to conclusions, there are two big cognitive distortions at play: mind reading and fortune telling.
Mind reading is when you conclude that someone’s behavior must be negative. You’re so convinced that you don’t bother to confirm. When a client isn’t replying to your email, you might erroneously assume they’re mad and stir up unnecessary worry. In reality, maybe the client didn’t feel your email required an immediate response or simply got distracted from replying.
Even worse, is self sabotage that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your assumptions suddenly have you catastrophizing about future interactions and, in your worrisome mind, your brain starts imagining all of the bad things an unhappy client could mean for your work life. They’re going to call your boss to reem you out— or, if you send them a follow-up email, they’ll think you’re harassing them.
Instead of leaping to conclusions, simpy ask. Or, set clearer expectations from the start. If you don’t need an immediate reply, say so. If you do, give them a buzz to see if you can help push things along.
Get off that trampoline of anxiety and onto your client’s level.
Distorted Thought #3: Minimization
“Oh, the client did seem a little concerned, but it’s no big deal. It’ll blow over.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, minimization in business psychology happens when you shrink the value or importance of something.
Let’s say your client shows concern that their daily blog post wasn’t published and sends you a Slack message asking why it’s late. To stay calm or avoid more effort, you underreact and turn a blind eye to the smoke signals your client has been brooding. You’ll reply later; you’re busy. It’s not that big of a deal if it’s a few hours late. They need to calm down.
But leaving them hanging or negating their reactions creates tension and can be perceived as apathy. Never make a client feel as if you don’t share their same level of urgency or care. Next thing you know, the client is accusing you of ignoring them or not doing your job properly, and now your boss is hunting you down.
Make your client feel heard and respected by addressing their requests in a timely and compassionate way. If they’re not formally asking for anything but you sense dissatisfaction based on recent interactions, don’t brush it under the rug. Address the matter with empathy.
Minimization doesn’t always have to be projected onto the client.
Underscoring your work can shrink your confidence and the appearance of your impact, making your efforts look small or unimportant. When thinking about your own strengths, don’t forget to give yourself credit where it’s due and make it known to those who matter.
Distorted Thought #4: Emotional Reasoning
“I feel like this design isn’t good. I’m the marketer and the client pays me for my opinion, so they should listen to me.”
According to the world of business psychology, we elicit emotion all the time. Rightly so, as stirring emotion is a necessary tool for any good salesperson.
Every decision, however, cannot be based on a simple hunch. You need to look through the eyes of a savvy marketer, turning to strong support from data.
You can’t say an idea is rotten just because it feels outdated or looks tacky. You need to prove your logic with evidence or data. Even when emotion does come into play, as it always will, don’t assume it’s accurate reasoning.
You might think, “I feel unimpressed by this logo design, therefore, it must be an ineffective, ugly logo.” But before you toss the idea, explain why, with proof beyond a gut feeling.
Distorted Thought #5: Labeling
“Wow. This client is so critical and bossy. They’re a jerk and going to be a real pain to work with.”
Labels have powerful meaning and, when casted arbitrarily and often, can begin to negatively influence a person’s opinion on someone.
Instead of considering a single occurrence (the client was kind of blunt about that), you overgeneralize that occurrence to reflect someone’s entire identity (the client is an outspoken twit).
This label of “outspoken twit” becomes the client’s new identifier, and you make assumptions moving forward based on this idea.
Now everytime the client gives any sort of feedback, you’re already hostile. A positive suggestion for copy change suddenly feels like a critique. Gosh, they have a remark for everything, don’t they? That forthright schmuck!
This kind of name-calling and title-giving breeds future tension. It is also contagious and can lead others on your team to make dangerous assumptions about that person’s character as well.
Instead of equating the client’s entire identity with a singular action, remember to cut them some slack. We all have days where stress causes us to react unusually.
Most relationships can be fixed with some kindness and empathy. If the client’s rude behavior starts to become a habit, consider getting to the root of their problem or calling a team meeting to collaborate on ways you could turn things around.
Distorted Thought #6: Personalization
“Oh no. The client never told me about this important thing and now their deadlines are delayed. I have to work tirelessly to fix it or I’m going to take the fall.”
Even when something is out of your control, it might seem necessary to take on extra responsibility or obligation to fix it.
But not every mistake is your fault. If the client threw a wrench in the works, don’t be consumed by false guilt. You can influence decisions to make adjustments, but you can’t control what others do to delay deadlines.
Don’t personalize the blame or risk going over your team’s predetermined budget and time allowance to work miracles. Have a discussion with your project manager. They should be able to discuss a new timeline that reflects your client’s changes.
Avoiding crippling personalization guilt also involves being mindful of reactions from clients. Did someone on your team mess up the recipient list on their last email blast and now you’re the one dealing with tighter scrutinization because of it? Did their last agency claim to know SEO but didn’t, so now you’re getting grilled to track all optimization efforts?
Remember, not everything is about you, try not to always take things personally by looking through an empathetic lens.
Don’t Be Ruled By Your Automatic Thoughts!
When it comes to business psychology, you have to be mindful of how of your actions and reactions may affect your relationship with your client.
It’s okay to think these things initially— we’re all guilty of that. What’s not okay is leading with emotion in a way that diminishes your ability to constructively help your client and grow as a marketer.
If feeling frustrated, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “what cognitive distortion is this?”
Ready to be a remarkable marketer? We have a handy toolkit for launching and measuring a remarkable marketing campaign right here to make sure.