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Melina Palmer is a globally celebrated keynote speaker with a mission to help great brands do great things by leveraging the power of behavioral economics. She is CEO of The Brainy Business, which provides behavioral economics training and consulting to businesses of all sizes from around the world. Her podcast, The Brainy Business: Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy, has downloads in over 170 countries and is used as a resource for teaching applied behavioral economics for many universities and businesses. Melina teaches applied behavioral economics through the Texas A&M Human Behavior Lab and writes the Behavioral Economics & Business column for Inc Magazine. Her first book is What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You. Her second book, What Your Employees Need and Can’t Tell You, was published in 2022. For more information https://www.thebrainybusiness.com
SmallBizLady: What is behavioral economics?
Melina Palmer: I like to say that if traditional economics and psychology had a baby, you would have behavioral economics. The field came about because traditional economics is built on an assumption of logical people making rational choices in everything, they do…but as we are all human (and know we often neglect to do the things we know we “should”) those models don’t always accurately predict behavior. Over time, psychologists, economists, neuroscientists, and others started working together or entering into one another’s fields to see if there were common threads that could be found to better predict behavior. Thankfully, there were, and that is how behavioral economics was born. I am an applied behavioral economist. That means I help people in business to understand the psychology of why people act, choose, change, and buy, and implement that properly into their businesses to be more effective.
SmallBizLady: What is your top concept you think everyone in business should understand?
Melina Palmer: Framing is the most important thing for everyone in business to understand and master. HOW you say something matters more than WHAT you say. Here’s an example: Imagine you need to pick up some hamburger, so you swing by the store. There are two stacks that are almost identical, but one is labeled as “90% Fat Free” and the other as “10% Fat” — which one do you want to buy? I’ve used this in presentations and working with clients and audiences around the world and nearly everyone agrees they prefer 90% fat free. Logically, we know they are the same thing, but they feel very different. So, again, how you communicate has a huge impact on whether or not someone wants to buy or will be excited about your offer. Three easy reframes I encourage my clients to start with are:
1) from “if” to “when” — we say “if” a lot, but it isn’t very compelling. “If you have questions, let me know.” That doesn’t encourage someone to take an action. Instead, if you say “when” it makes the action more implied. The simple shift to “When you’re ready, let me know.” makes a difference.
2) from “anyone” to “everyone” — humans are a herding species, so we like to know what others are doing to help encourage our own behavior. When you say, “anyone” it feels very lonely and isolating compared to “everyone” which feels safer.
3) from “.” to “?” — when you really want someone to respond to you, ending on a question makes a huge difference. We are wired to want to resolve and respond to questions when they are in front of us. So, instead of saying, “When you’re ready to move forward, I’m here.” (or something) instead ending the email with a question like, “How does that sound to you?” or “Did I properly answer all your questions?” or “What did I miss?” will encourage someone to respond and reduce the chances you will get ghosted.
SmallBizLady: What are the top 5 wording mistakes businesses make?
Melina Palmer: When considering behavioral and encouraging action, I have identified five categories of mistakes businesses make. They are being too boring, too much, too vague, too confusing, and too literal.
If your messaging is boring and long it is hard to get people to buy. In general, if you are asking “Is there too much here?” The answer is yes. You can almost always edit the messaging down in a way that will make it stronger, so it is a good idea to edit multiple times to hone that in. Concise, clear copy is always more engaging, and you don’t have to believe that you are destined to be boring.
A secondary problem that comes in tandem with these is where we get confusing and vague language. It is amazing how often websites or ads or emails are missing a call to action. If someone has to figure out what they are supposed to do, you are going to lose people who might have otherwise wanted to buy. I always ask my clients, “If this piece of communication can only do one thing, what is the most important thing?” Once that is identified, you want to put all the proverbial eggs in that basket. Make it clear and compelling and easy and obvious and exciting for doing that one thing.
Our last item is being too literal. This is where we feel like we need to give a lot of specific information and give way more detail than is needed. My favorite example of this is the nail salon near my house that had a big sign in the window reading “Best in the South Sound 2009, 2010, 2011” That would have been great in 2012, but this was 2018, so this message that was intended to be positive had me subconsciously wondering, “What happened?” It was priming me to feel like something was off, so I didn’t go there for months. A simple reframe that is still true, but less literal, to say “Best in the South Sound 3 Years in a Row” is much more compelling. A simple reframe can make a huge difference.
How to Protect Your Assets
Tracey Gordon has served as a pillar of change for Philadelphian constituents for over 20 years. Her organizing and legislative success propelled her from the ranks of local grassroots leadership and advocacy to becoming Philadelphia’s first African American Register of Wills. Her tireless dedication to the community has resulted in election protection laws, city-wide neighborhood clean-ups, advocacy for seniors and youth, as well as property value increases and protection. As the Register of Wills, Tracey is implementing comprehensive probate reform to improve quality of life Philadelphians. For more information: www.phila.gov/wills
SmallBizLady: When should you prepare a Will?
Tracey L. Gordon: You should prepare a will as soon as you acquire an asset, no matter the value. Children as assets as well as property. It is never too early to begin estate planning. The best way to prepare a Will is by getting legal assistance through an estate attorney. Life’s twists and turns are almost always unexpected. It is better to be prepared than to wait and wish you had been proactive about preparing a Will. When making a Will the executor/executrix is one of the most crucial assignments to your document. This individual should be someone you deeply trust because they will be tasked with the ultimate responsibility of seeing your wishes carried out as written. Taking ownership over the things in life you’ve accumulated doesn’t have to be this gloomy thing that society has turned it into. You’ve worked hard for all you’ve acquired, and you should have a final say on what is done with those things whether you are a young adult, middle-aged, or a senior. Also, you should update your Will with any life changing event such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child to reflect your present situation.
SmallBizLady: How can you set things up so that your loved ones can avoid probate court?
Tracey L. Gordon: In the event of death, assets held in a living trust can bypass probate. The beneficiary takes over the trust and does not need oversight by the court. A revocable living trust can be canceled at any time. The need to probate occurs when assets are listed in only the name of the decedent. So, if your goal is to avoid the probate process it is imperative to make sure that any assets (where applicable) have beneficiaries listed. For example, life insurance policies, pension, bank account, and any deeds. It’s a best practice to have a contingent beneficiary as well, just in case something happens to the primary.
SmallBizLady: What is a tangled title?
Tracey L. Gordon: A “Tangled Title” is a phrase coined by Attorney Judy Berkman to express what happens to heirs’ property – property that is passed down to surviving inheritors (usually family) if the owner of a property dies without leaving a Will or an estate plan. Without a Will or estate plan, the property is inherited by all next of kin of the deceased owner, but the deed of the property remains in the name of the deceased owner which creates a multitude of legal roadblocks for the inheritors hence “tangling the title.”
How to Franchise a Small Business
Christy Ford started her career as a photographer, later moving to Charlottesville, and opening George, an antique and home store, with her mother. As the business grew, Christy realized there was a lack of successful advertising opportunities for local small businesses and was driven to find a solution—and so, The Scout Guide was born. Today she and her partner have more than 74 cities where their franchisees publish online and printed guidebooks to support the local business community. Christy leads creative direction and branding across the business. For more information: www.TheScoutGuide.com
SmallBizLady: What is The Scout Guide and how did it get started?
Christy Ford: In 2010, my business partner Susie Matheson and I both decided to make mid-life career changes to launch The Scout Guide. It initially began as a locally focused, print city guide, dedicated to supporting local small businesses in Charlottesville, Virginia. Today, The Scout Guide has expanded into a nationwide publishing franchise with owners in 75 markets. We created The Scout Guide to break the traditional advertising mold and offer small businesses a unique platform for promotion by providing elevated branding and high-impact photography. With each print edition published once a year, our mission is to tell compelling stories about small businesses and connect them with an audience proven to drive sales.
SmallBizLady: How does company draw traffic to The Scout Guide?
Christy Ford: The Scout Guide’s mission is to connect people with local makers, experts, and one another. Not only do we highlight these businesses in our guides, but online and on other digital platforms, we share tips from our network of experts on everything from selecting personal stationery to creating beautiful interiors, or even providing travel recommendations from in-the-know locals. We also love to share in-depth stories about talented artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs.
SmallBizLady: Why did you decide to franchise The Scout Guide?
Christy Ford: Prompted by the success of The Scout Guide in Charlottesville, we saw the opportunity to expand into new markets. We felt that small businesses nationwide would benefit from the unique style of advertising. So, we saw franchising as the ideal model to guarantee the consistently high-quality print product, while also providing opportunities for new owners—specifically, women like us. As passionate advocates for shopping locally, The Scout Guide owners serve as connectors in their communities. We provide significant training and networking opportunities for all owners, oversees the design and printing of every edition, and curates online editorial content that supports the regional print guides.
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