How the Customer’s Brain Processes and Saves Information
What if you could read the minds of your customers? What if, like a hypnotist, you could reach inside their minds and control their decisions?
Knowing what is going on inside the minds of customers is like sitting at a poker table and seeing others’ hands.
In this article, you will learn how the brain works and how to manage it in favor of your business. You can use the knowledge you receive from this article to manage your employees, too. Your competition is also made up of humans, and knowledge of the brain’s function will help you to predict their actions or reactions towards profit gain and loss. After all, every human brain works similarly.
I will try to explain everything in a simple, practical way with lots of examples that are non-technical and uncomplicated.
The human brain has evolved over hundreds of millions of years to keep us safe, help us survive, and push us to reproduce and create new generations. Until a couple of hundred years ago, our environment and lifestyles had stayed nearly consistent throughout the previous thousands of years. Now, over the last few hundred years, technology and industry have changed our environment and lifestyles drastically.
Yet, our genes are still the same as before. A few generation cycles are not enough to make a genetic difference. Our environment has changed, but our brains work and process the information based on the old genes that proved amazingly useful.
The extraordinary processing power and function of the brain lies in the way it saves and organizes information. The brain holds information in four different sections:
- Habits and Conditioning
Understanding the brain’s logic of saving and handling information is crucially important to know how it operates. For you, as a business owner or marketer, it is critically important to know how to articulate your marketing messages so they affect the right aspect of the brain. Otherwise, all your time, effort, and expenses will be lost, as happens to many businesses.
The memory section of the brain holds temporary, non-essential, life-threatening information, like what is happening around us and what we take in, like education, books, news, movies, and so on.
The memory section of the brain is like the bookshelves of a library. If you need information, you have to look it up and actively retrieve it by using your conscious mind.
The input to the brain comes from our five senses, vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. As a business owner or marketer, all you have is these five senses to effectively transfer your message to the right section of the minds of your current and prospective customers.
Memory has two subsections, short- and long-term memory.
The information in short-term memory is quickly accessible. It is like the sticky notes on your desk and computer screen. Short-term memory keeps only the immediate, recent information and events but it has only a shallow capacity.
The role of short-term memory in our lives and survival is vitally important. The brain keeps adjacent recent events in the short-term memory which is the rapid access section of memory, right next to each other in case there is any relationship among them.
The capacity for short-term memory is low because many of those events are not necessary to our daily lives or future. So, the brain removes them eventually to release its valuable resources for more coming information. For example, if you saw someone running and screaming, your brain would instantly analyze all the events and information from the past few minutes to try to identify the source of the threat or danger.
But the brain is much more complex than removing information and events just because they are old. All the information in short-term memory is reviewed and referenced in our dreams. On average, we experience eight dreams per night that we mostly don’t remember, unless waking abruptly in the middle of them.
The importance of short-term memory for you as a business owner or marketer is that the information in short-term memory is still fresh. You can intentionally bind the information of the short-term memory to something inside the long-term memory, subconscious, or instinct section of the brain to give them more of a chance to transfer to long-term memory. For instance, when your customer has positive feelings right after the treatment, don’t let those feelings be wasted. Ask her open-ended questions and let her talk. Your open-ended questions bring the experiences and events from the long-term memory to the surface and link them to the recent good feelings of the treatment.
Now, how do you transfer the information from short-term memory to long-term memory?
Business owners spend time and money to grab people’s attention and help them remember their business and messages. But in most cases, the customers don’t remember, and all efforts and expenses are wasted. In the same sense, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and estheticians explain services to their clients, give them handouts and brochures, and expect them to remember that information and advice. But they don’t and simply forget most of them. As a business owner or a professional, you need to know how to articulate your message so the customer’s brain saves it for a longer time in their long-term memory.
The brain has rules and regulations as to what pieces of information are important and deserve to be preserved in the long-term memory, and which ones are not.
One of the brain’s rules to keep information in long-term memory is that the more the senses are involved, the more chances of sending a signal to the brain that the information or event is important.
For example, the brain treats the message that comes from a well-designed, eye-catching office with a piece of uplifting music in the background differently than if the same message comes from a dull, boring office environment.
Offering a refreshment, presenting a lovely environment, calm or uplifting music, and essential oil diffusing are all ways to involve the senses in the customer’s experience. If you have ever participated in a trade show, you have noticed that some booth owners are masters of the art of combining the senses.
One of the most important and effective senses that is often overlooked by businesses is the sense of smell.
In the wild, where our brains evolved, scents are critical to the survival of humans and other animals. Each animal has a unique scent. In nature, an animal can hide and be quiet, but cannot mask its smell easily. A sense of smell can help animals to protect themselves against predators when they cannot see them.
The olfactory sense, or smell, is the only sense in the body that directly connects to the different sections of the brain without any intervention. A message or information that accompanies a scent goes much deeper and lasts longer inside the brain and also retrieves many more details. A classic example is men who approach women using baby powder as their cologne. The immediate response of a woman to the smell of baby powder is love and care.
An essential oil diffuser helps your marketing stay longer inside the customer’s brain. You can make a quick trip to a nearby store’s beauty section and observe what people buy. The smell of shampoos and lotions and other beauty items are a great clue as to the scent you can use in your office.
Another powerful technique that increases the chance of your message and information sticking to memory is accompanying them with body movement. Body movement is a powerful signal to the brain that information was so important that it involved your entire body. Professional public speakers use this technique by asking audiences to perform some kind of body movement, contracting their muscles.
Binding the information to something that is well known by the customers is another excellent way to go deeper with information and maintain it longer inside the long-term memory. During interactive communication, the customer keeps his or her mind active in the conversation. Interactive communication exposes deeper parts of the brain to locate something related to bind to your message.
The information inside short- and long-term memory is considered temporary and not vital by the brain. Everything in short- and long-term memory will fade away and be forgotten over time.
Memory is used by the conscious mind to analyze and make a conscious decision. The conscious and memory section of the brain controls only 10% of our day-to-day lives, and the rest is controlled by the subconscious section of the mind.
Habits and Conditioning
If you have valuable information to communicate or want people to do something for you, focus, and invest in their habits or subconscious mind.
The habit section of the brain automates repetitive actions and thoughts to save the brain’s resources for more critical use. Habits also guarantee that regular, daily activities are done on time and never missed.
Activities and thoughts use a specific combination of brain cells or neuron connections. The more we perform an action or thought, the more stable and permanent the connections among the particular group of neuron cells become. On average, it takes about 28 to 30 days for an activity or thought repetition to make strong enough pathways of connections among brain cells to become a habit.
Habits are critically important to run a business, and also life, smoothly. Having healthy habits lifts the burden of supervising employees all the time and worrying if the tasks are completed on time. A reliable business system involves the creation of the right habits in the minds of employees. If your business is not running smoothly and you have constant issues with your team, look no further than the habits of you or your staff.
I am not a supporter of never-ending meetings and announcements if you want to make a real and stable change in your business. To improve the efficacy of your business, simply work hard to make a realistic, achievable goal. Then automate the activities and thoughts that guide you and your team to reach the desired goal by implementing the right habits.
Conditioning uses the same mechanism as habits. Conditioning is an automatic reaction to an event. For example, you can condition your customers to remember your company whenever they smell lavender or chocolate.
In one of my retail businesses, I used to give a couple of Hershey’s Kisses chocolates to all customers with every single sale. The customers become conditioned to receive chocolate whenever they bought those specific products. When there was no chocolate, they thought something was missing, and most of them mentioned it. Whenever the customers bought the same products or service from another company, they felt that something was missing, even if it was just a small reward like Hershey’s Kisses chocolates.
Conditioning people, and even companies, requires repetition and consistency. For instance, if you want your customers to remember you whenever they drink orange juice, provide them orange juice at every single visit with no exception.
The Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind is the hidden section of the brain that controls about 90% of our activities and thoughts. The subconscious mind filters all inputs and outputs of our brains to make sure nothing hurts us based on the information that is already saved inside it.
The subconscious mind is a massive database of all past events and experiences that threaten, hurt, or rescue our lives.
Values and beliefs are also part of our subconscious mind. Our values are boundaries and routes in our minds that are supposed to protect us from the unknown. For example, some religions assume protection from the danger of hell and rejection by God. Being a caring and respectful person protects us from rejection by the community and brings us the same care and respect from others.
Our subconscious reveals who we are and is the main reason for where we are in life right now.
The key to saving information in the subconscious mind is accompanying them with emotions.
Emotions are pure, honest, spontaneous reactions of the brain to the events and news around us. We don’t make a previous plan to be excited or panic. Emotions occur whenever an event or news is so strong or critical that it bypasses all the conscious barriers and restrictions of our brains.
The subconscious mind doesn’t solely give warning messages. When you feel relaxed or trust a person or environment without any previous contact, it is the act of the subconscious mind. In this situation, the subconscious mind sends a signal that you had a satisfying or rewarding experience similar to the current circumstance in the past.
Our brains aren’t geared to immediately calculate, be creative, and process information. Processing requires time and extra data that may not be available at the moment and that is why it is not compatible with nature and survival.
In the wild, you have to act and make decisions instantly or be eaten by another animal with no mercy. As previously mentioned, we inherited the subconscious mind from our ancestors with little to no changes in the past couple hundred years of technology.
The way the subconscious mind saves events is by taking an image of the whole situation. For example, If you are involved in a car accident, the entire scene of the accident plus people, environment, and conditions save as an image to the subconscious mind.
The importance of saving information as an image is to give us a warning if we expose ourselves to any aspects of the previous event.
All our prejudgments and feelings towards others are the result of the information saved in our subconscious mind. The output of the subconscious mind is feelings, either positive or negative.
Marketers use the technique of accompanying their products or services with something that is already known to our subconscious mind. For example, mothers and families represent safety and trust for most people. Genius marketers present their products or services being used by a mother or a family to get our subconscious minds to trust.
As a business owner or marketer, you have endless opportunities to bind your products or services to the subconscious minds of your prospective customers.
A significant drawback of the subconscious mind in modern life is saving the events and information for a lifetime. In the past generations, people often used to grow up in the same environment and face the same issues all their lives. But in modern life, from childhood to adulthood, our environments and lives keep changing. The same events and information that used to scare us in childhood are sometimes invalid in adulthood.
Skewed images and information of the subconscious mind are one of the main reasons for anxiety, stress, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. If someone punished or hurt us because of the mistakes we made in our childhood, the result would be fear and avoidance of even honest mistakes later on in our life.
The subconscious mind has tools to warn us of imminent risk or reward. These tools are anxiety, feeling bad or good, stress, depression, avoidance, overeating or not eating enough, sleeping problems, and all other emotions.
Hijacking the conscious mind is one of the most powerful methods used by the subconscious mind to change our actions or thoughts. The conscious mind brings forth all the reasons in the world to convince you that an act is good or bad.
When there is a rationalization, the subconscious mind has already hijacked the conscious mind to achieve its desire.
In business, almost all customers’ hesitations, skepticisms, doubts, indecisiveness, and reasoning are their subconscious minds in action. Whenever you see a hint of the subconscious mind in the reaction or reasoning of a customer, switch your tone and talk in the language of the subconscious mind.
Hesitation is the sign of an internal argument and fight between the subconscious mind and the conscious mind. In this situation, the subconscious mind is trying to avoid a risk or danger. If you can find the source of the objection of the subconscious mind, you can easily close the sale. For example, Costco, Nordstrom, and Zappos eliminated the fear of losing money and uncertainty in the subconscious minds of their customers by accepting an unconditional long-term return policy.
Attaching products and services to something valuable or important in the subconscious mind is a common practice used by many businesses. A classic example is the insurance companies that attach their products or services directly to the fears that reside inside the subconscious minds of their customers.
The companies that advertise that they give a portion of their sales to breast cancer research or hunger relief are attaching their products or services to the value section of their customers’ subconscious mind.
How to imprint your message inside the subconscious mind
Emotion is the only language that the subconscious mind understands. If you can trigger a pure, honest emotion in your customers, the message you convey travels to their subconscious mind.
For instance, this article was written in April 2020, and we are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The whole world is immersed in panic, fear, and uncertainty. These emotions are the main facilitators to push any information and experiences to the subconscious mind.
Any activity or news from you as a business, whether it hurts or helps people, goes directly to the subconscious mind and determines future purchasing decisions. This is one of the most exceptional times for businesses to leave enduring, positive impacts on their customers’ subconscious minds.
Instinct section of the brain
The instinct section of the brain holds information for life, like eating, sleeping, mating and reproduction, and competition for resources.
We share the instinct section of our brain with almost all other animals. Humans share about 99% of our genes with chimps. The instinct section of our brains hasn’t changed since ancient times. We are still living and running our lives with the same genes as our ancestors used to live thousands of years ago.
The only thing that separates us from other animals is modifying the instinct section of the brain through the conscious and subconscious mind. For example, hunting converted to the sport, the intensity to propagate genes converted to watching porn and cheating, and the need to know our environment and gather resources converted to endless window shopping.
The origin of the majority of our purchasing decisions and desires is the instinct section of the brain.
The urge to buy the latest extravagant cars, houses, and other things is to satisfy the need to rise in the hierarchy in the community to access more resources.
As a business owner, if you can identify the origin of a purchasing decision inside the instinct section of the brain, sales will become much easier.
A woman who undergoes the painful torture of a Brazilian waxing may want to satisfy the instinct section of her brain for reproduction. The origin of the action of a man who spends much of his time in the gym, torturing himself to build muscles, could be the same as the urge for Brazilian waxing in the woman.
Associating your products or services with a source inside the instinct section of the brain is another common practice that business owners do all the time. Advertising products or services with a sexy woman is a classic example of associating them with the reproduction and mating part of the instinct section of the brain.
A smart business owner and marketer knows how to associate products or services with the right kind of instinct in their customer’s brain.
Businesses must satisfy the needs and desires of people that originate somewhere inside their minds. Knowledge of the logic and function of the brain gives you a great advantage to understand what is happening inside customers’ minds.