In this episode of the ROI Online Podcast, host Steve Brown interviews Will Leach, author of Marketing to Mindstates, founder of Triggerpoint, and CEO of the Mindstate Group. Will’s background is diverse; he performed poorly as a student and was a military man before transitioning to a career in economics, focusing on future prediction. From there, he went to Azusa Business School and studied market research. While working in marketing, he began to draw connections between market research and behavioral psychology.
Ultimately, Will found that rational economics, the standard tool in market research, missed a crucial component of effective marketing strategy. It held that no change in the environment should mean no change in a population’s consumer patterns; however, it failed to reckon with the emotional aspect of the consumers. In reality, consumers are shaped by emotional reactions, which is why appealing to such things as the scarcity effect and goal theory makes marketing more effective.
Given these realities, those marketing goods and services to consumers need to understand the customer’s higher-order goal. Discerning this goal can take time, is often discovered by intuition, and can be determined through a process called laddering. Appealing to a higher-order goal helps a marketer to build trust, empathy, and relationships. In Will’s own work, he markets to mindstates rather than people, allowing himself to honor the complexities of real people. His science-backed methods have proved enormously fruitful for him, and he is especially passionate about helping small businesses develop a consistent marketing strategy, and about helping entrepreneurs see that they can implement the marketing techniques he’s shared without a significant financial commitment.
Read his book, Marketing to Mindstates.
Visit mindstategroup.com to learn more about Mindstate Group
Read Steve Brown’s book, The Golden Toilet.
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Will Leach: 0:00
What's funny about that is that if we just would talk to our customers a little more often, you may inadvertently think yourself, "Well, somebody must have undercut my price." That may not have happened. You could have actually... You may have lost a sale with somebody who actually charged more, but they tapped into that emotional side of that decision. Which, by the way, there's lots of studies that show you that the vast majority of decisions—like you're talking in the 95 percentile of decisions—are made emotionally first. Then they look for the post rationalization. They look for, "Oh, and you're also low price, and you're gonna make me look quality." They make the emotional decision first.
Will Leach: 0:34
Well, if you're not talking to your customer and helping them reach their emotional goals, they made the decision to not use you long before they look at your price. Anyways, it's a hard concept to get your head around. But there are studies and studies and years and years of research that are telling you that this is the best way to differentiate yourself is understanding the emotional goals, those higher order goals that people have, and then tactically talking about those in very unique ways but ways that create that emotional arousal. So you just feel intuitive. It feels natural to work with you.
Steve Brown: 1:14
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the ROI Online Podcast, where we believe you, the courageous entrepreneurs of our day, are the invisible heroes of our economy. You not only improve our world with your ideas, your grit and your passion, but you make our world better. I'm Steve Brown and this is a place where we have great conversations with winners just like you while we laugh and learn together.
Steve Brown: 1:41
Today I'm really excited. I want to ask my audience a question. You remember that time that you did something that was totally out of character? It was so out of character that when the people that knew you asked you, "What in the world were you thinking?" And all that you could come up with... And this has happened to me many times. The only answer that I could come up with was, "I dunno." Well, remember how you felt. You felt like a total doofus because you really didn't know, but that's the only answer that you had.
Steve Brown: 2:20
And so today's guests, had he been there, he could have stepped in, explained exactly what you were thinking. And because I've read his book "Marketing to Mindstates," I can answer that question for you as well. Here's the answer. You weren't thinking. In fact, you don't think as much as you think you think. That's my favorite quote from this book. And ironically, this episode is going to give you a lot to think about. I'm excited. Introduce You two will each. He's the author of One of my favorite books is I said, "Marketing to Mindstates." Will is also the founder or the CEO of the Mindstate Group and the founder of TriggerPoint, a leading behavioral research and design consultancy specializing in, guess what, Mindstate Marketing. Will, welcome to the ROI Online Podcast
Will Leach: 3:12
Hey, it's my pleasure to be with you today. Thanks for having me.
Steve Brown: 3:15
I'm just jacked up because you and I are on a journey together in many ways, and you know the thing that I love... So the people that listen to this podcast, they're business leaders, and the hardest thing for a business leader, a parent, an entrepreneur, someone as leading a team, is to really communicate clearly. That's the essence of leadership, and the better that you can communicate, the better leader you are. If you think of the folks that we really enjoy. Oprah, for example. Oprah is just someone who's naturally inclined to really communicate well. And people, it just connects her with all these folks.
Will Leach: 3:57
All right. Well, hey, thanks again for having me. Yeah my back story might be a little unusual for the entrepreneurs who are listening because I actually didn't want to be an entrepreneur. I was forced into it. So my background is: When I was in high school, I was a horrible student. I liked girls too much. I didn't think school was very important. And because of that, I went into the military. And now I came from a military background. My father is in special forces. Both my brothers were in the Army, in wars. And so I just kind of assumed I'd go into the military, and that's what I did. And when I went in the military, I learned a few things about myself and one of the first things I learned out was that I needed to become a man because I was still acting kind of like a boy coming out of high school. And the military is a really good way of making you a man, and they convert you into a man and kind of transform you into a soldier.
Will Leach: 4:48
But on top of that, actually in the military, what I learned was that there are things that are bigger than myself. And it gave me kind of this desire to really stand for something that's outside of myself. And so I ended up leaving the military after three years and went to the school. And actually, I fell in love with the economics. I was a terrible student, but for some reason, economics made sense to me. Macroeconomics. I'm horrible at finance. I'm terrible at accounting. I'm not great with numbers, but if you want to talk about economics, I can play the game. I worked in economics. I went to University Florida, where I studied economics. I went to grad school in Texas A&M University, where I learned applied economics. So quants. Quant jock. And I just understood data and how to look at data in ways to help me understand and predict the future. Now, I was looking at data like futures in weather patterns. I was in economics, but in the food science's space and looking at agricultural data for the last 100 years and I hated it. I couldn't stand it after, like, two weeks of being at Texas A&M, I thought, "I can't do this with my life. I just cannot worry about crop futures." I had a professor told me to go to the business school, and that's where I fell into marketing research.
Steve Brown: 6:02
So when you realize that this agricultural data stuff wasn't your gig, were you disappointed? I mean, I know you approached that in just knowing you approached it with this. "I'm gonna be the best that this." And then you had to confront that. Talk about that.
Will Leach: 6:17
Disappointed and scared because I, in my head, ever since I went to the University of Florida, I said, "I'm gonna go into the futures markets. I'm gonna go the Chicago Board of Trade and be a millionaire. I'm gonna create these models, and I'm gonna wear the three-piece suit. I'm gonna do my hands left and right. I'm gonna get futures. Kind of like a stockbroker." And when I discovered... It was literally the third week of working under the professor and he was giving a stipend. I was there to work on data analytics. And after three weeks, I hate it. I didn't want to go to the office. And so I was scared because I lost my stipend. And he even said, "Well, the good news is, i think somebody over in marketing research over in the school of business..." Never taking a business class, by the way. I was always in economics and kind of working through my undergrad degree in economics. I never really took a class in psychology, never took a class in marketing. He said, "You should go over there because I know they do something with regressions," but he told me, "I don't know what they do. But those regressions end up being marketing research."
Will Leach: 7:14
And so, one I was scared that I lost my stipend. But then, two, I went and talked to the professor over in the marketing department. I thought, "This is amazing," because I was gonna try to understand and predict the most complex system ever devised by God, which was the human mind. And that was to me... It blew my mind that there are people out there that were talking to people and trying to understand what makes them tick. What makes them take certain decisions in one direction verse another. And I've never heard of this concept, Never took psychology, never took sociology, and I fell in love. And so, scared. But then within about a semester, I thought, "This is what I want with my life." I knew it. I don't know what I was gonna do. But I knew that this was where I wanted to take my life.
Steve Brown: 7:53
So is that behavioral sciences that... What did they call it at that time?
Will Leach: 7:57
They called it marketing research. And back then, they weren't even thinking about behavioral sciences and behavior psychology. This is back in 1997 where, it's funny, but the two social sciences were not talking to business schools that much back them. They really weren't. And so I was learning marketing research around: Ask people what they want, ask them what they're gonna do in the future, ask them if they like this ad." Social sciences was looking at saying, "When you ask people questions, they will give you rational kind of answers. But that's not really what predicts what they're going to do in the future." I didn't marry those two things up until years later in my career when I was over Pepsico. That's the time I married these things. I had never even heard of the social sciences in behavioral economics. It wasn't even a part of what I did.
Steve Brown: 8:41
So what's the difference between behavioral sciences and decision science?
Will Leach: 8:46
I think you can almost blend the terms together. I will say that there is a slight distinction and that decision science is trying to understand the processes of making decisions. And those could be oftentimes conscious, many times unconscious as well. But conscious decision making... We have processes that help us understand the world and make decisions that are in our best interests. Behavioral sciences go beyond that, saying we sometimes just react to the environment. Like you said, we don't think as much as we think. That is the world of behavioral sciences where were oftentimes influenced by our environments, the way you're talking to me, the way I'm feeling, whether I'm hungry or whatever. Those things are beyond decision scientists so they can kind of be intermix because they're certainly a lot of overlap. But there is that slight distinction between rational thinking versus environmental influences.
Steve Brown: 9:37
So you spoke about when all of a sudden you started to put those together, I'm guessing or assuming that's what we would call "the inciting incident" or "the call to action". So draw that picture for us.
Will Leach: 9:50
Yeah, I talk about this in my book. Here's what happened. I'm over at Frito Lay. I'm running shopper insights at Frito Lay here in Dallas, Texas. A lot of responsibility, and they invested heavily in a laboratory. We called it the Smart Lab, the shopper marketing and retail testing laboratory. So imagine this space where it was about the size of a Walgreens, and I had a theater about the size of a Walgreens to run experiments. Now I still was really in this world of behavioral psychology yet and understanding emotional factors, decision making, all this stuff that we just talked about. I was more like, "I'm going to ask people to come into my laboratory, maybe 75 people I'm going to then tokeep the old packaging of Tostitos. And I'm going have 75 people shot my aisles and then I will look to see the number of people who bought Tostitos. And then the next day, I'm gonna prove... I'm gonna recruit another 75 people to shop that same aisle, but this time put a new bag." So it's very much a very standard, classic piece of marketing research. I change one variable and see what happens.
Will Leach: 10:49
So here's the story. I did a study where I was asking people 75 people to come into the laboratory to shop the store and then overnight, I'm supposed to put on the new packaging of Tostitos to see "Hey, does the new packaging create greater lift?" That night, the shipment of packaging didn't arrive to the laboratory, but I had already had another 75 people the next morning gonna show up to shop this environment. So what do I do? Well, I can't just call 75 people and tell him to come back another time. It's too late, I said, "You know what? I'm gonna create the exact same study again. I'll get a bigger base size 150 people, right? And then a couple of weeks later, or a couple of days later, I'll bring in the new example." Well, I brought in the 75 people. We got the data back and I had an analyst. He said, "Will, I got to talk to you. There's an issue with the data." What's the issue? He said, "Well, the results from day one are not matching back the results of day two. But yet the packaging was saying the same exact environment, the same lighting, the same planogram, the same prices. They're totally different sales." And I said, "Kim, don't ever tell anybody about this. Don't say a word," because I world that's not supposed to happen. Rational economics, right?
Will Leach: 11:58
Traditional economics say that nothing should have changed. I have the same variables. What should have changed? Like, people should still been making the cost benefit analysis of this Tostitos bag, and it wasn't the same. That blew me away. Unfortunately for me, I had a senior vice president marketing who found that out so I couldn't keep the secret. I'm had to figure this out, right? And he said, "Hey, Will, your yearly budget is $5 million. And if you can't tell me what's reality, whether it's day one or day two, then we have an issue with the lab." And he basically in not so many words told me, "You have about a year to figure this out." And that's when I started thinking, "What can I control for? The emotion. I couldn't control for the emotions that people were feeling or the environment that they were coming into my laboratory for. And that was my first introduction to reading about this whole science around behavioral sciences. And I read the classic Daniel Ariely book that everyone in my genre reads. They got this world of rational decision making is wrong. And that was kind of the beginning of this whole journey for the next three years, where I just had to understand behavioral psychology in shopper marketing.
Steve Brown: 13:09
That's crazy to think what was at risk there, and here it had upset your whole paradigm to think that, "You do this A test. Now I'm gonna do the B test, and then there's my results." How long have you been doing that?
Will Leach: 13:25
At that point, I was in my career for about 12 years.
Steve Brown: 13:28
Oh my gosh.
Will Leach: 13:29
And it's still happening today. The vast majority of marketing research still asks people to, "Tell me what you think. Tell me how you behave in the future." It's still based upon these old models. But there's a whole new kind of golden age of behavioral understanding now that says asking people for what they want is not necessarily—doesn't mean it's always wrong—but it's not necessarily right. And that world didn't exist in the first 12 to 15 years of my entire research career, I never heard these concepts before.
Steve Brown: 13:56
So what emotions were you going through when you realized that what you and believed wasn't true?
Will Leach: 14:03
The first thing is like frustration and the pain of knowing that I'm still paying off student loans on sciences that I no longer believed in, Right? Economics. But at the same time, when I read Daniel Ariely' book, it made sense to me emotionally. Even though the science that I'd learned in my master's degree and through the first 10 years of my career through very intelligent, bright people, the best companies in the world (we hired Pepsico), I knew intuitively that he was right. I didn't have any evidence. But I'm like, "This guy. He knows." Because when you read and when you really think about how we make decisions and he just kind of brings it out in a very popularized book. And now there's many of these books, right? That was actually... I felt like I just was introduced to a brand new world that I was never been exposed to. But with that world, I wanted to dig in immediately. So I got excited and I buried myself into reading every book, every paper I could, because the more I read, the more questions I had and just created this entire new momentum of my career and my passion. A whole new lens for looking at marketing research and marketing through, frankly.
Steve Brown: 15:05
So you... Through that process, you came up with the thesis or some prototype in your mind, right? And so then you go to testing it. So probably some ups and downs, back and forths. Let's hear about that.
Will Leach: 15:19
What happens is, as you read these sciences, you'll get caught up into reading just one science. And for me, it was behavioral economics, a concept that Ariely writes about in that book. So I read about behavioral economics and let me give an example. One of the things in behavioral economics there's a heuristic. There's a rule of thumb that many times we will use to make a decision quicker and faster, right? So, for instance... So they study these rules of thumbs and them they study these triggers that get people to not think but just to act, that's what behavioral economics does. So I'm sitting there, and one of the ideas is called Scarcity Effect. And this idea that we place value on things that we believe are scarce in nature. So great, so Ariely talks about that. There's other authors and other academics. I talked about this.
Will Leach: 16:02
So I'm sitting there in the world of real, the real world in the real world, where I am helping to sell chips and I have competitors. And what happens if we both use coupons that say, "limit two," right? That's scarcity. Some in my head, behavioral economics doesn't account for the fact what differentiates one scarcity versus another. I was like, "Well, there's another science, and it has to be goal theory. What drives me to choose one brand over another if we both have the exact same heuristic? So I.... Since I'm in the real world, the real business world, I didn't have to study one behavioral science for two decades, like most academics do; They study one science for two decades and experts in that. I didn't have that limitation. I got to find four different social sciences and find the bridges. And I realized the guys who are talking about motivational science are not talking to the people who talk about economists. Behavior economists are not talking to people who are studying goal theory. I'm looking at this stuff saying, "Oh my gosh. They all touch on a very important part off understanding our decision making and our behaviors." So here's the story of when I thought, "Man, I've got something big here."
Will Leach: 17:11
So remember when... The fact of the matter is, I did a study that, by all accounts, should have got me fired, which was the Tostitos, because I couldn't tell what was reality. I had a lot of people who supported me at Pepsi and they said, "You just gotta go figure it out." Here's what I figured this thing out. When I kind of merged these sciences together and what it was... It was actually a study that I also write about in the book. And I won an award for this project, a very prestigious award in terms of behavioral science marketing, which catapulted me into starting my own company. So this time, I'm still a Pepsico. I'm still marketing research are struggling with this whole social science and all this stuff. And I read a study from Yale from a guy by the name of Ravi Dhar that talks about this concept that when we bundle products... So let's say, for instance, if you're going to go major grocery store and they say, "If you buy this one product, you can buy another product, and together, if you buy both of the same time, you can get a discount, right?"
Will Leach: 18:10
This is classic bundling. We all do it all the time so Pepsico would sell chips and sodas under a bundle. "Hey, buy both of these together for a lower price." Kellogg's does the same thing. You know, Pop-Tarts and cereal like... so people bundle products all the time for a discount. Here's what Ravi did. He looked at a totally different industry, and he said, "What if rather than placing both items together for one low price, what if instead of that you said, 'You know what? I'm going to discount the bundle. I'm gonna discount the item within the bundle that you feel guilty about.'" And that's a totally different way of thinking about the same discount. But what if you felt guilt? Maybe it's a nice chunk of chocolate that you know you shouldn't be eating, but if you discount the chocolate in the bundle, what if I did that? I could now get the discount, but also you could make me feel less bad about myself. You could discount sin, right. They call this concept hedonic bundling. I read it about cars, and I thought, "Oh my gosh, I could do hedonic bundling, because I know that there are people who feel guilty about eating chips or drinking sodas or things like that."
Will Leach: 19:14
So I did a basic study to understand which items within the Pepsi Co portfolio had a high hedonic charge, meaning there's a lot of emotional arousal to it, but people feel a little bit guilty for eating. Snacks are great about that. They're great indulgences. So I did a basic study. I took two concepts. One concept was: You buy soda and chips and put it both together for one low price. The second concept I ran is: buy sodas and chips, save 70 cents on the soda rather than saying save both and get both together for a dollar 99 or whatever was I said. I took the exact discount, placed it on the soda, and I saw 20% lifted in sales. Almost immediately. I didn't do anything but reframe. I just used communications differently. And in my world of economics, that shouldn't matter. We should know the discount. I'm getting both together. I save 70 cents either way.
Will Leach: 20:08
But in this case, I was able to tap into an emotion and solved for that emotion and that... I actually worked with a great scientist to do that work. Once we saw the results, we couldn't believe it. And we actually put it up for an award. We won an award, and when I got off stage for that award... Think of it as it's kind of like an Academy Award for marketing research, right? It's called Explor Award. It was almost like winning best picture. And I came off stage and I had three companies as a kind of stage saying, "If you're not happy, I'd like to talk to you because I want you to come work for me." And I thought to myself, "There's something here because this room is full of marketing research companies, best marketing companies in the world. And they were like, 'We want you because what you just did we never heard of.'" And I thought, "There's something here that is powerful, is really, really powerful." And so I took it to start my own company.
Steve Brown: 20:55
That's crazy. So did you wear like the white science coat and carry a clipboard like Dr. Emmett Brown in "Back to the Future?"
Will Leach: 21:04
Yeah, I probably should have, but I did want to do is, I wanted to say... And I was lucky enough to where I understand marketing because I worked with brain managers. So my jacket was not a professorial jacket, but kind of like a Texas kind of vibe jacket. I was more of the nerdy researcher. I was kind of that in-between smart professor researcher.
Steve Brown: 21:26
Most every day for the last 10 years, I've worked with business leaders such as you. And there's this common conversation that I've had over and over, and it goes a little like this: "Steve. I see other brands excelling online, and I feel we need to do the same because my customers are expecting it of us. I'm not sure where to start, but I think we need to redo our website. What's the best way to approach this?" And this is why I wrote my book, "The Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System that Grows Your Business." It's a book designed to empower my business leaders so that they have the words and the proper expectations to communicate what it is they really need and get what they really need instead of something that sold to them. It puts them in a position of confidence and clarity. And so to get this book, it's a great read, you can go to Amazon, get it there, or you can go to thegoldentoilet.com and click on "Get your copy." Now back to our conversation.
Steve Brown: 22:42
So here I am. I'm thinking as these business owners that are listening right now, maybe they don't sell chips or soda, but they have a portfolio of products or service is. And so what some little things that they can start to grind on a little bit. Give us some examples of how maybe if I'm a plumbing company, talk to me about maybe some good examples you have. I don't know what they are, but...
Will Leach: 23:08
Yeah, there's a couple of things that I think marketing has lost their way because a lot of agencies are trying to be cute, and they're trying to be innovative with their words and trying to stand out. But in that in that ability to be so creative with their words, their tagines that we forget that people just want to solve the problem in their lives or they have a job to be done.
Steve Brown: 23:32
People just want to solve problems.
Will Leach: 23:36
Yeah, and I have to say that, you know, I told my team here, I said, "You know, guys, at the end of the day, people we work with, they want to get home at five o'clock to watch their kid play t-ball, just like we do. That is a problem we can help them with, even though it has nothing do with marketing research agency and me providing consulting services, I can do small things like write up an email for them so that they can send it to their boss, explaining what I do, just to get them home early. " So there's all sorts of things you provide outside of plumbing, in your example. There's all sorts of things you can provide. You don't think in that way, so the first thing I tell people is, "If you don't understand the goal of your customer and that maybe way outside of what you provide, then you truly don't understand how to market. Because people only buy products and solutions that help them reach their goals.
Will Leach: 24:24
And there are goals that a very functional like, "Hey, plumbing company. I want to be regarded as a very quality-driven plumber, right? And I also want to solve my clients' needs. I want to be on time. I want to have profit in my business." So there's simple, basic functional goals. But ultimately people, especially business owners out there, we have any emotional goal. We call it higher-order goals. And certainly, I want to have those things for my company, too. But what really drives me emotionally, rationally of those things that if you ask me what I need for my company, I need to be profitable. I need to grow it onto this size. I have all sorts of things I need to create processes. Emotionally why do I want that? Emotionally, for me, my higher-order goal is, at least in my world, is to create a meaningful difference, especially the kind of the middle class. That's something I grew up middle class and I want to see people succeed, and I believe my way of doing that is understanding how people make decisions and teaching others to make their marketing better.
Steve Brown: 25:25
Will Leach: 25:25
So first thing is: if you don't understand the functional goals, and most people get that, you've got a ladder up to, "What's the true emotional goal?" And then if you can help somebody meet that emotional goal— in this case, I want to provide, I want to make the world a little bit better place—by using all this psychology, the stuff that can actually help people reach their goals. That is an important thing that differentiates me from other companies. So for me, if you don't send goal, you are already missing the mark on any marketing you're doing. If you don't truly understand, you may get lucky and you may get a couple of sales, but you won't maximize your sales until you understand the goal and start messaging to that high-order goal.
Steve Brown: 25:59
One of the quotes you say is, "Marketing is broken", and I'm on board with that. I say that most marketing is anti-human. And people designed for technology or SEO or all these stupid things that really don't matter because there's a human with a brain on the other side of that, and that's what most people are missing. So the things that you're talking about, this higher-order goal means that you have to stop thinking about yourself and really put yourself in their place. How do you discern what the higher-order goals are? Do you guess? Do you just kind of get it, or is there a process?
Will Leach: 26:40
Yeah, there's a process, but I would tell you, and I'll tell you about the process. I will tell you that if you've spent any real-time in your industry and if you're talking to your customers regularly, so say if you're service, you're plumber or whatever talking to your customers, you're going to intuitively know the higher-order goal. You just may not know that you know, right? Because you know that's important you're trying to compete on price. You're competing on quality when you should be competing on your ability to help your customers reach a higher-order goal. So in my book, we list out questions you should be asking, and there's nothing special about these questions per se, except for what I'm trying to do is getting into that higher-order goal. And what you do is this thing called laddering.
Will Leach: 27:21
So first thing, if you want to understand somebody's goals, you have to ask them some basic questions. Just trying to get things like... Just gonna read it here. For instance, you would say something like, "When did you first start thinking about the need for this product? Go back in time and tell me that situation. Why you needed it." Like if you can ask your customer questions like, "What are you looking for? What are you looking to accomplish today? You can get that list out". And most people are gonna tell you the rational things. "I'm trying to grow my business. I'm trying to break through the clutter." They're gonna tell you those things. Those are important things. What you need to do now is ask them or in your own mind ladder. Just say this question. "Why is that important to you?" "Well, it's important because of X, Y and Z." "Why is that important?" Do it two times. It's called laddering. Do it two times. You ask, "Why is that important?" twice. You're going to get to a more emotional space, much more emotional space.
Will Leach: 28:11
So let me give an example we use in chips all the time. People want to eat healthier. And so we have done lots of different brands that are trying to build out healthier, healthier options. And when you ask guys what they want, "I wanna lose weight. I wanna get back in shape again. I wanna get my six-pack abs," all that functional stuff, which is meaningful. Great. Got it. Why is that important to you? When you asked that twice inevitably, especially Gen X guys will say same thing. "Because I want to walk my daughter down the aisle." Like every guy has, especially if they have a daughter is like, "I just want to look good and I want to be around for my daughter," especially people with really big problems with their weight. That's a higher goal. So now I'm not gonna get... It's all those people saying, "We could help you lose weight." I can say those words. What I'm going to do with my messaging is start relating to "We're gonna help you do those things that you may miss out on if you don't change your body. You may miss out on being able to tab that anniversary trip with your wife. You may miss out on being able to walk your precious daughter down the aisle," And if I could help them reach that, brother, they're gonna buy more than products. They're gonna buy my vitamins, but also by my next product that teaches them how to do weight control. They're gonna buy my coaching sessions. They combined whatever it is, because I'm tapping into that higher-order goal. So ask the question, "Why is that important?" Twice. If you can't ask your customers, I get it. Then do it yourself. If you know your customers well enough, your intuition, you'll get to basically the same place.
Steve Brown: 29:35
That's so true. I call it themes. I have so many of the same conversations with the same people or whatever business you're in, and they may use a different word or different vocabulary. But the theme starts to be real clear what the theme is, and I talk about it in my book, Where it's like those old kung fu movies where the lips are doing this, but the over audio, you know, is the English. The words coming on the audio or don't match what the lips were doing. But it's the same thing,
Will Leach: 30:07
Steve Brown: 30:07
There's a great book by, Chris Boss called "Never Split the Difference." It's a book on negotiation, but he does a version of laddering where he repeats... If you said, "Well, I want to lose some weight." "So you want to lose some weight?" And that opens up, "Yeah, I want to lose some weight because..." and it makes him feel more safe and they will share more insight for you. You know what the trap is for most of us, because we're in a hurry or we're so focused. We'll just take the first answer and think that that's the real answer. But there's that illogical reasoning that doesn't make sense. I always say, "If you lost a sale and everything made logical sense on why they should do this, it's saved the money or was a great fit or just everything aligned and you walk away and go, 'I don't believe that they didn't buy.' It's because we didn't really reveal and satisfy the illogical. The emotional thing."
Will Leach: 31:09
That's exactly... What's so funny about that is that we if we just would talk to our customers a little more often, you may inadvertently think yourself, "Well, somebody must have undercut my price. That may not have happened. You could have actually lost a sale with somebody who actually charged more. But they tapped into that emotional side of that decision. Which, by the way, I mean, there's lots of studies that show you that the vast majority of decisions, like you're talking in the 95 percentile decisions, are made emotionally first. Then they look for the post rationalization. They look for, "Oh, and you're also low price, and you're gonna make me look quality." They make the emotional decision first. Well, if you're not talking to your customer and helping them reach their emotional goals, they made the decision to not use you long before they look at your price anyways. It's a hard concept to get your head around. But there are studies and studies and years and years of research that are telling you that this is the best way to differentiate yourself, is understanding the emotional goals, those higher-order goals that people have, and then tactically, talking about those in very unique ways but ways that create that emotional arousal. So you just feel intuitive. I's feels natural to work with you. It's not that hard. It sounds scientifically. It's not. It's super easy, actually.
Steve Brown: 32:19
Well, that's so... You always hear this, "Well, people do business with people they trust." Okay, well, that makes sense. How do you build that trust? Well, you know, you show up on time, you do these old things that convey it without saying it, so to speak. But when you take this exercise and you're connecting with him on an emotional level, even if you ask them, they wouldn't be able to put the words. "I just trust him. Or I just trust her." But they feel it. And that's back to with the beginning of this episode is Well, why did you make that decision? "I don't know. It just felt right."
Will Leach: 32:58
Yep, that's absolutely true. It's absolutely true. The more likable you are, the more people will trust you. If you want people to like you, you help them reach their higher-order goals, mimic them. Like empathy. You said Oprah. What's great about Oprah is her clarity. Communication. I would also tell you that Oprah can build empathy like none other and people like people that they identify with an Oprah is actually pretty approachable on many, many different fronts. Because when you watch the Oprah Show, you just got the sense that she understood you. And you don't know why. She's in Chicago. You could be in San Diego. Didn't matter, because she was so likeable because she empathized with you. And it's really understanding some real basic things. What are people trying to achieve? It's such... And that's only one. There's lots of things you could do! That's one easy thing. You could do it. I tell my clients all the time, "If you don't understand that, you're already a disadvantage, you're already a disadvantage."
Steve Brown: 33:56
Here's the thing that's kind of beautiful about your story is this is a legitimate business application. This is not a touchy-feely fun little thing in our world as far as marketing. When you say markings broken, if you're approaching it as this fun little thing that we might do when we have a little extra money or extra time, that's because it's not paying attention to the details at you're coaching us on.
Will Leach: 34:22
Yeah, it's science-based marketing. It's science-based investments, actually. If you think of your marketing as an investment, you would ask, just like any other investment to understand, "How is this gonna make me money?" And I think in marketing most why marketing is broken is that agencies, for the most part, haven't been held accountable. They come up with a cool tagline. They may want to do a Super Bowl ad, and they haven't been held accountable. Science has changed. We now can know the ROI on every single piece of messaging that goes out. It's easy to do. In fact, most companies are now doing it. So wouldn't you want to understand the science behind it? Like you said, they're science behind this stuff and their tactics, it's all out there in literature. Just nobody's reading that stuff. That's kind of where my passion is. I read about it, and I brought it together into at least a model. There's other models out there, but they're science-based, so you should think about your marketing as an investment. Cause it is. It's not a cost.
Steve Brown: 35:15
I love that. So in the Hero's Journey, after the hero goes through these experiences, they start to get clarity. And so it's called the reward, or they start to bring back the gold, right? And so in your case, it's this book. And so when I was reading this book, you had done this cool thing defining the mindstates that people are in. And so I'd always thought about messaging from more of a one message for every audience. I mean, it very clear, and it's very impactful, and it improves. But when I realized that, actually, if I could discern that state of mind that someone was in when they're evaluating the potential solution, if I could define that, I'm using a force multiplier on my content. So when that epiphany happened for you and you started to put it down in words and classifications, I bet that was really exciting for you.
Will Leach: 36:11
It was and again, this was a... For us and marketing research who are studying why people buy things, it's a very different lens to look at the world. So classic marketing research and most big companies do what's called segmentation, and what they do is they go in the interview, thousands of people in the marketplace to figure out personas. So they will create a persona around this, the healthy eater. And then this is the indulgent guy. And that will create these personas with the idea being that we can talk to each persona differently. But imagine this right. We are all... I imagine that I have hundreds of different personas that I am categorized as. So Nike probably has their segmentation, and they have me as this type of athlete, right? I'm sure they do. And Pepsico or Coca Cola probably has a segmentation of people like me, and I fit into another attitudinal segment, and I'm sure it goes on and on and on. And what's important about that idea is that we have personalities. We all do. I have attitudes. I have believes. I have values just like everybody else out there has.
Will Leach: 37:12
And the issue with that is that these personality profiles or these segmentations that all these companies run on me, they identify me as a person, and they give me a little bit of context, like as it relates to being an athlete or as it relates to eating food or whatever. But I'm more complex than that. I'm a father. I have my own business. I have a friend. I go to church. I have a spiritual life. I'm a husband. And so if I am that complex, which I know I am, what's happening is companies are trying to put me under one persona, and that's fundamentally wrong because I'm more sophisticated that like then that. What I started trying to understand is, "What about these moments these moments when I'm making a decision in this category?" Now I can now take a look at that mindstate, that temporary moment where I'm making a decision. If I can understand my mindstate in that moment, then I can message to the moment not the person, cause when you message to the person, we're all variable. Like if my wife yells at me before I go to work, I'm a different mindstate. I'm not Athlete Will. I'm Need to Be Better Husband Will or whatever. That's
Steve Brown: 38:20
That's... I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'm laughing because, really, the typical marketing we could categorize it as Psycho marking because they have all these multiple personalities. But you don't know which one's going to show up, right? So you just let's just do an overall one.
Will Leach: 38:39
Yeah, that's exactly right, man. And I start thinking like if I'm different in these moments... And I start the book off with the moment when my son Nicholas was born, I was a very different guy in that moment, and I realized that in the moment I talk about in the book, I thought, "I'm not behaving like I normally would have thought I would have." It's because if you were to talk to me about being the dad, I would have behaved differently than the dad who just had a premie. Like we just had a kid I was not expecting, and all of a sudden all those things that I would rationally do as a dad changed in a moment, I thought, "That moment matters. Let's go study that moment."
Will Leach: 39:13
That moment, these points called trigger points. I'm under a different mindstate, a temporary mindstate, but I'm under temporary mindstate. If I can identify that mindstate, I can understand Will is a dad, that psycho segmentation, which we all gonna have. I'm not saying it's wrong, but what if I overlay the moment in time of this behavioral psychology of that moment in time? That's what of mindstate is. And when I can blend both those together, I get much more effective marketing. So that's what that the idea of mindstates was. It was in that moment where I started thinking, I got to stop thinking of trying to understand the person. The person is too complex. Remember, we said, it's most sophisticated system in all of humanity. God made our minds very sophisticated. What I can do is don't message the mind. Let me message to the moment in time, the mindstate, and it helps me get to a much more effective place.
Steve Brown: 40:02
I love that so much. It's so here's the thing that I think... If you're thinking of this as a way to manipulate someone better, you're totally missing the mark. This is about really connecting and building trust. That "I understand you." This is an opportunity to build a relationship that's not manipulate someone. And I could just see while you were manipulating people that eat chips, Will, that was your job at the time. But what did you do? You came out and now you're helping a business owner figure out how I can build that trust. People say it all the time, but how do I really, really do it?
Will Leach: 40:44
And there's science behind it. There are steps you can take that I'd want everybody listening to know this. It is not over your head. It's not all this behavioral psychology babble. That's why on the book I said "The Practical Guide to Applying Behavioral Design to Research and Marketing" and one of the first things I did on the introduction, I said, "It's for those who don't want to earn a Ph.D. in psychology while reading. This book is for you." And it is because all these academics have all these big words like decoy effect, that hyperbolic discounting and when you look at it, "Decoy effect is, oh, pay attention of this area," or, "hyperbolic discounting is oh, people prefer things now." When you write it like that, everyone gets it, but we talk in terms of academia. What I'm trying to do is make this more approachable and easier so that everybody out there can use these principles. Science-based, but they're actually practical and applicable. And there is a methodology to this stuff. And it's just been sitting in academia until people like me who read all this stuff but came from the business side of things of the world thing say, "How do you actually apply it?" And there's getting more and more books. More people like you and I are starting to know that their science behind it and we can make our marketing much better. And to your point, about manipulation. I tell people this all the time. Can you scare somebody into making a decision? You can. It happens. You can scare people to doing it. I will tell you you can do it one time. And when that fear-based marketing, when you scare somebody into taking a behavior that otherwise they would have taken or you manipulate them, they may not be consciously even aware that they were manipulated, but intuitively, they're not gonna like you. They're intuitively gonna know. We all have that feel that gut feeling. We can't really know but we just like, "Something's wrong about that." So you may get that first sale, but brother, loyalty dies. And now so I tell people, "You can do it. I can totally get you to buy something for the first time. You'll never get a resell on that." So you gotta be very careful how you use this stuff because people know and they can pick up on manipulation all day long. People know it. They don't know the words behind it, but they can feel it.
Steve Brown: 42:41
I call it the Bodyguard. Our brain. We have three simple parts of our brain and one of them are the brain stem. And that's called the Old Brain or the Lizard Brain or whatever. I'm not a brain scientist, but and so I have to dumb this stuff down. And that's why your book written to the layperson, not the academic, really resonated with me. But the bodyguard part of the brain makes decisions, but it doesn't process language, and it doesn't communicate language. So that's when we have a feeling a gut feeling. That's our bodyguard saying you're okay or you're in danger.
Will Leach: 43:16
Or you're not OK. Yeah.
Steve Brown: 43:18
And so what you're talking about, that manipulation, your bodyguard is going to not let you feel good about that, and you'll always be going, "Why do I feel this way?" And it'll grind on you. It's like attacks. But that bodyguard is sitting there. It's Safety First Imperative. And it's evaluating that buying decision, that customer decision experience. It's all in play.
Will Leach: 43:45
Vry much so. Very much so.
Steve Brown: 43:47
Talk to us about who are your perfect accounts. The folks that are listening to this... You know, I would imagine that some are your perfect clients and some would probably not be ready. I imagine the big brands like gobbling you up or really chasing you like a paparazzi or whatever. Talk to us about that.
Will Leach: 44:08
Yeah, so you know, I think about my company and there are different levels of engagement, right? And, like you said, at the very high levels of these massive companies that are really trying to take their messaging and their marketing to a higher level and get stronger are a lie. Because the fact the matter is there's too much marketing out there. There's too much clutter. There's too many messages. Everyone's trying to take our customers' attention, whether our competitors are people that are way outside of our competition. So at the highest level, people are asking us to really study their customers and do marketing research techniques. We have advanced techniques, of course, to understand specific behavioral factors that could help them become better marketers.
Will Leach: 44:50
Then there are other customers who are like, "You know what. I don't have a budget of $100,000 or $50,000. We just don't have that kind of budget. But I know it's important for us to talk to people in a new way." They may not even know the world of behavioral psychology, but they do realize that their Facebook posts or their ads aren't growing or they're not consistent. I think the bigger fact is, sometimes they're saying," Oh my God, I got a great lift. I got a billboard. I set some billboards out and I got initial lift. But then I re-updated the billboard and I got nothing the second time. Why is that?" They can understand why sometimes marketing works and sometimes marketing doesn't. And they want to understand why because they want to be more consistent in their marketing. For me, those are my bread and butter. Those people I'm like, "I can't tell you how to be more consistent if I could just identify these mindstates." And it doesn't... Like I said, it doesn't take you to do the massive research. Sometimes it's just having conversations to understand your customers.
Will Leach: 45:43
In these moments in time, I think of these people have smaller marketing budgets. They may be regional clients who have maybe a regional presence in one or two states, or even frankly, the real estate agent who has a couple of different agents underneath their umbrella. And they're trying to drive sales in the Dallas Fort Worth area, whatever. They don't have a lot of money to spend, but their marketing matters. Every ounce of dollar needs to work because they have such limited budgets, and this is for them. The whole behavioral psychology, behavioral design, and MindState Marketing is really for those people. It helps you if you're at that level get to the level of those people who can outspend you by 10X, right? Frito Lay can outspend competitors by 10 X easily, no problem. What this does is allows that one person who doesn't have that kind of money to get a much more consistent return on their investment.
Will Leach: 46:29
And at the very lowest levels, let's say, if you're just basically an entrepreneur, you're a solopreneur. You're just trying to create some copywriting. You're doing some basic web design. It's by yourself. Maybe you subcontract one or two people. You may not need to do any... You may be able to read the book, "Marketing to Mindstates," and just from that go, "Here are four or five little tips that I can now take my kind of activation to a slightly better level." And you might not have to do any research. You may not even have to identify a mindstate, frankly. You may be able to just know, "I can conclude a trigger, a small trigger..." And I list these triggers in the book, "...to help my marketing just get a little bit better so now I can afford." My goal is to help those people get to a place where they can invest in marketing to the middle tier. And that middles tier, those people who invest in marketing but they really don't have a budget for more than $50,000 or even $20,000 for the entire year. How can I make their marketing more effective so now they can start marketing at $100,000 a year? And eventually, we work our way up this ladder.
Steve Brown: 47:23
So where can people like read your blogs or you produce articles on a regular basis. How can they, like, kind of keep in touch on things that are going on after they've read your book?
Will Leach: 47:33
I do, I do. So I write on Medium and Forbes quite a bit. I also, if you LinkedIn with me, if you go to LinkedIn you, look up Will Leach on LinkedIn. I write a lot on LinkedIn. A lot of different things there. And then, of course, I have just the normal social media posts, whether that's my Twitter account, which is @TriggerPointer or even just my personal website, which is marketingtomindstates.com. But that'll kick you back over to an author page and tells me my philosophy and kind of my story about why I saw the need for us to kind of take all this academic jargon out of it and make this stuff approachable for everybody. And you'll learn a lot more about that. And ultimately, I think in the near future we're gonna have a totally new way of engaging with us called mindstategroup.com, that's gonna bring all this information together with free resources. Like right now, you can download free rsource right into marketingmindstates.com, but I'm gonna integrate all of these things into one platform. So if you wanna read the book, you could buy the book right there. If you want to take an online course, you can do that. All this stuff will be integrated in the next couple of months, so look for mindstategroup.com in the next couple of weeks, and that will be our first attempt to bring all these different blogs and all these communications, the Forbes articles, all the free resources, all in one place.
Steve Brown: 48:43
I love it. This has been a great conversation, so I have this question I always ask at the end is like, "Will, what question did I not ask that you wish I would have asked?"
Will Leach: 48:54
Wow, that's a great question. That's a great question. I guess the biggest question would be, and I think we covered it slightly. But what do you say to my audience, for people who think that this is just too advanced for them? And I wish more people realized that you in the audience, your audience has access to things that can make them much better marketers. And they're free and they're available. And all it takes is a very small look into a book like "Marketing to Mindstates" or into a book like "StoryBrand" or "Building a StoryBrand." These books are out there like your book that can take this complex world that we live in and make things easy. As our job, if I'm running that plumbing company. It's not to be a world-class marker. It's just not. So I'm not gonna invest heavily in that space. My job is to be the best damn plumber I could be and provide for my family and provide for employees. There were resources is out there easy for you to get to, and if you just go to that resource, they're not too intimidating. You could read my book. I read your book in the matter of two nights and immediately activate on this stuff to make your marketing that much better. And with marketing comes sales and with sales comes profit for your customers and for your family to take advantage of it and your employees.
Steve Brown: 50:07
I love that it's all in line with that higher-order goal that each business owner has, whether they said it or not, what they're wanting to do is grow the value of that business because they're providing for their family.
Will Leach: 50:21
Steve Brown: 50:22
Yeah, there's something there that why they took all that risk. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really encourage everyone to go to amazon.com and get "Marketing to Mindstates." Also, if you wanna watch this, it will be on our YouTube channel. There will be a video version of it as well. We'll talk to you on the next episode of the ROI Online Podcast.
Will Leach: 50:46
Thank you for having me, Steve. Appreciate it.
Steve Brown: 50:47
Thank you. Thanks for listening to another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast. For more, be sure to check out to show notes of this episode and feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn where we can chat and I can help direct you to the resource is you're searching for. To learn more about how you can grow your business better, be sure to pick up your copy of my book, "The Golden Toilet" at, surprise, thegoldentoilet.com. I'm Steve Brown and we'll see you next week on another fun episode of the ROI Online Podcast.