Skip to content

Jonah Berger Catalyzes Conversation at Just a Book

Liz Woidat

Liz Woidat

This week we were excited to welcome back Jonah Berger as our featured author at our sixth annual book club for marketers, Just a Book. With this year’s virtual event, we were able to invite marketers across the country to join us in reading his newest book, “The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind,” before attending a presentation led by Jonah.

“The Catalyst” introduces a revolutionary approach to change. Drawing on scientific research and real-life stories, Jonah reveals that successful change doesn’t happen by pushing your audience harder or providing more information, but instead by removing barriers and lowering hurdles to action. “The Catalyst” outlines the five hidden factors that impede change and provides actionable techniques for influencing the minds of your audience.

Below are a few key takeaways from the discussion. You can also access the recording of the event here.

Understanding the Status Quo Bias

As marketers, we often feel that if we provide enough information or make a compelling argument, we’ll be able to push our customers towards conversion. However, Jonah reminds us that sometimes sending one more case study or pushing out one more paid ad won’t be enough to move the needle. Due to a cognitive bias towards the familiar, people tend to stick with the status quo and avoid the risk of trying something new, even if their current state isn’t ideal. Therefore, generating change doesn’t happen by pushing harder or offering more facts, but instead by lowering the psychological barriers that keep people from taking action.

Allow for Agency

Jonah reveals that one of the key barriers to change is reactance — the state that occurs when people feel like their freedom is lost or threatened. Due to a need for autonomy, when people feel that they’re being persuaded to do something, they will likely ignore the message or actively contest it to reassert their sense of control. To lower this barrier, Jonah shares that we need to allow for agency and encourage people to persuade themselves by finding a middle ground.

One way we can do this as marketers is to provide a menu or a limited set of options from which people can choose. This way, our audience still has the power of choice, but it’s confined to the options we provide. For example, if a SaaS company only offered one software package to a customer, there’s a good chance the customer would poke holes in the offer or want to negotiate the price. Instead, the SaaS company could provide a menu, or a variety of software packages for the customer to choose from, to allow for agency and increase buy-in.

Alleviate Uncertainty

It’s no secret that people are risk-averse. We like knowing what we’re getting out of a product or service, and we’d prefer to have a sure thing rather than a risky one, even if the risky option has the potential to be significantly better. Jonah explains that the more uncertainty there is around change, the less people are willing to change. Instead of moving forward and trying something new, uncertainty acts as a pause button by stopping action altogether — causing you to stick with what you’ve always been doing.

To overcome this roadblock to change, we need to increase trialability, or the ease with which a product or service can be tested, to lower the uncertainty that surrounds it. One way marketers can do this is by harnessing freemium — a model where the base version of a product or service is free of charge, but the experience is designed so that satisfied users will eventually want to pay to upgrade to an enhanced or premium version. By giving users the time and space to explore what your service has to offer, you’re able to alleviate the uncertainty surrounding it, making it more likely to win over your customer.

Once again, thank you to Jonah Berger and everyone who attended this year’s Just a Book! Our goal with this event has always been to get smart marketers in the same room to discuss how to move business forward, and even in a remote setting, this year proved to be no different.