Dunning-Kruger Effect

🤔 Did you know…

In 1978, in a Los Angeles coffee shop, Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank dreamed of a superstore for avid DIYers.

Where they could rock up and shop everything home improvements (even if they’d never touched a power tool in their life). This little idea turned into Home Depot, which today is worth over $330 billion (yes, billion, with a B).

Why would equipping the inexperienced with the tools to remodel (yet it takes tradesman years to master) become a raving success?

All the gear and no idea? Welcome to the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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Imagine this…

It’s Sunday and you’ve dedicated a few hours to clean your house.

You throw your first load of laundry into the washer and walk away to work on the kitchen.

As you’re wiping down the countertop, you hear a big “BANG!” come from your laundry room.

You run over to see what happened and discover that part of your washer has come loose. You evaluate the damage and feel pretty confident that you can fix it.

You grab your tools and get to work.

40 minutes later, you haven’t made any progress.

You sit back and look at your washer in defeat.

You’d never, ever, fixed a washer before… yet you were confident that you could figure it out.

Where did that confidence come from?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy 🧠, we’ll explore Dunning-Kruger Effect—why we tend to overestimate our competence when taking on new tasks.

Let’s get into it…

The Psychology of Dunning-Kruger Effect 🧠

The Dunning-Kruger Effect was first reported by social psychologists in 1999.

There are two sides to the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

#1: You are very confident in your abilities to perform a task despite being inexperienced

For instance, 1 in 8 men surveyed in a poll thought they could beat Serena Williams at tennis 😂. This overconfidence is called the Peak of “Mount Stupid” (AKA: when you don’t know what you don’t know).

Once you attempt to do the new thing, you realize how difficult it is and fall into the “Valley of Despair”.

But, as you continue to learn, your competence and your confidence grow.

Another way that the Dunning-Kruger Effect can throw you off is…

#2: You think everyone has the same understanding as you do

Have you ever hung out with a group of professionals who spoke using insider jargon? This is the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action.

You can spot it when your nurse-friend uses medical acronyms to describe their work day as you nod along and pretend to understand.

Or the landing page that you bounce right off because you can’t figure out what the product solves.

The Dunning-Kruger effect impacts two parts of your marketing brain. That means it can have 2x the negative impact.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind🧐

Buyers experience both sides of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

They often overestimate their abilities and assume it’ll take less time to get results from your products than the average person.

“This SaaS tool says it takes 15 minutes to set up – I’ll get it done in 5.”

Or, buyers think they know more about a subject than they really do and skip the instruction manual.

Buyers can also experience a lack of understanding in your copy when you use too much industry jargon.

(TIP: Run your copy through Hemingwayapp.com to check out the reading level and see if you need to take it down a notch.)

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?

Try stuff (or at least understand it) before you outsource it

When hiring people—or even when collaborating with other teammates—make an effort to learn about their role. Chances are that 9 times out of 10, the job is trickier than you realize.

Kyle Racki, CEO of Proposify, learns as much as possible about a key role before he hires for it.

For example, before hiring a head of customer success, he spent weeks learning about the role and best practices. This part of his onboarding strategy pushes him toward the ideal Plateau of Sustainability.

Media & Education

Have a growth mindset, but stay humble

If you believe you can do something you have a higher chance of pulling it off.

People with a growth mindset know knowledge and experience is the only thing standing between them and their goals. This mindset helps them push through the Valley of Despair (after a fun trip to Mount Stupid) and keep moving towards the Slope of Enlightenment—closer to reaching their end goal.

Alex Lieberman’s reflection after selling his media company, Morning Brew, to Business Insider for $75 million is a reminder that business truly is a never-ending learning process.


Audit your messaging for simplicity

What’s obvious to you may not be clear to potential buyers.

Don’t assume buyers understand your industry jargon (likely it’ll take them on a left turn into Snoozeville) and they’ll click off almost immediately.

Take your tech spec and show people what those features mean. Just like Apple does here. They take the technical feature and showcase *what* that means to the potential customer.

Let’s face it, buyers don’t care about a 12MP camera, they care about what their photos look like.

The Short of It 💥

People often overestimate their abilities. It’s your job as a marketer to move your buyers closer to the Slope of Enlightenment with every step of the customer journey.

When you ARE an expert, you don’t alienate potential buyers with jargon they don’t understand. Keep it simple and avoid buzzwords that turn buyers off.

Instead look at those features and ask yourself ‘what does this mean for my potential buyer?’ Do that and you’ll be turning browsers into buyers before you know it.

Until next time, happy selling.

🐦 Your Brainy Tweetable

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

Smart marketers know that part of marketing smart is understanding your target market’s awareness.

Do you agree?

Tweet this now >



Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

When you’re ready, there are a few ways we can help:

Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

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