Spotlight Effect

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Imagine this…

You’re getting ready for a big presentation at work.

You’ve been preparing for weeks. Double-checking every slide, sentence, and email to make sure it’s perfect.

The morning of the grand reveal, you wake up to a large pimple on your forehead.

UGH, really?!

“This is so embarrassing,” you think to yourself as you attempt to cover the blemish.

“Everyone’s going to be paying attention to my pimple instead of the presentation!”

How do you feel going into your presentation?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy 🧠 we’re taking a look at the Spotlight Effect – why we overestimate how much people think about us.

Let’s get into it.

“Top Marketing Newsletters You Need to Subscribe To”

The Psychology of The Spotlight Effect 🧠

Ever heard the phrase: “It’s your world, we’re just living in it?”

It’s a turn-of-phrase meant to suggest that someone is acting as though they’re the only person who matters.

We often believe that we are in the ‘spotlight’ and that other people are noticing us more than they actually are.

Behavioral scientists call this The Spotlight Effect, which was coined by 3 psychologists in 1999.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind🧐

As a marketer or business operator, you think about your business—a lot.

Your customers, contrary to popular belief, do not.

Your customers only think about you or your business when they need to. And unless something is going very well, or very poorly, they likely don’t think about you at all.

(Share this idea on Twitter)

This is actually a good thing. It means that your customers may not even notice small mistakes, like typos in an email or a post on social media that only got 2 likes.

But it also means that they won’t notice all the great things that you’re doing unless you tell them about it.

To get your customers to move their focus off themselves and onto your business, you’re going to need to provide them with something of value.

You’ll need to answer the question all your buyers have: What’s in it for me?

How To Apply This 🤑

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

Look for opportunities to reduce anxiety around sensitive purchases

Rightly or wrongly, the Spotlight Effect leads buyers to worry about being judged when purchasing certain products—think stuff like sex toys, feminine hygiene products, adult diapers, etc.

If your business sells products that could carry social stigma, find ways to reduce buyer anxiety. You could offer self check-out, provide paper bags that conceal purchases inside, or use signage inside the store to normalize stigmatized products.

For instance, 1 in 3 women have incontinence. Yet many women likely don’t know how common this issue is. Including educational signage near the women’s sanitary products can help reduce anxiety around the purchase.


Help buyers visualize themselves using your product

Prospective customers may want to try a new product, but they’re worried about what others will think. Helping customers visualize using your products can help them pull the trigger.

For instance, Warby Parker offers a virtual try-on feature that allows customers to see how glasses would look on their face. IKEA’s AR app enables customers to visualize how furniture will look in their home.

And Sephora’s Virtual Artist app allows shoppers to see how products will look on them before they buy.

“Yes, you can pull off that hot red lipstick. Here’s proof…”


Talk to customers to learn who your real competitors are

If you ask many software founders who their competitors are they’ll name a laundry list of other apps in their niche. But if you ask prospective customers what they do today to get the same job done, they may not even think about solutions like yours.

This is the Spotlight Effect in action. You assume that customers are paying close attention to your industry when in reality they aren’t.

If you want to figure out how to get more customers, you must figure out what you compete with in the customer’s mind.

As Amit Ranjan explained in this tweet post, Excel is often a startup killer.

(Wanna dive deeper into why people really buy? Check out Katelyn’s short webinar.)

Service Business

Repeat yourself on social media, a lot

If you want to build your authority on a specific topic, you need to get comfortable with repeating yourself.

The Spotlight Effect may make you worry people will judge you for sharing a message over and over, but remember—people aren’t paying as close attention to you as you think.

It often takes multiple exposures to an idea or product before it really sinks in. So don’t be afraid to repeat your key messages. For best results, reword successful posts so they feel new even though the underlying takeaway is the same.

The Short of It 💥

Your customer doesn’t think about your business, marketing campaign, or content nearly as much as you do.

In fact, they barely think about you at all (compared to all the other things going on in their lives).

Always see problems from your customer’s point of view. Every piece of marketing must have a good answer to “What’s in it for me?”.

Until next time, happy selling!




Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

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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