Hack your customer's brain

Why? Because information overload means more competition for people’s most prized resource: attention.

Nothing succeeds without attention—movies don’t hit blockbuster status, relationships don’t thrive, teeth don’t get brushed, and leads don’t get generated.

We are all vying for space and time in the attention economy. Or as Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, put it: “[Netflix’s] biggest competitors are YouTube, Facebook, and sleep.”

So guess what: you’re competing with Netflix too. How the heck do you do that?

Grab H.E.R. attention maps

Full disclosure: I’m a cognitive psychologist. And since you’re interested in grabbing people’s attention, I’m going to outline how it works.

Attention is the brain’s way of deciding what’s important. It’s like a series of micro-decisions that unfold from moment to moment. And those decisions are guided by something called “priority maps.”

These priority maps are drawn up through the conversations of three influencers in your brain—Habit, Executive, and Reward—the H.E.R. systems.

Let me introduce you to each of them.


Habit system: the searchlight for stimuli

Imagine walking through a busy city street or shopping mall. Where are your eyes drawn?

Things like flashing lights, human faces, and text. And people jumping in front of you at conference vendor booths.

These are the natural attractors of attention—they’re built into our priority maps and stored as Habits in the parietal lobe in the back of your brain. And they’re always on the lookout for interesting things around you.

This is why emergency vehicles have flashing lights, and why people’s faces adorn effective ads. It’s also why animated GIFs work well on social media, and why pop-ups pollute your browsing experience—you can’t resist being drawn to them.


Executive system: the project manager

You can also program your own priority maps. Sitting there behind your forehead is the frontal lobe, home to the Executive system. It’s the lobe that makes humans special—the reason we can imagine unseen realities and design long-term plans to bring those dreams to life.

The Executive lets us overwrite pre-programmed habits and focus our attention on goals.

So when I need to buy a present for my wife’s birthday, or finish a project at work, my Executive is constantly asking “Is what I’m doing now relevant to my goals?” “Is this a good use of my time?”

The Executive also helps consumers filter out the noise—like clickbait banner ads: “Click here to get 100k new followers who really care about you overnight!” Bullshit. People don’t even see these ploys anymore. Thanks Executive system.


Reward system: where feelings are born

The third mapmaker is the Reward system, part of the limbic system buried in the middle of your brain. It’s the maker of emotions, the dripper of dopamine, the mother of motivation.

The Reward system builds priority maps that lead to pleasure and avoid pain.

In his newest book Pre-Suasion, Robert Cialdini outlines the frontline commanders of attention: the sexual, the threatening, and the different.

Then once you’ve grabbed attention? Use the self-relevant, the unfinished, and the mysterious to hold on to it. This is the fuel of the Reward system.

Design with the mapmakers in mind

Now what does all this mean for lead generation?

Every time a prospect encounters your brand, H.E.R. systems are playing tug-of-war for their attention. Here’s what they’re going back and forth about:

  • What automatically grabs my gaze and pulls me in? [Habit]
  • Is this relevant to me and my goals? [Executive]
  • How does it make me feel? Do I like what I see? [Reward]

These questions shape the priority maps that keep a prospect locked on your message, or bouncing out to the next distraction.

And now that you know what’s going on inside your customers’ minds, let’s learn how to make our way inside.

  1. Lead Generation
  2. 1 Build your funnel
  3. 2 Hack H.E.R. brain maps
  4. 3 Swap value for email
  5. 4 Optimize landing page
  6. 5 Approach your audience
  7. 6 Track lead gen metrics
  8. 7 Parting words