Although a double-degree in accounting and psychology had taken her far, Bri Williams felt like she was “getting dumber” after 15 years in various corporate roles. “Often the style of output that businesses require is not one of intellect, but just doing and managing tasks – plate spinning, I call it.”

About five years ago, Williams discovered a field of psychology that ignited her interest. “I had come across a field called behavioural economics. It is what I would have studied if it had been around back then.”

In a nutshell, behavioural economics explores why we make the decisions we do, the hidden influences, biases and rules of thumb that drive our decisions whether we know it or not. “It  is like looking under the hood of human behaviour,” Williams says.

Businesses, however, did not seem to be applying this goldmine of information.

So, eighteen months ago, Williams stepped off the coroporate ladder and began consulting to companies large and small about the practical application of behavioural economics theories. “By applying all the great information available through behavioural economics, businesses can do what they are doing but do it much better,” Williams explains.

The art of influencing

When Williams asks people what business they are in, they typically answer by describing their industry. She believes we are all in the business of behavioural change: getting our staff, customers or investors to do what we want them to do: click our button, support our ideas, buy our products or services.

Once upon a time (not so long ago) businesses were face-to-face with people they wanted to influence. Increasingly, we have to try to change people’s behaviour via the web.

“Most of the work I do is mainly in sales and marketing and mail on a website,” Williams says. “Conversion is hard, and you need to design your website to maximise your conversion rates.”

Most websites “leak” money and put up with conversion rates that would be unacceptable in the real world. “If you had a shop and 95 out of 100 customers walked out with out buying anything, you would be horrified,” she says. Most websites convert between two and five per cent of visitors.

Working with customers from small practitioners to banks and financial institutions to build websites that influence customers to take action, Williams summarises her approach in a five-step process:

1. Establishing confidence – in both you and your visitor

2. Communicating value – understanding the needs of your visitor

3. Creating a pathway – guiding your visitor through your process

4. Asking for action – asking for the right behaviour in the right way

5. The effort: Reward equation – making the experience worthwhile

Do B2B sites need to worry about all this stuff?

“Businesses that sell to other businesses can fall into the trap of thinking that they are exempt. I am often asked whether behavioural science applies to B2B. And absolutely it does. We fall into a trap of thinking that as soon as I put my B2B hat on, what influences me to buy is different. First and foremost, think of your customer as a person, a human being. Whether they are buying shampoo or buying on behalf of their company, the fundamental drivers are the same.”

“I’ve never been a salesperson”

From day one, Williams has written a blog each week and sent a fortnightly e-newsletter to subscribers.

Her rationale is that she has to educate her market, build trust and create the pathway to buy.

“I am the only one doing what I do, and a lot of what I am doing is education around my services,” she says. “Part of that is an exchange of ideas. You can download my book from my website, get my fortnightly newsletter, I publish in a couple of news services, and the dividend is that I build a profile and people contact me once they start to get a sense that there is value and that I know enough about what I do.”

In fact, Williams was blogging while still in the corporate sector. “It was a way for me to refine my thinking. I was doing a lot of reading and trying to make sense of that reading. I started a blog. I have always enjoyed writing and sharing information comes naturally to me.”

Williams says she has never been a salesperson in the sense of stumping up and knocking on people’s doors. “I generate warm leads.”


Photo: Bri Williams