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Darryl Harvey

Helping Small and Medium Businesses Achieve Their Full Marketing Potential | Digital Marketing Expert

Cognitive Biases SMEs Need To Know

It’s a lovely sunny day, and you’re on your way to meet your friends for an enjoyable day out. Suddenly, you see a guy roughly 8 meters ahead of you pitching people on his product, only to witness the lack of interest. 

As you get closer, you’re hoping that the guy doesn’t try to sell his product to you. Unfortunately, as you walk past, he calls to you to get your attention, and you politely say “no, thank you” and continue with your planned day. 

How did you feel? Maybe not so good because you know you were being treated like another number. We’ve all been there, right?

Well, there’s no difference between how you treat people digitally and in real life when marketing on the internet. And as an SME, this is something you need to be aware of. 

In this article, we will explore the core cognitive biases that you need to implement into your digital marketing strategy to help grow a credible brand and deliver the right message to the right person – less being perceived as a digital clipboard salesman and more like a digital magician. 

What is a cognitive bias?


A cognitive bias is a subconscious thinking heuristic that influences our decision-making based on preconditioned beliefs on how we perceive the world. 

Let’s say when you’re little you get bitten by a dog. Your cognitive bias might lead you to believe that all dogs are dangerous, leaving you in fear of even the most loving little Frenchie (we’re not biased, honest!) 

The subconscious mind has more than 30 million neurons responsible for protecting us by making rapid decisions such as fight or flight, behaviours and habits. In fact, more than 90% of our decisions are made at the subconscious level. 

With more than 100 cognitive biases, we will look at the most important ones and how to leverage them into a digital marketing strategy in order to meet key objectives. 

Why are cognitive biases important for SMEs?


When Instagram launched in 2012, it attained 15 million users. Fast forward 10 years later, and they have more than 1.1 billion users. 

With more than 95 million pieces of content posted a day unless you were a first-mover, it can be a challenge to stand out from the crowd. But by leveraging cognitive biases, you can cut through the noise and have your brand shine in the best light locally or internationally. 

Social Proof

Have you ever been scrolling through Instagram only to see a post from your favourite celebrity show up on your feed, and without a second thought, you dived into the comment section like Tom Daley in 2012? 

Why do you think that is? We’ll give you a hint.

People are far more open to being framed when there is a crowd or large numbers of people showing interest in a particular area. This is also known as the Bandwagon Effect. 

How SMEs can use this cognitive bias:

Let’s make up a fictitious character called Susie, who owns a bike store. 

Susie wants to get more people to visit her bike store in the local area. She can increase engagement and stack social proof of her digital campaigns by showing short clips of groups of people riding her bicycles. Subconsciously, this indicates to the prospecting audience that she is a credible source for bikes, increasing interest and interaction. 

What do you know? Susie’s selling bikes left, right and centre. 


If you are anything like me, you are an information junkie who likes to learn. 

Ted Talks are great for charismatic leaders to share their experiences with anyone willing to listen, and the interesting thing about Ted Talks is that most people watching them have no idea who the speaker is. Yet, they will give up a portion of their time to listen. 


When analysing the set-up, we see a speaker standing on stage with human heads looking directly at them. Whenever we witness large groups of humans looking at one person, we perceive that person high in status. 

How SMEs can use this cognitive bias:

Let’s introduce a new fictitious character called Mark, who has invented a new innovative weighted vest for people interested in weight training and fitness called Weightly. 

He decides to run a video campaign to increase sales, gathers several people interested in fitness and shows them how Weightly works. He then hands the fitness enthusiasts all a Weightly, and each person finds a different way to use it. 

By Mark demonstrating how to use the product and getting others to use it, he will instantly be perceived as an authority figure, increasing viewer retention, brand perception, and trust.   


Anchoring is a cognitive bias that occurs when people rely too heavily on a source of information which moulds their thoughts and feelings towards the subject. For example, if you see a product that costs £500, and then you see the same product a second time costing £150. You’re naturally geared towards thinking you are getting a bargain and are likely to buy. 

How SMEs can use this cognitive bias:

Let’s reintroduce our fictitious friend Susie who owns the bike store. 

Susie has done a fantastic job communicating her brand in the best way possible through her digital strategy. She intends to increase her AOV by bundling products for first-time bicycle buyers seeking to commute from home to work. The original price of the bundle stack is £4,000. However, Susie decided to cut the price to £2,900 – clearly displaying both prices as a before and after. 

Watch it, Susie. One more of these clever marketing strategies and your bikes might sell out! 

Loss Aversion

Loss aversion is a cognitive bias, which refers to the human tendency to psychologically feel loss twice as much as the pleasure of gaining. 

It is argued that a person in a collectivist environment is less loss-averse for such reasons, as this type of person has peer support and social connections. So, if a loss were to occur, they would have family and friends to support them. On the other hand, people in individualistic environments tend to be more loss-averse due to a lack of community and social support that may occur due to poor decision-making. 

How SMEs can use this cognitive bias:

Introduce an OTO (One-Time-Offer) and make it clear that the offer will not be available at any other time, and if they do not take the offer, it will be gone forever. 

The offer should be supported by other loss-averse tendencies such as “Save 20%” rather than “Claim 20% Off”, – although it is worth testing through a split test. It is also worth mentioning that you should be genuine in your offer – don’t lie to increase sales, as that can burn the credibility of your brand.

In Summary


The subconscious mind is powerful. It’s also very smart. 

When you leverage cognitive biases in your marketing strategy, you’ll build a more credible brand and an audience of interested people. Framing matters –  it can generate a customer with a long LTV or someone who dropped off because they felt like just another number.

If you found this blog useful, then consider reading through the many other blogs written by our team of marketing experts at The Good Marketer. Our blogs cover all digital marketing areas and will help bring you closer to your goals. Or if you’re looking for a full-service marketing agency to help support your business, then we would love to hear from you.