Subconscious Calculations: Marketing Fundamentals 6 of 7

Build your marketing strategy through the frames of Desirable Contrast, Relativity, The Principle of Least Effort, and The Narrative Instinct and you’ll inevitably arrive at a point where any new prospect, regardless of how well or little they know you, will recognise and want what you have to sell.

But, to get the enquiry, followed by the order, you’ll need to consider one more framework.

Subconscious Calculations.

I’m currently in a Slack mastermind for solo consultants, and recently, someone in the group asked for opinions on guarantees and whether he should offer one on his sales page.

He received a stream of advice within 20 minutes:

‘Offer a 7-day guarantee.’

‘Don’t do it! It’ll cheapen your brand.’

‘Stick it immediately under the ‘book a call’ button.’

Each suggestion in support of a guarantee was accompanied by an example of how well it worked for them or some other high-profile consultant, many of which were compelling

But the verdict was indecisive. Should he offer a guarantee, and if so, how should he present it?

These suggestions all missed the critical question:

What is a guarantee for?

In 2015, ​Seth Godin​ held a four-hour Q&A in London. I paid around $400 for a ticket, and the event sold out within a week.

Me at Seth Godin's London Q&A

Source - Rajesh Taylor

But he didn’t promote it with a typical sales page template crammed with life-changing testimonials, ‘famous brands I’ve worked with’, or 30-day money-back guarantees.

He simply sent an email to his list with a short announcement of the event along with a link to buy tickets.

Not once during the buying process did I stop to ask myself, “What happens if I’m not happy with the Q&A? Will I get my money back?”

And that’s despite the fact that I had no idea what I’d be hearing at the event - it was a Q&A. I’d never seen Seth talk live before, and I’d only find out after paying my money whether it’d deliver the value I was hoping for.

The same thing happens with hundreds of purchases we make each week. When we buy milk, coffee, books, or the latest iPhone - we do so before we know if the product received delivers the value promised.

And that all happens because of one thing.


When I was buying that $400 ticket to see Seth Godin, behind the scenes, my subconscious was making calculations - recalling how I felt after reading each of Seth’s blog posts over the past 5 years, the dozen books, and listening to tens of hours of podcast appearances.

And with all that data, without knowing it, I was figuring out the odds that this event would deliver an experience worth more than the $400 cost of entry.

That’s why the question of ‘guarantees’ is redundant, because it’s just one input in the overall calculation.

In Seth’s case, he’d already earned a bucket load of trust that dramatically improved the odds in his favour. A guarantee wasn’t required.

But, whilst the word 'trust' describes the outcome in the calculation (I trust him / I don't trust him), it doesn't form any part of the decision making calculation.  

Risk does.

“When we decide, we are betting whatever we value (happiness, success, satisfaction, money, time, reputation, etc.) on one of a set of possible and uncertain futures. That is where the risk is.” - Annie Duke.

Customers are effectively ‘thinking in bets.

Consider this visual.

You've got to get from point A to point B, and there's this big cloud of doubt in the way

Your customer is experiencing discomfort at point A.

Point B represents the desired destination she wants to get to.

The arrow represents the promise you make with your service - you'll take them from point A to point B.

Then you have a cloud of risk.

The cloud represents all the risk surrounding your promise and whether you can deliver. If the doubt is so deep and dense that they can't see the destination on the other side, they won't buy.

Part of marketing's job is to disperse that cloud and lower the perceived risks, so much so that, for the prospect, the 'bet' on your product delivering against the promise made makes sense.

Working with your ingredients

Now, the actions you take to disperse that cloud depend on the ingredients you have at your disposal.

The goal of marketing is to breakdown that cloud of doubt

If you’re a famous marketer with 20+ NY Times Best Selling books, the risk associated with buying one of your products at $400 is so small you don’t need to do anything else to mitigate the risk.

If you’re an unknown consulting firm selling a $100k strategy package, the risk is high, and work is required to reverse the odds.

If you’re not getting the enquiries and sales you’d expect after putting your strategy through Desirable Contrast, Relativity, The Principle of Least Effort, and the Narrative Principle, it’s likely prospects aren’t comfortable with the odds of you delivering against your promise and the personal costs to them if you fail.

When that’s the case, the solution is to start introducing and testing some of those ingredients mentioned above that reduce the risk until orders start increasing.

If you’re still reading this, that’s it.

You’ve had a glimpse into the essential building blocks for creating your marketing system that attracts dream clients.

In the final article of the series, I’ll share the next steps on where to go from here - Putting it all together

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