What Motivates People: Beckwith 40

Note: This is re-published with permission from Harry. Thank you Harry for these gems.

What Motivates People: Beckwith 40
by Harry Beckwith, Strategic Director, Beckwith Partners

Beginning in the sixth grade at Nehalem Upper Elementary, when I read Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders three times, I have spent 45 years trying to understand what motivates people –particularly why they choose one product rather than another seemingly identical one.

I have arrived at some firm conclusions — including, as you will see, a reservation about firm conclusions.

These are the Beckwith 40:

1. Your biggest competitor is not a competitor; it’s your prospect’s indifference.

2. Your second-biggest competitor is not a competitor; it’s your prospect’s distrust.

3. Your biggest obstacle is whatever stereotype your prospect has formed about you and your industry.

4. Prospects decide in the first five seconds.

5. Prospects don’t try to make the best choice. They try to make the most comfortable choice.

6. At heart, every prospect is risk-averse, and risks are always more vivid than rewards.

7. Beware of what you think you know or have experienced; memories fail people constantly.

8. For the same reason, beware of what others say they know or have experienced.

9. Certainty is a trick your mind plays on you; keep yours open.

10. If everyone likes your idea, it’s not an idea. Good ideas always make enemies.

11. Don’t create something that everyone likes; create something that many people love.

12. Research never shows anything; it only suggests.

13. Never take seriously what people say they think, because people are never sure. Trust only action.

14. The more similar two things appear, the more important their tiny differences. Accentuate the trivial.

15. Your most valuable salesperson is the person who answers your phones.

16. You must improve constantly, because people’s expectations rise constantly.

17. Whatever you are doing, do it faster. Speed always sells.

18. People don’t care how good you are. They care how good you can make them.

19. The best companies don’t make the fewest mistakes; they make the best corrections.

20. You cannot convince someone you have a superior product at a low price. Make up your mind.

21. We call them “premium prices” because a higher price represents insurance that your product will perform.

22. “Value” is not a compelling message or tenable marketing position, because every product that survives in a market has demonstrated it gives value for the price it commands.

23. Despite all the warnings, all people judge books by their covers.

24. People hear what they see; you must communicate visually.

25. The more complex our society becomes, the more valuable your brand becomes.

26. When in doubt — which is almost always — people choose what feels familiar.

27. Brands do not just attract buyers; they improve customers’ satisfaction. Brands have placebo effects.

28. No intelligent person should be influenced by advertising, but every intelligent person is.

29. Simplify everything: your name, your message, your design. Strip away everything until only the essence remains.

30. If it takes 50 words to make your pitch, I will buy from the person who can do it in 20.

31. Communicate one important message and people will think three good things about you; communicate three messages and they will think nothing.

32. People don’t learn from descriptions. They learn from stories.

33. If you prove it, you don’t have to say it. If you don’t prove it, saying it is a waste of everyone’s time.

34. There is no such thing as “best.”

35. Ordinary names, ordinary words, and ordinary images warn us that you must be ordinary, too.

36. Lincoln didn’t have slides at Gettysburg.

37. Never criticize your competitors.

38. The fastest way to improve your communications is to cut them in half.

39. The second-fastest way is to try to eliminate every adjective.

40. The ultimate test of a communication: Does it make people stop what they are doing?


Have a great week ahead!