The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza

My notes on The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza41fSuKi7iDL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_

The following is just a copy/paste of the summary’s at the end of every chapter.

I couldn’t do better myself because they are so well written.

The most interesting parts for me was “how to construct a testimonial” and “how to determine what is unique about your business“.

The Problem

  • The Problem gets our instant attention. This is because our brain is always on the lookout for the problem. While solutions may or may not engage the brain, a problem always gets the brain’s attention.
  • The level of the attention of the brain depends on the problem at hand. The brain goes through distinct steps. It recognises change; recognises that change is indeed a problem worth looking at; works out the severity of the problem; finally works out the action it needs to take.
  • Customers have dozens of problems running rampant in their brains. The way a business can get a customer’s attention is by isolating the problem.
  • Isolating the problem means you literally flag a customer down by specifying that customer’s problem. For example: ‘are you allergic to cats?’ would be the way to flag down a customer who suspects he’s allergic to cats.
  • Isolating the problem may seem like a counter-intuitive thing to do. Why wouldn’t you flag down a customer by talking about ‘allergies’, instead of the more specific ‘allergic to cats’? The reason is simple. The customer is more likely to respond to specifics. And once the customer has responded, you can then show the customer the rest of your products/services.
  • This method of isolating the problem, and then introducing the customer to other problems that need solving, can be best described by an analogy of a home. You have many rooms in your home, but you get your customer through the door, and get them to sit in the lounge. Once they’re relaxed, you then introduce the customer to the other rooms (other products/services).
  • Are we just inventing problems to compel the customer to buy? Are we creating urgency out of nothing at all? Your customer isn’t a fool. He/She knows what he/she wants. When you present the problem in the right manner, that want is elevated, and is given a sense of urgency. And that causes the customer not to put off the decision until later, but to take action right away.

The Solution

  • Solutions are just as important as problems. But they have to follow the sequence. They should only show up once the problem has been introduced. Don’t jump the gun and put your solution before the problem. Doing so will greatly reduce the impact of the communication.
  • Solutions are pain-relievers. They bring down the ‘pressure cooker situation’ created by the problem. They assure the customer that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Audit your communication rigorously for solutions popping up first. Your natural tendency will be to put a solution first. Resist that temptation and keep it second.
  • The solution is different from the process. The client is not interested in how you do things—well, not at the start anyway. The role of the solution is to nullify the problem, not to explain the long-winded process you use.
  • The solution is the flip side of the problem. There’s no need to be clever about the solution. If customers have rain falling on their heads, you’re providing a raincoat. A ‘rain-repellent plastic covering’ would be a clever description. And being too clever simply confuses your customer and drives him away.

The Target Profile

  • There’s a difference between ‘target audience’ and ‘target profile’. An audience represents a group of people who seem to have something in common. The ‘target profile’ is just one person. A real person, with a real name, with a real address, and real phone number. And with real problems.
  • And while it’s hard enough to restrict yourself to a ‘target audience’, it seems almost nutty to restrict yourself to a ‘target profile’. And yet, restricting yourself to a profile gets you to easily focus on the problems and solutions of that one person with extreme clarity.

To create a profile, we have to take five specific steps:

  1. Start with a demographic;
  2. Choose a real person from that demographic;
  3. Speak to that person and find out the list of problems (with regard to a product/service);
  4. Choose one problem then expand it;
  5. Use a real person to get feedback.
  • Profiling does exclude a lot of people. And conversely it includes people. It excludes those who aren’t interested in your product or service. And includes people who are actively searching for your product or service.
  • Every product/service appeals to different audiences. And every product/service solves a range of problems. Profiling helps you figure out how you can systematically speak to different audiences using different messages.
  • Today’s world allows for digital-this and digital-that. It allows you to test your messages more effectively than ever before. And unlike in the past where you had to produce thousands of fliers or signs, you can now create just one message at a time. One flier. One sign. One brochure. One page on a website. And you can easily test which profile draws the biggest audience. That’s when you’ve hit pay dirt!

The Trigger

  • A trigger is simply the ability of a message to stand out and get your attention. A trigger instantly gets the attention of the brain. And when faced with the trigger, the brain–your brain or the client’s brain–has very little option but to respond very predictably.
  • The role of the trigger is to get your brain to respond with curiosity. And when the brain is curious, it asks predictable questions such as ‘How do you do that?’ or ‘What do you mean by that?’
  • It’s quite easy to water down the trigger. And when you water down the trigger, you get the ‘kiss of death.’ The ‘kiss of death’ isn’t always apparent, but if you haven’t activated the trigger, you’re sure to hear statements such as: 1) That’s nice 2) Hmmm 3) That’s interesting.
  • The trigger does a great job of getting your audience interested. But interest alone is not enough. You need to keep their attention, so that you can get the next four bags off the conveyor belt as well. And so you’ve got to make sure the roller coaster effect comes into play.
  • The roller coaster effect is simply the drama of bringing in the problem at regular intervals. Every time the problem pops up, the brain is reactivated and stays on full alert as you deliver your message.
  • You shouldn’t overdo either the ‘problem’ or the ‘solution’. Roll out too many problems, and the customer feels overwhelmed and feels unable to respond. Bring in too many solutions and the customer gets too relaxed. He/She feels no urgency to buy your product/service right away.

The Objections

  • The Objection is a big signal that the customer is interested. Disinterested customers don’t object, or ask questions. They simply walk away. It’s when customers are interested, that they feel the risk, that they start asking questions and objecting.
  • Most of us hate when customers bring up objections. We treat objections like something we could do without. Yet, it’s important to avoid hiding the objections. Instead of hiding objections, it’s important to bring up the objections. When you do bring them up, you’ll see the customer nodding in agreement.
  • It’s not enough to just bring up the objections, of course.  It’s pretty important to defuse the objections. And you defuse objections by coming up with a simple, logical answer for the likely objection. Every objection can be easily answered, provided you’re prepared in advance. The worst thing that can happen, is that a client brings up an objection, e.g. your price is too high, and you sit there wondering what to say.
  • Objections can quite easily be split up into three main categories: perceptions, past experiences and need to know.
  • Most of your existing customers as well as new customers will happily assist you in coming up with your list of objections – and often tell you how they’d want the objection dealt with as well.
  • Objections and testimonials go hand in hand. They’re intrinsically linked to each other. Objections are one side of the coin. And testimonials are the other side. Understanding the objections, leads to an understanding of what kind of testimonials you need to have in your message.

The Testimonial

  • Testimonials are like résumés; they’re not entirely believable.  Which is why most customers tend to view testimonials skeptically. Even if we don’t say it out loud, we view testimonials as one-sided.
  • It’s the seeming lack of reality in a testimonial that makes us doubt its genuineness.  So the way to pump back the reality is to give a testimonial a before/after effect. And voilà, we get the ‘reverse testimonial’.
  • The ‘reverse testimonial’ is nothing but a testimonial that brings to the fore how the customer was feeling before they made the purchase.  The doubts; the slight discomfort; the pain; the frustration. These all run through a customer’s mind right before they buy a product/ service. These doubts need to be brought up front, because they bring a massive dose of reality to the testimonial.
  • To get this factor of reality, we need to ‘construct’ our testimonials, instead of just ‘getting’ testimonials.  Construction doesn’t mean you’re faking a testimonial. Construction means you’re using parameters to build a structurally sound testimonial.

The six questions you need to ask to get a powerful testimonial are:

  1. What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from buying this product/service?
  2. What did you find as a result of buying this product/service?
  3. What specific feature did you like most about this product/service?
  4. What would be three other benefits about this product/service?
  5. Would you recommend this product/ service? If so, why?
  6. Is there anything you’d like to add?
  • It’s not just a matter of asking the questions to construct a testimonial.  Testimonials play an important role in removing objections. Therefore the objections must be listed. And it’s important to then get testimonials that defuse the core 98 The Brain Audit objections that stop your customer from buying your product/ service.
  • This of course, doesn’t mean that you don’t accept a testimonial that’s given by a customer. Hey, a testimonial is a gift. And sometimes you get the most incredibly powerful testimonials from customers. Sure they may not have the awesome structure you’re hoping for, but these testimonials still work. So don’t go about being uppity and rejecting testimonials that don’t fit the structure of the ‘reverse testimonial’.
  • Testimonials tell stories. Stories rich in colour and detail. Stories that you could not have dreamed up in a squillion years. And yet, these stories are totally believable, because they come from the customer. And more importantly, because they have a solid dose of reality at their very core.

The Risk Reversal

  • As a customer, you feel the spectre of risk when buying a product or service. But as soon as you become the person selling the product/service, you feel that the customer should be the one to take the risk. And that’s erroneous thinking. For customers to even try the biriyani, they need to know that all the risk lies with the seller. This makes a customer far more willing to buy your product/service.
  • Logically risk reversals should hamper growth and profits. But quite the opposite is true. Companies such as Granite Rock, not only charge more in a cut-throat market, but also make very healthy profits. Plus they get free publicity, which can’t be harming their cause.
  • There are two types of risk reversal. The obvious kind. And the hidden kind. You have to really get into the brain of the customer to work out the hidden risk. When you do find the hidden risk, you’re getting at the core of what causes a customer not to buy—and removing that risk.
  • You can’t always take one type of hidden risk and run it across every product and service. A risk factor that works for one type of product, or one type of application, won’t necessarily work for the next. So analyse the risk for each application. Being lazy and slapping one type of risk reversal across the board, isn’t going to help you sell more products/services.
  • Remember to name the risk reversal. It may seem like a trivial detail to you, but it’s not. When customers want to reference the risk reversal, they’re able to pull up a couple of words, instead of a long-winded risk reversal policy. Once they do have a branded risk reversal, they’re able to quickly expand what the risk reversal stands for.
  • You may believe that risk reversing is risky. But customers will only ask for their money back if your product/service really needs to be fixed. If you’re working on a service-only project, break up the project into tiny slices, and give a risk reversal for each slice, only moving ahead when you’ve finished that slice of work.
  • And finally, risk reversal doesn’t cheapen your product. In fact, it makes your product way more desirable, because now both the obvious as well as the hidden risk has been reduced dramatically.

The Uniqueness

  • There’s a fundamental flaw in uniqueness.  We’re asked to slap a uniqueness onto our business. And because we simply attach a uniqueness to our business, the uniqueness appears cheesy. And forced.
  • Finding a uniqueness is a pretty tough job. Clients aren’t much help. Family or friends aren’t much help either. And the reason why finding a uniqueness is such a tough job, is because you’re trying to ‘find’ uniqueness.
  • Instead of finding your uniqueness, it’s easier (and more efficient) to create your uniqueness.  To create your uniqueness, all you have to do is make a wish for your customers. If there is one thing you’d wish to improve in the life of your customers, what would that one thing be?
  • One thing. One thing. One thing. One thing. One thing. One thing. One thing. One thing. One thing. One thing. I’ve had to say ‘One thing’ ten times, just to remind you that it’s easy to be tempted to choose two things. Or more. e.g. Dominos Pizza chose speed of delivery. The Benjamin chose an ‘excellent night’s sleep.’ One thing!

The three reasons to create uniqueness are:

  1. You can make your company’s offering simple and understandable.
  2. It becomes the DNA of your company. Everything revolves around that uniqueness.
  3. Your customers and the media start to see you as different, and hence newsworthy.
  • It ain’t enough to simply create the uniqueness. You have to make sure that everyone knows. And the best way to test whether you’ve done a good job is to ask your customer if they know why you’re different. And every customer should respond in a similar manner.
  • Before you go out into the great wide world propagating your uniqueness, you can test it. Put a competitor’s uniqueness under your logo. Does the uniqueness work for your competitor? If so, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find a new uniqueness.
  • Creating a factor of uniqueness is hard work. Which is precisely why you should do the hard work. Because it’s so much hard work, your competition will keep procrastinating, and give you a massive head-start, and you may also attract the competition’s customers with your uniqueness.

Create your uniqueness using three steps:

  1. Make a big list of what makes your business unique;
  2. Weighted ranking will help you decide on the most important reason;
  3. Flesh out the uniqueness to create more clarity.
  • Qualify your uniqueness. Don’t just say ‘fresh’. What does ‘fresh’ mean?
  • If you remove all the bags from the conveyor belt, you can still lose your customers if you don’t bring out the uniqueness of your business/product/service. You don’t want to throw away all your hard work, so make sure you create your uniqueness. It’s important for you and your employees to know what makes you different. It gives the company/product/service a measure of pride and distinction. And a spotlight in an increasingly noisy market

Steps to The Uniqueness

Tah-dah, here are the steps you need to take to make your business unique.

  1. Make a big list of what makes your business unique. Sit down and brainstorm with others in your company. And if you’re a tiny business, sit down and brainstorm with a friend, or some people who know you well. You may find a spouse or partner to be very helpful as well. What’s important when you’re doing this brainstorming, is to write down everything—no matter how ridiculous it may sound. Just write down the list. Don’t analyse.
  2. Weighted ranking will help you decide on the most important reason. Using weighted ranking is effective, because it clearly shows a preference.
  3. Flesh out the uniqueness to create more clarity. Now that you’re clear what you’d like to be unique at, you need to bring more colour and detail to that uniqueness. It’s not enough for you to understand what the unique factor is all about. It’s important for the customer to know as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *