Why doing nothing is easier than doing something

buyer inertia

Are you throwing money away? I am. For months now, I’ve known that I could get cheaper broadband. In these trying economic times, every penny counts – and we’re talking about pounds here. I know I could do it, and that I should do it. So why don’t I just go ahead and do it? Simple. I’ve decided to opt instead for your biggest competitor – and mine. Buyer inertia. For given a choice (or two choices, or a bewildering, never-ending, ever-widening array of choices) we often just do the easiest thing. Which is nothing.

Dollars and sense

A while back, I did some work for a client whose entire business is built around saving companies money by finding them better deals on gas, electricity, phone and other utility costs. He charges a percentage of their savings. And he’s thriving, with an ever-growing army of staff. But why, I asked him one day, don’t these companies simply do it themselves?  After all, they’re smart, they’re successful and they know they have a choice of suppliers. So why use him? “Because they’re like you and me,” he said. “They don’t like change, and they don’t like making decisions. So they do nothing – until we make them do something.”

Money for nothing

UK price comparison site moneysupermarket.com recently carried out an experiment to see just how strong the pull of buyer inertia was. In London and Manchester, they had somebody walk around wearing a sandwich board offering people £5. No strings, no catches. All you had to do was ask. In total, they encountered 1,800 people. And how many do you think took up the offer? 28. That’s less than 2%. So a whopping 98% of people passed up the chance for a free fiver. I’m sure I’d have been one of them. Wouldn’t you?

You are now leaving the comfort zone

Buyer inertia will never go away, but we can do something to change the odds in our favour:
  • Always have a call to action. It’s obvious, but we so often forget it. Call now. Fill in the form. Don’t delay. Tell people what to do – you’ll be surprised what happens.
  • Close the sale: making a sale is not like speed dating. If the person says no, it’s nothing personal. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. So ask.
  • Say it often enough. As Woody Allen said, 80% of success is just showing up. If you’re not there, you won’t get the business. So show up again and again. And again.
My email has just pinged with another message about a great broadband deal. Decision time – or maybe not. I’ll have to think about it.