Knowing where to focus your attention in business

One of the hardest things in business, as you know, is knowing where to focus your attention to get the best result. When so much needs fixing, where do you start? Bri Williams is here to help.


In my last article I covered a framework for helping identify gaps in the behavioural effectiveness of your business. Based on four dimensions, the ‘back of the envelope’ TICS assessment identifies these four important behavioural criteria:

  • Tangibility: how ‘real’ the benefits and costs feel to your customer,
  • immediacy: how soon your customer reaps rewards and experiences any costs,
  • certainty: how confident your customer can feel they will get the outcome they expect, and
  • self perception: how well your product/service aligns with the customer’s view of themselves.


What are the big issues we are grappling with?

With the TICS model in mind I wanted to understand its relationship to the issues businesses are grappling with.

So what are those issues? My quick and dirty survey of 79 businesses identified that the biggest issue was acquisition (44%) followed by procrastination (41%), differentiation (41%) and conversion (38%).


Isolating behavioural reasons for issue

By comparing businesses for whom an issue was a big problem with those for whom it wasn’t an issue at all I was able to tease out which TICS attribute was most influential. Here are some of the key takeaways.


1. Acquisition

The TICS attribute with the greatest impact on acquisition was certainty. Customers want to know with clarity what benefits they receive so that means reducing any ambiguity around your value proposition (what you stand for, how you resolve their problem and what/how you deliver) and your process (who, how, what’s required in doing business with you). Guarantees and testimonials can help here.

Interestingly, immediacy doesn’t seem to be a significant factor for acquisition with neither the timing of benefits or costs being a differentiating factor.

Key takeaway: to improve acquisition you should focus on the certainty of benefits.


2. Procrastination

For those businesses struggling with procrastination (and given only 13% of respondents said it was not an issue, that’s most of us) the immediacy of any downside of doing business with you was the most telling difference. 75% of those who mentioned it was a big issue had a downside that was experienced by their customers in the immediate or short term compared with only 13% of those for whom it was a non-issue.

To tackle procrastination you need to concentrate on reducing the effort rather than increasing reward. Your customers probably already understand the upside of what you’re offering – they need help getting over the hurdle of doing something new.

Key takeaway: to address procrastination try minimising or deferring the downside.


3. Differentiation

Self-perception seems to play a role in differentiation. 63% of businesses who reported their product/service supported a positive self-perception did not have an issue with differentiation whereas this number was only 28% for those struggling to differentiate. My thought here is that when your customers see themselves reflected in your business offer they will automatically see you as different from others – in a sense they ascribe their uniqueness to you. How? This is the heartland of your value proposition – it should feel like you have read their mind.

Key takeaway: to differentiate yourself you have to make a connection with your customer.


4. Conversion

Immediacy of benefits plays a role in conversion as does a positive self-perception. 40% of those for whom conversion wasn’t an issue had benefits that were immediate compared with only 13% of businesses who struggled to close the deal. The focus for conversion should therefore be on immediate gratification – making your customer feel good about proceeding with their decision to buy.

Key takeaway: to increase conversion make your customer feel good right now.


I hope that gives you a flavour of where to focus your attention if you are grappling with any of the issues noted. If you would like to talk further about what the TICS criteria means for your business or to discuss an issue that wasn’t specifically addressed please get in touch or leave a comment.


Bri Williams
BY Bri Williams ON 24 June 2014
Bri Williams, a specialist in buying behaviour, helps businesses increase sales and marketing conversion through behavioural science. Follow Bri @peoplepatterns or visit