Think Your Customers Are Rational? Think Again

Ever read “Moby Dick”?

One of the characters in the novel, a peg-legged seaman by the name of Captain Ahab, is obsessed with hunting and killing Moby Dick, the huge white whale that bit off his leg in a previous battle.

Ol’ Cap keeps chasing Moby Dick, convinced that if he can just harpoon that whale…

Ahab’s desire here is not *rational*.

I can identify.

My “white whale” is… Google AdWords.

Every few months, AdWords lures me back, and I spend more money on ads, yet always come up a little short in the end for one reason or another.

Like Ahab, my reasons are more emotional than rational.

I really really *want* to get an AdWords campaign running profitably.

I just recently pulled the plug on my latest attempt after investing months of testing and several thousand $$$ worth of clicks.

Fittingly, my efforts were sunk by… emotion.

For this experiment, I was running ads to promote Simple Programmer’s most popular email course, “5 Learning Mistakes Software Developers Make.”

And I wasn’t having *any* trouble getting people to click the ads and sign up for the email course.

The landing page I was using was converting at 14-18%—not too shabby for this kind of ice cold traffic.

That meant I was able to get new email subscribers into the course at around $2.50 each.

On average, our subscribers currently spend about $6-7 with us.

I thought I finally had Moby pinned down.


As it turned out, a big slice of these new subscribers were entering “spam” email addresses.

The majority of people never opened any of the emails I sent.

See if you can follow this “logic chain”:

Say I’m a software developer, and I’m browsing a site about web development.

I see an ad for a free course about how to learn software development faster.

I click the ad.

I read the landing page, which VERY CLEARLY states MULTIPLE TIMES (including in the call to action) that this is an EMAIL course that will be sent to my EMAIL inbox.

I think to myself:

“Hmmm, I definitely WOULD like to learn software development faster. This course seems like it COULD really help me.”

“I think I’m going to sign myself up here.”

“And because this is going to be an email course that will be delivered over the next 5 days, I’m going to make sure that I get as much value as I can by ENTERING AN EMAIL ADDRESS THAT I NEVER CHECK.”

Arrgggh! Seriously?

This type of behavior makes perfect sense if you’re looking to grab a one-time download like a PDF lead magnet.

But why why why would someone jump through all of those hoops, decide that they want the content…

Then at the last minute enter an email address they never use?

It’s not… rational.

In marketing this is something that will bludgeon you in the face over and over and over…

People are NOT rational.

We make decisions based on EMOTION.

In this case, it’s likely that the emotion was *fear*.

Fear of having their email address sold to spammers the whole Internet over.

And at the last second, that fear overrode their rational, logical decision to sign up for a course that they’d otherwise deemed valuable.

This is what makes marketing such a wild and wonderful (and often baffling and frustrating) ride.

You can build a perfectly thought out funnel.

Beautifully sequenced.

Logically airtight.

But until real, living, emotional people enter the picture, you never *really* know what’s gonna happen.