Subtly Selling Services: Thinking Fresh with Behavioral Economics

AAM Summit 2018 - CPA Firm Marketing

As a psychology major turned marketer, I was excited to attend B(E)2B: Applying Behavioral Economics to Business to Business, led by Paul Kaiser, Marketing Manager at EKS&H. Despite this being the last session of the day, it stuck out in my mind as one of the most interesting.

“The best marketing combines creativity with data and social science research,” Kaiser said.

Companies in the BtoC market use behavioral economics principles all the time, but we don’t exactly use them in the BtoB world… or do we? Kaiser explained that we may be using these principles without even realizing it. The idea is to understand behavioral patterns and the way that very subtle changes have not-so-subtle effects on our perceptions and thought processes.

Our starting point is to understand how our brains work – we use cognitive biases which are shortcuts that our brain has developed for the decision-making process. These are especially prevalent when you:

  • Need to act quickly
  • Have too much information
  • Have limited capacity to remember
  • Have insufficient information
  • Are mentally exhausted

Fortunately, we can use these mental shortcuts to our advantage. Through subtle changes in the way information is presented, the perception of that information can be manipulated in order to position it in a better light. Kaiser walked through several examples of the small tweaks we can make to better frame our services to prospective clients:

Cognitive Ease

When developing taglines, slogans, & other communications, messages should be short, specific, and use repetition of elements in order to make them easy to process, understand, and remember.

Choice Overload

When people are presented with an excessive number of options, they are less likely to make the decision to purchase one. When listing services or engagement options, it’s best to limit to the few most relevant choices.


Capitalize on the issues that are top-of-mind for clients by timing your campaigns and promotions with the news and business cycle. Much in the way that earthquake insurance purchases increase after a significant earthquake, your cybersecurity services can grow in the wake of a major hack.


When you present numbers, it creates an anchor in the mind of your audience. They’ll expect the numbers that follow to be close to the ones they’ve just seen, meaning that your $100,000 fee may not look as reasonable after you emphasize the top 5 reasons to engage your firm.

Delayed Payment

Customers find it less painful to pay for something long before a service or after the service has been delivered, rather than in the middle of delivery. They’re also more willing to pay when they’re allowed to delay the payment. Financing options could help to ensure collection.

Pricing Prestige Effect

When brands reintroduce the same product in a way that makes it look like an exclusive or premium option, sales rise. How can you make your services appear prestigious?

Loss Aversion/Sunk Costs

When looking to retain an existing client, emphasizing the time that they’ve already invested (NOT the amount of money they’ve given you) can help them to recognize why you’re the easier choice, and why they’ve stuck with you for so long in the first place.

Social Norms

Comparing clients to one another in terms of invoice response time or service options can put on the social pressure to measure up to their peers. If most other accounting firms were investing in cybersecurity analyses, wouldn’t you want one too?


These are all subtle changes that are relatively easy to implement so if they can bump up your bottom line, why not try a few out?


Posted in

About Sarah Armand

Sarah Armand is a Marketing Specialist at Johnson Lambert LLP. Her primary focus is in business development for the firm’s three niches: insurance, nonprofits, and employee benefit plans. She currently serves on the Board of the AAM Chicago Chapter and is a member of the AAM-MAA Conference Subcommittee. Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public & Nonprofit Administration from Grand Valley State University.

Welcome to CPA Growth Trends — your source for information, insights, tools and best practices to drive growth within an accounting firm.

Subscribe to our blog

* indicates required

This field is required.

Featured: Season 5 Episode 1

The Digital Lead Gen Process For Accounting Firms

with David Toth of Winding River Consulting

Explore expert strategies for digital marketing success with the latest insights on SEO, content strategy, lead generation and more.