Curse of knowledge

Theory explained by Sander Volbeda and written by Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein & Martin Weber

Just assume that you are going to introduce an innovative product to a customer for the first time. How would you start? Are you going to explain the features and the technology right away to impress your customer? Watch out! Starting from there won’t help you a great deal as the curse of knowledge can backfire on you. What exactly is the curse of knowledge?

The curse of knowledge is a tendency in human psychology in which we naively assume in communication that the listener possesses the background knowledge to understand what we communicate. Let’s think deeply about the bias. If you are a victim of this bias, you will find it quite difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a person who is not familiar with what you’re explaining. That’s because you’re soundly knowledgeable about your subject; as a result, you can’t see it through fresh eyes any longer because you are unable to recall the questions you had when you were new to the subject.

This cognitive bias is something every marketer should watch out for because confused customers act negatively towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Therefore, this topic is widely discussed in digital marketing as well. Stay tuned to get some top tips on how to break the curse of knowledge when you communicate your brand message online to the target audience.

How to break the curse of knowledge for Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Know your audience

It’s absolutely vital to understand how familiar your target audience is with your company, the industry or the similar products. By knowing that, you can decide the amount of knowledge you should put into your marketing materials. However, you shouldn’t make any assumptions about the knowledge level of your target audience; instead the conclusions must be arrived at with enough research. Your audience may consist of people with different levels of expertise and the content you create should be targeted on the individuals who have the least expertise on the subject. Also, you should be very careful not to present excessive information for the individuals who are quite knowledgeable in the subject. The content should be presented in a way that people with some knowledge on the subject can quickly scan through the information that they don’t require.

Get the feedback from your target audience

To know your audience well, one of the most effective ways is to get the feedback from your target audience. From whom should you get the feedback from exactly and how?

The first time visitors - The first time visitors are a great source to get the feedback from as the initial step. First time visitors see your offerings and the contents in a fresh perspective and their opinion about you is not biased. You can embed a questionnaire to the website followed by a gift coupon to encourage them taking part in it. Encourage them to ask for any additional information before initiating a transaction or a sign up.

The existing audience – Your existing audience can turn their back in any time if they find that you don’t address them as clearly as you did in the past. Enable adding reviews on your website. Let the customers speak about their experience with you. And also you should be readily available to address any issues in order to maintain authenticity. In either way, this information will act as a solid base to alter the presentation of your content in a way that your people understand very well. The clearer the brand message you convey, the more the positive impact will be on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Go in to details

Do not display your products or services merely with the features when you introduce them for the first time to your target audience. It’s essential that you put yourself in the shoes of your first time users. Through your content, the first time users should be able to understand that they have a need to purchase your product or service and they can solve an existing problem by using your product or the service. Without offering this level of understanding, no matter how well you present your products or services, it won’t work great towards Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

Show them rather than telling everything

According to human psychology, people tend to remember illustrations and images quite stronger than the words. You can use this tendency to your advantage to break the curse of knowledge bias. You can embed screenshots of the messages of happy customers, animations or videos of your product in use to bring more clarity to your website. Nonetheless, you can embed customer testimonials into your website to offer your target audience with concrete examples of how your offerings can really help them. People learning from other people of similar knowledge level, is an ideal way to break the curse of knowledge bias in human psychology which will definitely help you positively in the process of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

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References

The references contain experiments and studies that prove this bias is there.

1. The Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis
2. The Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis

Books

Would you like to go more in-depth? Here are our recommendations:

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath Buy this book

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