Tired brains are bad for SaaS

Thinking too hard can tire out your brain.

Research has shown that our brains can suffer from "decision fatigue" after strenuous mental exercise. It's similar to the way our muscles get tired after strenuous physical exercise.

Experiments conducted at German automobile dealerships put prospective customers through a kind of mental decathlon. They asked them to choose among four choices of gearshift knobs,13 choices of wheel rims, 25 engine and gearbox configurations, and 56 color options. After being forced to make a string of decisions, the subjects/ customers succumbed to "decision fatigue" and opted for the default option. They lost much of their capacity to make choices.

Too many choices can be exhausting, and the customer quickly opts for the path of least resistance. That may mean choosing a default option or it may mean choosing to do nothing.

What applies to cars, applies to SaaS too

When prospective customers' brains are tired, it's more difficult to sell automobiles. It's also more difficult to sell technology solutions.

That's a special problem for SaaS solutions, when it's critically important to acquire customers quickly and cost-efficiently. Anything that impedes purchases is a SaaS business killer.

What hoops have you set up?

What kind of decisions do you force your prospective customers to make? How many hoops do you ask them to jump through?

Walk through the process yourself - from start to finish - and count how many decision points your prospects confront. Often we're asking them to navigate through a tortuous labyrinth of options,... even before they buy anything:

  • Which of our solutions is most appropriate for your company?
  • Which version is the best fit?
  • How many seats will you need?
  • Would you prefer the free trial or the freemium version?
  • Which payment plan works best for you?
  • How long would you like to subscribe for?
  • Would you like paper or plastic? (OK I don't actually see that one very often for SaaS solutions.)

I agree that there's a legitimate desire to steer the prospect to the best solution to meet their particular needs. But be careful to balance that against the real danger of tiring them out. And offer default options when possible.

Very few exhausted and frustrated prospects become profitable and satisfied customers.



Creative Commons License

This work by Peter Cohen, SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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