Harnessing The Zeigarnik Effect For Managed Service Providers

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The Zeigarnik Effect is a psychological principle stating that people remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. This effect is named after its discoverer and you’ll find out more about that story in just a moment.

For managed service providers (MSPs), understanding and applying the Zeigarnik Effect can bring significant benefits to their business performance and profitability. Here’s how:

Example 1 – Boosting Customer Engagement

MSPs can use the Zeigarnik Effect to enhance customer engagement by structuring their services in a way that leaves a task or process incomplete. This could mean offering trial services, demos, or tiered services that give potential clients a taste of what’s offered but which leaves them wanting more. This technique keeps clients engaged, boosts their interest, and encourages them to complete the ‘task’ by purchasing the full service.

Example 2 – Creating Engaging Marketing Copy

In marketing communications (marcomms), MSPs can leverage the Zeigarnik effect to capture the interest of their potential clients. This could mean creating narratives or messages that leave a compelling story unfinished. For example, on their website or in an email campaign, an MSP might introduce a case study of a business facing a significant challenge, but hold off on revealing the solution until the reader clicks through or follows up for more information.

The natural inclination to find closure could lead to higher engagement and conversion rates.

As an aside, MKLINK had significant success with this effect for a flat roofing company where their conversation rate was ramped up from less than 1% average to over 7% (on their best day).

Alternatively, MSPs could use serial content, such as blog series or multipart email sequences, to maintain customer engagement over a longer period, always leaving the reader anticipating the next instalment. (Technically, this is called the ‘cliff-hanger effect’ and is similar but not exactly the same) If you’ve ever watched old episodes of Flash Gordon (or similar black-and-white heroes) you’ll see him hanging off a cliff at the end of one episode … only to be saved in the nick of time in the next episode!

Example 3 – Increasing Sales and Upselling

MSPs can apply the Zeigarnik Effect to increase sales by introducing a multi-step sales process. This could involve steps like an initial consultation, a personalised proposal, then a final decision meeting. Leaving the process intentionally incomplete after the proposal stage can stimulate clients’ desire to complete the process, thereby increasing the likelihood of a sale.

Example – 4 – Enhancing Client Retention

By continuously introducing new features, updates, or service enhancements, MSPs can create a constant state of incompletion, which can help retain (and upsell) clients. Clients will naturally be inclined to see what’s next and stick around to benefit from these updates. Note, this needs to be used with caution and it is suggested that the Zeigarnik effect is used at the “front-end” (i.e. for leads to sales conversion) unless you are very confident that you know how to use this effect without upsetting your existing clients.

In conclusion, the Zeigarnik Effect can be a surprisingly powerful tool for MSPs to boost customer engagement, improve task completion rates, increase sales and enhance client retention (when used properly.

By the way, Bluma Zeigarnick was a Soviet psychologist who was born in 1901 in Lithuania. She was originally going to be a surgeon but circumstances meant she changed her mind and embraced psychology where she pioneered this work in the 1920s. Nowadays psychologists (and by extension marketers) all over the world use this research which bears her name.


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Mike Knight