Driving Behavior Change through Triggers, Motivation, and Ability

Nick Bhavsar

Marketing is quite simply driving behavioral change. BJ Fogg, a teacher/researcher at Stanford University developed a behavioral change model over 10 years ago that simplifies change into three critical pillars:

  • Triggers – The cue, prompt, or call to action to change
  • Motivation – The reason why someone wants to drive change
  • Ability – A person must have the ability to conduct the change

In marketing, behavioral changes often appear as we try to convince a prospect to request a free trial, download a report, sign up for a webinar, or purchase a product. We can learn a bit from BJ Fogg’s model:

Driving Behavior

All too often in marketing, we rely on email as the trigger to drive change. Marketers invest thousands in marketing automation platforms and it’s become incredibly convenient to send batch or nurture emails. These emails aim to trigger a client or prospect to change their behavior (sign up for a webinar, download a report), but how well is it working? What else could we do to drive change?

If we take a step back and look at the overall approach of driving change, BJ Fogg’s model gives us a few approaches beyond just email:

  • Triggers / Channels – Email, social, web, media, PR, in-app notifications, events
  • Motivation / Why – The reason why someone wants to drive change
  • Ability / Form difficulty – How many fields does it take to engage?

Collectively, all three pillars need to be in place to drive a change. Let’s take a deep dive into each of these pillars to investigate how we could approach them a bit differently.


What stops your prospect in their workflow and grabs their attention?  According to Microsoft Research, the average attention span for humans has gone from 12 seconds down to 8 seconds in the past 15 years. This means it’s even more difficult to grab someone’s attention and hold it. Email is often the most utilized B2B marketing channel and while it is still an effective tool, marketers have moved to a multi-channel marketing strategy to increase their chances of triggering a prospect to pay attention to their message. However, many marketers still use traditional triggers and deliver generic marketing messages which don’t sufficiently engage a prospect’s attention. The chart below outlines the difference between traditional and personalized triggers for each medium.


For most B2B organizations, the vast majority of their inquiries come from their email and website channels. Modern marketing automation platforms have excelled at helping marketers deliver personalized email messages with smart lists, segments, and other audience slicing tools. While these are far more effective than generic batch and blast programs, many marketers still fail to leverage website personalization. Email personalization is only as effective as the number of stakeholders in their database and, unfortunately, many stakeholders in the B2B buying group will never fill out a form. This prevents prospects across the buying group from joining the marketer’s database, leaving a significant gap in the company’s ability to engage them.

Moreover, website personalization can leverage anonymous audience insights to identify a stakeholder and deliver the optimal marketing message. This increases the marketer’s ability to engage the prospect in their role in the buying group.


One of my previous managers once told me the only reason why people buy your B2B product or service is because it is cheaper, faster, or better than their current approach. In trying to drive behavioral change, it’s essential that marketers convey the why a prospect should engage. Let’s focus on each:

  • Cheaper – In business this typically translates to ROI. How could you creatively articulate how your offer could help grow the company’s revenue or reduce its cost?
  • Faster – There is no workaround for slow and if your value prop provides a speed competitive advantage, make sure you convey it as a reason to engage. How can you demonstrate your offer is faster than your competitions or your prospect’s current approach? Do you have unique automation? Do you provide services? Have you designed a better experience that requires less time?
  • Better – Show how your offer outperforms the prospect’s status quo. Do you have proof points that demonstrate your solution is performing better than your competition? Ratings and reviews, awards, and quotes can boost your ability to drive this home.  Are these displayed where you want prospects to engage (i.e. on your lead forms)?

Marketers must help prospects understand why they should consider your offer and deliver that message at the right time using an appropriate and personalized trigger.


We often take for granted how difficult it is for a prospect to engage with us. Dan Zarrella’s Science of Lead Generation research found that landing pages with forms that have 3 fields see approximately a 25% conversion rate. However, forms with 5 fields see around a 20% conversion rate, and forms with 8 or more fields see close to a 14% conversion rate.

While there are a number of technology solutions that allow marketers to minimize the number of required fields on a form, we often overlook the fact that the overall conversion rates remain poor. What happens to the other 75% of prospects who never fill out a form?

The marketer’s goal of filling out a lead form is so that you can target and engage the prospect with the right information and pass along the information to sales for follow-up.  However, wouldn’t it be simpler and more effective to engage the prospect while they are still on the website, without a lead form at all? Here’s an example:

What if you could detect that a senior stakeholder at one of your key ABM target accounts was visiting your website? If you believe a specific persona is not likely to fill out a form for your latest thought leadership piece, consider taking them directly to the content with no form required. This approach dramatically increases their ability to engage with the content by removing the form requirement. Additionally, you can deploy technology to capture their information on subsequent website visits when they are more likely to engage.

Marketers need to consider how adopting BJ Fogg’s behavioral model can better drive change with prospects and customers.

How are your marketing efforts driving behavioral change?

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