Mental Jujutsu

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As marketers, sales specialists, and business owners – distraction and inertia are far bigger threats to our sale than competitors.

(After all, our competitors’ customers are just as vulnerable to the threats of distraction and inertia as we are!)

So how do we overcome these threats?

One way is to simply not overcome them: to use them to your own advantage.

In ancient Japan, land-owning nobles would hire professional warriors (Samurai) to quell dissent, guard against attacks from rival nobles, and put down rebellious peasant uprisings.

Over time, the Samurai honed their tactics – and eventually became fearsome and heavily-armoured knights: no match for a tool-wielding peasant. Striking a heavily armoured (and heavily-armed!) Samurai with a blade, arrow, or rake is likely to get them angry, and you killed.

And this is the world that the Japanese martial art Jujutsu (meaning “soft art”) was born.

A heavily armoured Samurai can easily withstand the blows of a blade, arrow, or rake.

But their heavy armour makes them a heavy (and cumbersome) opponent – easily able to be tripped by an armour-less opponent and overcome.

Through Jujutsu, the one thing that made the Samurai a big threat (their armour) then became the Samurai’s biggest weakness.


In the same way, marketers will often use inertia and distraction to their own advantage to make sales.

For example, gym owners use subscription billing and memberships to take advantage of inertia – realising that it’s difficult for clients to actively remember that they are likely to be billed, and then to pick up the phone and have an awkward conversation about cancelling their membership.

And skilled marketing practitioners – like Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, founder of the “NewSell” movement – will use CheckMoves to bring customers closer to buying. These CheckMoves – or little reminders and offers to regularly contact customers, and increase the chances of making a sale. These CheckMoves take the format of phone calls, emails, SMSs, notifications and other messages that (as we’ve already seen) we’re susceptible to be distracted by.

But there’s a third pathway in our brains – and one that can often overcome the pathways of inertia and distraction.

This pathway is Scarcity: the fear of missing out!


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