Have you ever asked members if they were going to renew, they said yes, but then they didn’t?
Have you ever asked attendees if they were going to attend next year’s conference, they said yes, but then they didn’t?
Have you ever asked members if they would use or buy a new offering, they said yes, but then they didn’t?
If you have ever had this happen, you are getting false positives from your members. This is super common. Ask people if they will do something, use something, or buy something in the future and they will be much more optimistic about their chances of engaging than they will be when the time comes.
I am sure there’s an officially named cognitive bias for this but for now, let’s call it the Sunny Future Bias. Here is how I explain the Sunny Future Bias.
I travel a lot, and I usually make my travel plans 2-3 months in advance of departure. When making these plans sometimes the best flight is early in the morning which may require me to get up at 3 o’clock. Past-me may think, “3 o’clock is not so bad, I can do that.” But the day comes, and future-me is thinking, “what was I thinking?!” as I drag myself out of bed.
We volunteer for things because we think we will have more time in the future. We schedule things because we believe we can do it all in the future. Our past selves think the future will be better; we will have more time. Our future selves want to strangle our past-selves for making all these commitments.
So when someone asks do you think you would buy this cool new gadget, your past-self might say yes. The same with volunteering, attending and using. In the moment, though, your future self cannot afford the time or money.
Becuase we all have the Sunny Future Bias we can not reliably ask our members if they will renew, purchase, attend, read, use, or browse. They can not tell us.