Shirin Oreizy | Supercharging Your Marketing with Behavioral Science
Smart Business Revolution

Shirin Oreizy is the Founder and CEO of Next Step, an award-winning behavioral marketing agency with offices in San Francisco and Boston. Next Step leverages the latest research in behavioral science (the study of how humans make decisions) to design better outcomes for businesses in their marketing and growth initiatives. 

Shirin has a degree in Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley and holds accreditations from Duke University and UC Berkeley on behavioral science and positive psychology. Her work applying behavioral science in marketing is regularly featured in Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and The Huffington Post. She has also been on the board of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and a guest lecturer at Stanford University. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran is joined by Shirin Oreizy, the Founder and CEO of Next Step, to discuss how you can use behavioral science to supercharge your business’ marketing. Shirin explains what behavioral science means, talks about the role it plays in building a company’s culture, and explains how she pivoted her business from a digital design agency to start focusing on behavioral science.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • How Shirin Oreizy got started in entrepreneurship
  • Shirin’s transition from electrical engineering to starting a digital agency and later going into behavioral science
  • What is behavioral science?
  • The type of clients Next Step works with and the role research plays in behavioral science
  • How Shirin pivoted her business’ focus from digital design to behavioral science
  • Shirin talks about how she develops her company’s culture
  • The role The Conscious Leadership Group (CLG) has played in Shirin’s business and personal life
  • The peers Shirin respects and her contact details

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show, and every week I get to talk to interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of different companies. Check out my archives, I got some great episodes with the Co-founders and CEOs from Netflix, YPO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And my guest today is Shirin. And Shirin, how do you pronounce your last name? Oreizy. Shirin Oreizy. She’s the Founder and CEO of Next Step. It’s an award winning behavioral marketing agency. They have offices in San Francisco and Boston. She has a degree in Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley. She holds accreditations from Duke University and UC Berkeley on behavioral science and positive psychology. 

Her work applying behavioral science in marketing is regularly featured in Forbes, Inc., and the Huffington Post. And she’s also been on the board of Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a guest lecturer at Stanford as well. This episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. If you have any questions or you’re curious about podcasts, go contact us at Rise25 Media or email us at [email protected]. Alright, Shirin. So it’s such a pleasure to have you here. And I love to ask people first about how they first dip their toe in the water with entrepreneurship. You have had your company for about 17 years now since 2004. But were you like as a kid out there starting businesses on the weekends? When did you get started with entrepreneurship? Uh, yeah, not

Shirin Oreizy 2:20

so much. I have a very traditional family dynamic. Everybody’s like, go get a good education and find a good job, and then kind of try to climb the corporate ladder. And so my journey actually to entrepreneurship didn’t start until later in my life. So I started off, did the good, the good kid thing and went to college and studied engineering and then took on a job as an Electra plane, or working at Nvidia, a large tech company, and did that for a number of years. And I realized that is just not my genius zone. I wasn’t really enjoying it. I don’t like being stuck in a cubicle. And, and so I decided at that point that, you know, if I don’t continue to, you know, change this trajectory that, you know, I’ll probably, you know, find myself near retirement and fairly unhappy. And so, I point blank jumpship, which I guess is a bit of an entrepreneur characteristic, you can say, without quite really having a plan in place. I’ll tell you, I’ll share with you a fun story about the time that I quit. I love baking as a hobby. And I was like, I just want to completely change and start, like a desert cafe. And I did a two week unpaid internship at a Michelin rated restaurant. And literally, that was it. I was like, Nope, can’t hear me. Okay, now what?

John Corcoran 3:57

Yeah. Like that is no fun. That’s literally like, I think that’s the premise of the book, The E-Myth, which is about a baker. Yeah. not loving it. Yeah. Yeah. That’s funny. So how do you go from electrical engineering to starting when you started it? So Next Step was a digital design agency, right?

Shirin Oreizy 4:19

Yep. Yeah. So I did a bit of soul searching after that, a little baking kind of experience and, and tried to really focus on what are the elements that I like, and where do I feel like is my zone of genius. And, you know, back when I was at Berkeley, I competed in a couple of different business school competitions around things like web usability, etc. And so I remember at that time, I had so much fun with it. And so that’s kind of basically how I got started. I was like, Okay, let me go into this, you know, at the time, 2004, still fairly early days of the web. And so we started off As a digital design agency, we were doing that for a number of years, until I met my husband. And then things change a little bit.

John Corcoran 5:08

How did that change when you met your husband,

Shirin Oreizy 5:10

and so he was also a 10 year serial entrepreneur. And at the time, he was running a series of sleep medicine clinics nationwide, and they actually had really high adherence rates, these like really difficult sleep apnea treatment plans. I don’t know if you’ve ever liked to get a patient to like wearing this big mask, but you know, overnight, they had like, 80% here and suites, the highest in the nation. I was like, really fascinated. I’m like, how are you getting people to do that. And he shared the secret, which was behavioral science. And so he basically found all the books you could get on behavioral science like chill, Dinis book, and whatnot. And it was based on systematically applying it inside clinics. And as we’re seeing there’s, you know, a big change. And so that kind of got me on to my quest of really trying to learn about behavioral science, and, you know, taking coursework and whatnot, what I quickly recognize is that there’s currently a lot of really great research around how people make decisions happening in academia, Duke, Harvard, etc. And it’s not as common actually in the private sector. So government agencies, etc, do have behavioral science teams, and Obama started one, but it’s less common in the private sector. But increasingly, we’re seeing a lot more adoption. So the Ubers of the world Airbnb, Walmart, etc, Google, Facebook, they all now have behavioral science teams in house and I was much more passionate about figuring out how, how could we bring this work to our clients, and our clients tend to be smaller companies, or they’re more like mid market, etc. And, and yeah, and so, a couple years later, we started finding ways to, you know, incorporate behavioral science into our work. And we’ve been doing it for

John Corcoran 7:11

a number of years now. And I realized we should probably take a step backwards for those of us who don’t know what behavioral science is, and kind of define it. So, you know, talk to me like I’m a three year old, maybe a little older than that about a year, an eight year old.

Shirin Oreizy 7:27

A really intelligent, great, cautious three year old Yeah. Yeah. So behavioral science, we like to say, is the study of how people really make decisions. And we emphasize that word, really, because you have another field of study called economics that everyone’s familiar with. And I think comparing unbeatable science to be able economics to economics is really important. Because in economic theory, we assume that the humans that we’re dealing with are always rational. So we just assume if I give you more information or more choices, you’re a really rational person, you’re gonna make the right choice, right. And as behavioral scientists, or behavioral economists, I’m using these terms interchangeably, it’s the same thing. We see the world a little bit differently, we actually recognize that, hey, yeah, people can be rational, but a lot of times they’re irrational, a lot of times their emotions, their environment, whether a physical or digital environment, social factors, etc, influence how they make decisions. And so we’re much more interested in understanding those factors. Because, you know, if you look at it 80% of your decision making is actually much more motivated by that. And then you kind of rationalize your decisions with the facts and figures. So yeah, well, I’m proud to be a behavioral scientist.

John Corcoran 8:56

Now, like anything, there’s a good side and a bad side and good things to be put to bad use. Right. So I think probably a lot of people listening to this might think, oh, that could be really they could be manipulating people. How do you bring those considerations to the work that you do? Or is it something you just kind of set aside to say, I represent my clients interest.

Shirin Oreizy 9:19

So we’re actually pretty particular about the types of clients we work with. So we’re intentional around the industries that we work with, to make sure that these, you know, nudges that we’re doing are impacting people for the better. So we work with a lot of financial technology companies really trying to help people save more, you know, out of debt, etc. And then we work with what I would consider more neutral, like b2b technology companies. So we tend to shy away from certain industries that we believe we’re not as aligned with their mission.

John Corcoran 9:57

Got it. So give me some Case studies, then you mentioned FinTech or could be from a different industry of, you know, a client comes to you with some particular challenge. They’re like, you know, a sleep apnea center, and they can’t get their people to put the big machine on their face. So some other examples of your own.