Defeating the Secret Scary Syndrome of Information Hoarding

Keith Perhac
Founder @ SegMetrics

At the end of your day, do you close out dozens of browser tabs that you intended to look at but never got to?

Do you have piles of downloaded movies, TV shows, and music that you’ve never watched?

Have you ever discovered unread PDFs, e-books, and blog articles collecting virtual dust in secret corners of your computer?

Congratulations, you might be an Information Hoarder!

That means you collect information but don’t use it. Like the cat ladies on an episode of “Hoarders,” Information Hoarders have way more stuff than they know what to do with.

This very modern problem stems from the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, our desire to consume it all, and our inability to do it.

Most information hoarders have one of four mindsets:

1. Information Entitlement: “If it’s available, I’ve got to have it!”

If you feel this way, chances are you’ll download anything and everything you can get your hands on. You believe you deserve access to all of the Internet’s data and media, and you’re stockpiling your own personal library.

2. FOMO: “If I don’t get it now, it’ll be too late!”

If you feel a sense of urgency and anxiety when you’re online, you might have a “Fear of Missing Out” mindset. You’re less worried about what you’re downloading, and more worried about missing out on the opportunity to grab it.

3. Rainy Day: “This might be useful…someday!”

You save things with the intention of checking them out later. Like your relatives that lived through the Great Depression and kept their used tin foil, you’re convinced that one day in the future your piles of digital stuff will come in handy.

4. Let’s Make a Deal: “If it’s affordable, I want it!”

If you can’t turn down things that are free, cheap, or discounted, this may be your category. You get a bit of a high from scoring a deal whether it’s useful or not, and can’t say no to a sale or coupon code.

So, what’s the big deal with information hoarding? There are far worse things you can be on the Internet. After all, digital storage space, unlike attic space, is cheap and plentiful. And you’re not really hurting anyone with your hoard.

But for someone running an online business or selling a digital product, the Information Hoarder can be a disastrous customer.

Imagine if everyone who paid up for your SaaS product or online course hoarded it instead of using it. Sure, you would still pocket the initial revenue, but that’s not enough to keep your business afloat. You need incremental revenue, which you just won’t get from a customer who’s hoarding your product.

But there’s good news! Unlike “Hoarders,” where every episode seems to end right back where it started with a pile of trash covered in cats, Information Hoarding can have a happy ending.

There are many ways to defeat the syndrome, and we’ll talk about a few of them right now.

We’ll start with seven tactics you can use on yourself if you’re suffering from your own case of Information Hoarding. (Or skip down for seven tactics to prevent your customers from doing it.)

Set a limit to what you can download

If you tend to over-download, set some basic limits. Create limits that work for you: one PDF per day, one paid product per week, ten apps per month.

Just like dieters have better success when they write down everything they eat, you can keep a spreadsheet or list of what you’ve downloaded. Seeing it all in one place can help you keep things in perspective.

Start a “one in, one out” policy

Agree that you won’t buy new products until you’ve used the ones you already have. This works great for things like movies and music: you can’t get a new one until you’ve watched or listened to the old one.

Get accountable

Start or join a group of like-minded folks who are willing to be your accountability partners. Tell them your goals and check in with them when you need help saying no to new stuff or saying yes to working through old stuff.

Build new habits into your schedule

Just like you wash your hands every time you use the bathroom…we hope…you can create new helpful habits that fit easily into your day. Every time you charge your phone, drink a glass of water, or walk the dog, follow that action with ten minutes of working through your digital hoard. Soon it’ll become second nature.

Reward yourself for hitting goals

The oldest human trick in the book! Reward yourself every time you USE information instead of COLLECTING it. If you read an e-book, you can get another one. If you study your online course for two hours, you can play a video game. And so on. Do what works for you.

Mindful organization

Scared to throw your stuff away? Try organizing it instead. Split your items in action-oriented folders like “TO READ,” “TO WATCH,” “TO DELETE.” Just moving things into new folders forces you to make decisions, allows you to take stock of your inventory, and motivates you to dive in to something you’ve previously ignored.

Set expiration dates

And stick to them! Any unread or unused downloads should get deleted after a year. Any read or used downloads that you no longer need should be archived or deleted after six months.

Have a handle on your own Information Hoarding issues? Now you can use your savvy to help out customers who are purchasing your SaaS, digital product, or online course. Here are seven ways to do it.

Teach your customers what to do

Be very clear how customers should use your product. If they’ll need to devote three hours a week to using your product, be sure to explain that immediately before or after their purchase so they know what to expect and how to manage their time.

Also explain to them what they should do next. After they download a free PDF, should they sign up for the paid introductory course? After they complete the introductory course, should they sign up for the intermediate course? Tell them what to do so they can use your product wisely.

Offer annual payments instead of monthly

Every time your customer pays for your product, they have a mental conversation asking “is this product worth paying for?” Of course you want the answer to be “yes!” If your customers are prone to collecting, they may not have used your product by the end of the month, and will likely not find it worth renewing.

Billing yearly benefits you in a few ways:

  1. It gets you more revenue upfront, which is particularly helpful for businesses with high cost of customer acquisition.
  2. You’re only asking your customer to evaluate the value of your product once over a year. That gives your hoarder 12 months to get their butt in gear and use your product before being asked to renew. Switching customers to annual billing radically decreases churn, one of the key long-term risks to SaaS businesses.
  3. And it works! Follow the math: You might naively assume that 1% to 2% of customers would volunteer to switch to annual billing. And yes, you’ll get about 1% to opt in by making annual billing a regular old option on your pricing page.But if you pitch annual billing as an exclusive benefit to only your most loyal customers, those who you know are already getting the most value from the software, you’ll get 10% conversion.
  4. The larger annual payment also motivates a hoarder to actually invest their time in your product instead of putting it on the back burner. (A smaller monthly payment may make it mentally easier for a hoarder to ignore.)

Don’t overvalue the Information Hoarder as a customer

Information Hoarders seem like great customers, don’t they? They buy lots of new products indiscriminately, and because they don’t use a lot of them, they rarely give you any customer service headaches.


They might be great first-time customers, but you need to focus on long-term customers who will provide a greater lifetime value. That kind of long-term relationship only comes with customers who actually use and enjoy your product. Check out all the reasons why long-term customers are worth more to your company than new ones.

Give your content an expiration date

Motivate your hoarders to get crackin’ by manufacturing urgency. Any time you can put an expiration date or limited trial on your products, do it. (This is particularly great for hoarders with the FOMO mindset – they’re already scared they’ll miss out on something.)

Use social guilt to promote progress

Think of this tactic as using peer pressure for a positive outcome. All you have to do is send out an email touting the progress that other customers have made, celebrating their success and dedication to using your product. This will provoke your hoarders into using your product in order to keep up with the rest of the class.


One of our favorite tools is the good old fashioned feedback survey. Email your customers who haven’t logged in, downloaded, or otherwise used your product. Ask them why they haven’t progressed yet with a few simple questions. Track the most common answers to see what mental roadblocks your hoarders are having.

Then, encourage them to get going and tell them to get in touch with you if they need any assistance.

Remind them why they purchased (in their own words)

Add a question to your sign-up process that asks customers to share WHY they’re purchasing the product. It can be an optional question, or even multiple choice, to make it easy to answer.

Then, when a customer isn’t using your product, email them to remind them why they signed up in the first place. There’s nothing quite as powerful as using your customer’s own words to motivate them.

Now you’re ready to stop the vicious cycle.

Imagine the relief you’ll feel when your digital hoard is under control. You’ll save yourself time, money and storage space by limiting your downloads and product purchases. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and tempted to consume everything that’s available to you.

And by forcing the same limits on your customers, you’ll see your customer base becoming more engaged and invested, and actually using your product.

If you’ve read this article all the way to the bottom instead of saving it for later, you’re already on the right path!

Keith Perhac

Founder @ SegMetrics

Keith is the Founder of SegMetrics, and has spent the last decade working on optimizing marketing funnels and nurture campaigns.

SegMetrics was born out of a frustration with how impossibly hard it is to pull trustworthy, complete and actionable data out of his client's marketing tools.

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