Why Should They Buy From You?

  |  September 12, 2003   |  Comments

Uncovering what motivates purchase decisions.

Last week, I discussed how a Web site must communicate confidence to meet a potential customer's needs and to successfully persuade. Another element, less obvious but no less critical, is value. Not just value offered to customers but also values regarding you: who you are and why you're in business.

When a brand conveys its core values, it creates a foundation for communicating trust, credibility, and confidence.

Abraham Maslow identified core values as "meta-needs." These needs can't be permanently satiated. Esteem, love, safety, and physiological needs aren't perceived as needs once they're satisfied, just as hunger isn't felt once the need is met. Meta-needs are never completely filled. Meta-needs Maslow identified are:

  • Truth

  • Goodness

  • Beauty

  • Unity, wholeness, and transcendence of opposites
  • Aliveness

  • Uniqueness

  • Perfection and necessity

  • Completion

  • Justice

  • Order

  • Simplicity

  • Effortlessness

  • Playfulness

  • Self-sufficiency

  • Meaningfulness

Maslow didn't finish the list; we could add others. He postulated people spend their lives in search of peak experiences to achieve self-actualization.

Understand motivations and needs is fundamental for persuasion. You'll be more successful motivating a dog with meat than a carrot. Let's explore why people buy.

Consumer Meta-Needs

Everything that can be sold falls into one or more category. You can sell stuff, provide a service, supply information, or entertain. Doing business requires understanding who needs your products and why they'd choose you. Why should a customer choose your company or product? Who would the product appeal to?

  • Price point. The customer has a need, your company supplies a solution at a lower price. This approach works for commodities, such as those found in grocery stores.

  • Brand name. Selling a product or service that lends prestige to the customer is target-specific snob appeal. A car such as a BMW is a prestige purchase, an exercise in affordable affluence. If the customer loves the idea of a Lexus, he won't seek a Hyundai.

  • Convenience. Providing something the consumers already requires or uses, such as a lawn mowing service, rather than the customer mowing his own lawn. They have the service or function but want to save time or eliminate hassle. Convenience isn't something consumers remain loyal to, it's simply handy.

  • The fad. Everyone's doing or using it for the novelty. All want to belong to a group. This motivation applies to products and services that are discretionary and novel. Prestige, social needs, even fear can factor into this kind of purchase.

  • Education. Consumers discover a previously unknown need or desire by learning about a product or service. The approach works best for new inventions and products. Convincing customers they have a need they didn't know about is difficult. It's easier to achieve with word of mouth than with advertising.

  • Obligation. Consumers are compelled to buy. We don't like paying taxes, but we have to. We don't like paying the plumber, but he gets our call. Trust is big in this arena. Insurance agents, lawyers, and other professionals fall into this category. Consumers won't buy unless something forces them to.

  • Added value. A result of competition. It helps a company prove its product or service is demonstrably better. Think refrigerator versus ice box. The consumer already spends the money. The goal is to shift the expenditure. The added value includes selling, installing, and/or servicing the product.

  • Technological advantage. Effective for companies that serve a narrow band of clients, such as specialized services for oil rigs. A narrow advantage can be meaningful in large applications. This sale is about staying on top of technology and in touch with key players.

  • Identity or subgroup. People seek out groups of like-minded people with similar interests. Health clubs or specialized travel agencies fall into this category.

  • Name recognition. Helps customers reach decisions with limited information. It's the store on the way to work. Your family buys the product. You heard about it from a friend. Little thought or analysis goes into these purchasing decisions. Political campaigns are an example. Most people vote on extremely limited factors; extensive knowledge of a candidate is rare. It may be we recognize a name.

This isn't a complete list. There are many others, including expensive versus inexpensive; one-time sale versus recurring sales; perishable versus durable; tangible versus intangible; personal versus business; and simple sale versus complex sale.

What other factors can you come up with? Let me know. Understanding all the emotional and intellectual reasons that motivate clients and prospects is imperative. Are you thinking enough about why people should buy from you?


Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is co-founder and chief marketing officer (CMO) of IdealSpot. He is co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times best-selling books Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?, and Always Be Testing, and Buyer Legends. Bryan is a keynote speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as Gultaggen, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others for the past 10 years. Bryan was named a winner of the Marketing Edge's Rising Stars Awards, recognized by eConsultancy members as one of the top 10 User Experience Gurus, selected as one of the inaugural iMedia Top 25 Marketers, and has been recognized as most influential in PPC, Social Selling, OmniChannel Retail. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of several venture capital backed companies such as Sightly, UserTesting, Monetate, ChatID, Nomi, and BazaarVoice. He works with his co-author and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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