Why Do People Buy – Part Two

So what does all this mean to marketers? (See Part One)

1. Advertising and marketing strategies should attempt to present an appeal strong enough to stimulate action toward satisfying one of Maslow’s basic human needs.

2. Maslow believes lower levels always take priority over higher levels so you shouldn’t attempt to sell products or services that only meet higher levels of need. This means don’t try and sell clothing to someone who hasn’t eaten in a week, and don’t sell expensive software to people who don’t have the basic infrastructure to run it.

3. According to Maslow’s theory, no matter how much people have, they will always want more. People are never totally satisfied – and here lies the opportunity for the marketer.

Now keep in mind that none of these “rules” are hard and fast. Humans have an annoying tendency to jump levels and make decisions for any number of irrational reasons. These concepts merely help us to frame our offers and provide a structure to understand the less tangible aspects of buying and selling.

Sell how great the sausage tastes – not how the sausage is made.
When it comes to complex products like software, electronics, medical devices and the like, many companies dwell on details that have nothing to do with what their customers really want. In fact, more often than not, the customer ends up bewildered. I have built a business on helping these companies create hierarchies of information – starting with simplistic “needs” based messages and gradually increasing complexity as the sales cycle matures.

For example, “front end” tactics like direct marketing and advertising require that the message is highly focused on what the product or service can do for the customer. This message needs to be massaged until it can be delivered in a matter of seconds. As the customer moves through the sales process, the complexity of information can be gradually increased until the prospect feels she has enough information to make an educated decision. Below is a diagram I use to illustrate this idea. Many companies start in the middle of the pyramid and wonder why their advertising and promotion doesn’t deliver the results they expect.

Ask and you shall receive
So how do you find out your customers’ deepest needs? Simply ask. That’s right, there’s no secret to developing messages and tactics that resonate with the specific needs of your customers. Over the years I’ve conducted customer interviews for many of my clients to not only gauge satisfaction but to uncover the finer points of how they make decisions. While the needs and issues vary greatly between industries and products, every one of these assignments has revealed a major breakthrough in terms of uncovering information that was previously unknown and was critical to my clients’ success. Not only do your customers have the answers you seek, they are more than happy to help you better understand how you can fulfill their needs. In fact, many people have told me that they were absolutely tickled that my client thought so highly of them to seek their opinion.

Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!
People buy with their hearts, not with their minds. Many buying decisions can be traced back to emotions that are later rationalized by thought. There is no question that emotions motivate human actions far more than logical or rational considerations. People tend to base their decisions on emotional drives and then rationalize those decisions or persuade themselves that they acted intellectually and with good judgement. In fact, the less thought needed to form a decision, the more likely a sale can be made.


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