A vendor at the mall stopped me the other day. I don’t know if it was my frizzy, messy hair piled in a ponytail or the smile on my face, but he thought he could sell me his wares. I sat down in his chair and politely listened to the virtues of his products. He was a friendly—a great conversationalist—but I walked away empty-handed.
When I left the mall, I called a friend who has worked in sales for years. “I think I am a salesman’s worst nightmare,” I laughed into the phone as I told him my story. Without missing a beat, he replied, “You weren’t the right prospect. That guy needs to do a better job sizing up his customers.”
That comment lingered in my head. We know the goal of marketing is to sell products. There’s no magical formula involved. If customers know about your product and need it, they will buy it. It seems easy enough, so why do even the best marketing plans sometimes fail? A friendly face, excellent product, and perfect sales pitch can lead nowhere. How does this happen?
16 Basic Desires That Motivate the Sale
The key to this puzzle lies in the hearts of your customers. In the end, people do things—including buy products—because they want to do so. The deciding factor isn’t you or your product. It’s the ideals that drive your customers to do—or not do—something. Successful marketers understand this. They know who their customers are and what matters most to them.
How do you know what will convince your customers they need your product? Researchers at Ohio State studied the factors that motivate people do whatever they do.
- Acceptance: I want others to approve of me.
- Curiosity: I want to learn how and why things work.
- Eating: I want food.
- Family: I want children and a partner.
- Honor: I want to be true to the values of my cultural group.
- Idealism: I want justice in the world.
- Independence: I want to be myself.
- Order: I want organization and systems.
- Physical activity: I want to exercise.
- Power: I want to be able to influence people
- Romance: I want to have sex.
- Saving: I want to collect things I may need.
- Social contact: I want to have friends.
- Status: I want to be important in the world.
- Tranquility: I want to be safe.
- Vengeance: I want to get revenge.
On a subconscious level, each one of us has certain dominant motivators guiding what we choose to do. This explains why workaholics are truly happy sacrificing relationships and leisure time, while social butterflies cannot imagine life without a bevy of friends and acquaintances. What motivates me to spend my time and money may be very different from what motivates you to spend yours. – And we’re both equally happy with our lifestyles.
Marketing the Right Way
There’s a right way and a wrong way to use these basic desires in marketing. What’s the right way?
- As you develop your marketing plan, stop to consider your target market and what motivates them. What do the members of your target market have in common? Are they pet owners? Parents? Senior citizens? Creative types? Of course, your target market is composed of individuals with different motivators, but they also have common motivators. For example, people with children are often motivated by family. Senior citizens living on fixed incomes tend to be motivated by saving. Make a list that represents your market—age, location, lifestyle.
- Prioritize the desires. Review your list. Which motivators are most dominant in your target market? Young professionals may be motivated by acceptance, independence, power, and status. If your market of young professionals is filled with recent college graduates working in the corporate world, the needs for power and status are likely stronger motivators. Knowing this will help you zero in on what will make them want to buy your product.
- Develop a marketing plan that shows how your product or service will meet these needs. For example, how can you convince young professionals that you offer them a way to increase their status within their peer groups? Incorporate images of young professionals who are surrounded by people showing they respect them. Use strong language implying how your product will arm them with the tools that bring the honor they strive for.
When Marketing Goes Wrong
The sales rep who tried to sell me his hair products tried several techniques to convince me I needed them. He started with, “See how much better your hair looks with this?” (romance and acceptance). When I didn’t respond, he tried, “Your friends will all be jealous and want to know what you’re doing different” (social contact and status). Again, I refused to buy. Then he asked me about my family and told me about his (family).
He knew that I needed a reason to buy his products. What he didn’t understand was that my need to save money (saving) was far more motivating to me than the factors he assumed would matter. Had he offered to lower the price or demonstrate how I could save money using his products, he would have been more likely to make a sale.
I’m sure you don’t have the time or the resources to make a similar mistake. When you understand what motivates your target market, you can tailor your marketing plan to those needs. As a result, you will spend more time on marketing campaigns that bring results.
You don’t want to invest your time and resources on marketing that falls on deaf ears. Knowing your market and their needs is a key factor in developing a marketing plan that will reach them—in ways that will resonate with them. When you consider their needs, you are well on your way to increasing your conversions.