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Have you ever asked yourself - “Why did I just buy that?” – it’s a common question.
As marketers, it’s a question we should be thinking about all of time, with each and every product we market. You should take a minute to examine this question and think about why someone would truly buy the product or service you’re marketing.
That may seem like something silly to say, as everyone knows benefits sell!
That’s true, but they are not the reason why someone buys, they simply hint at what the reason is.
The real reason why people buy a product or service is NOT for the extensive feature list or the benefits that you say they will gain. People buy for the potential/implied transformation that product or service will give to them.
They buy the idea of going from “State A” (their current position) to “State B” (where they really want to be) OR they buy to prevent the transformation – something which almost the entire licensed pharma industry is built on.
From mundane, everyday products, to the small “impulse” buys, all the way up to high-ticket “investments” – the transformation is the only reason why people buy.
In order to fully understand this concept, we need to look at what types and levels of transformational change a purchase can cause. The transformations can be categorised into four main groups:
Health: Will the product directly improve or prevent/safeguard against a potential deterioration in their life (and the lives of those that they care about)?
It’s easy to dismiss this transformation as not being applicable, but there are a surprising number of everyday products and services that can fit in this category, dependent on the circumstances in which the product is to be used.
A quick example could be batteries…. These can be extremely important to “health”, especially when used in a medical device or a detector/sensor of some sort. Recognising this fact opens up a new marketplace for the battery manufacturer who could create advertising around why his batteries are better for that purpose.
NB: A quick word of warning – when using a health style transformation, your marketing can be incredibly powerful, BUT it can also be incredibly emotive and trigger very strong feelings. Be ethical in what you do, don’t turn to the dark side of marketing!
Social: How does the product affect the consumer’s social standing? Will buying the product make them move up in the rankings amongst their peers, or will not owning the product make them an outcast?
Social transformations also cover one of the strongest transformations - attractiveness. Will the product increase their attractiveness?
Wealth: Does the product or service directly or indirectly save or make the customer money?
When it comes to B2B (and even some B2C scenarios such as insurance, especially when it’s not a legal requirement), wealth can also be an important factor if the purchase protects the customer from a potential huge future expense.
An accountant is a prime example - not only should a good accountant save you money on your taxes, but they also protect you from huge potential fines.
Now that we understand the key transformation changes, let’s look at how they apply to a customer and more importantly how they think about them.
Each transformation can be categorised based on how strong an effect it will have for the customer:
The common objection to these categorisations is around the power of status. Often, marketers and companies on a whole ignore status. This comes as a result of the people responsible for the marketing telling themselves that status and ego are not important to them, so therefore won’t be important to their clients.
I am not saying that everyone is an egotistical maniac, but status doesn’t just matter, it is an incredibly important part life and affects us all to some extent.
Approval from our peers and loved ones is the most important buying decision driver that we as marketers can use.
From childhood, the majority of people are conditioned, via peer pressure, to care what others think. As we grow older, even those who are most dismissive about status are driven by caring what their partners, parents and family or other loved ones think about them.
Ambition in the work place is often driven by a need to be admired by our work colleagues.
When selling your product, linking the benefits and transformation to an improvement in status (with a relevant person or community) will accelerate the decision to buy. Think about who matters to your ideal client.
For example, is it a product for first-time parents? They will respond extremely well to a product that proves they are doing things right – they are great parents and doing an amazing job of raising their child and other parents can see it, so their status within their peer group has been lifted.
Is it a product for a business or a corporate entity? How can we affect the status of the company? It’s simple, you have to understand the company doesn’t actually make the decision to make the purchase, it is a human within the corporation - the CEO, head of department or someone else who has the authority to purchase.
Once we understand that concept, we can focus on how to improve the status of that individual.
Will they earn the respect of their peers (and potentially boss) for making the purchase decision? Or, for smaller companies, will they gain the respect of their social group for making a decision which helps the corporation be perceived as more successful, hence they are more successful?
The status transformation may not always be easily recognisable. In these scenarios, we can drop back a level to how it makes the individual feel. Every human alive is programmed to seek out what is pleasurable to them. We all enjoy feeling good or feeling good about ourselves.
This obviously needs to conform to the constraints of society, but can your product offer a moment of pleasure to your customer? If not, perhaps it can relieve stress or reduce another negative feeling?
Part of feeling good is often simply moving away from discomfort, just as much as moving towards pleasure, and your marketing will be most powerful when you consider both angles.
To use the example of our new parents, the purchase of a mobile or sleep-aid toy for their baby may not be a status changer, but the thought of moving away from the feeling of exhaustion and lack of sleep for them, as their baby sleeps more soundly, would certainly be a powerful buying decision driver!
Whatever it is that you sell, if you can convey the transformation that the purchase will enable, your marketing will perform at a much higher level.
Sometimes, asking what your product has done for a previous customer will provide a hidden gem of an insight.
You just need to stop trying to sell the product and sell the transformation instead!