What Motivates People to Buy Certain Products (and Why You Should Care)

January 5, 2021 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On average, 2.86% of website visits convert into a purchase, according to conversion rate optimization company Invesp. That’s 1 in 35, leaving a lot of room for improvement.

Although you can use advanced tactics to increase conversion rates, sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest impact.

Enter buyer .

You can use all the Ads tricks in the world, but if you don’t know why your customers buy, you’ll struggle to grow. 

What Is Buyer Motivation?

Simply put, buyer motivation is the driving force influencing a purchase. 

When you understand why customers buy, you can tailor your products, services, messaging and branding. 

This is essential to . According to CB Insights, 42% of startups fail because of a lack of market need. This significant failure rate demonstrates that many businesses don’t understand buyer motivation — or why it’s crucial to the market’s needs and desires.

The more you understand why consumers want something, the better you can lead them to the solution they’re searching for — namely your product or service.

So, why do people buy?

Related: The 2 Psychological Factors Motivating Customers to Buy

Types of Buyer Motivation

hit the nail on the head when he said, “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

This holds true for both and B2C sales.

When you boil it down, there are 2 reasons people buy things: dissatisfaction and desire.

1. Dissatisfaction

Every purchase decision starts with dissatisfaction. 

It doesn’t matter what it is. Dissatisfied with your phone? It’s time to upgrade. Dissatisfied with your results? Hire experts to help.

Typically, the more dissatisfied people are, the quicker they’ll make a purchase. What’s more, the better the solution is, the more money people will pay for it.

Dissatisfaction usually manifests in two main ways: fear and pain.

Think about it: In our everyday lives, we fear things like loss, discomfort and rejection. To mitigate these fears, we purchase home insurance to feel secure; we buy new clothes to feel accepted, and we invest in mattresses to feel comfortable.

What’s more, when people are in some pain, it’s natural to want to find a solution. 

And I don’t just mean physical pain. (Although that’s a good example. It’s urgent, and people are willing to pay pretty much anything to find relief.) 

There’s emotional pain. A leaking pipe creates stress, a tiny car creates discomfort, and a lack of income creates insecurity. Consequently, we rush out to hire a plumber, buy a new car and invest in our careers.

2. Desire

Desire is the natural consequence of dissatisfaction. When people are dissatisfied with something, they naturally desire a solution. 

For example, we can desire gain, pleasure, comfort, relief, security or guidance. And each of these types of desires can manifest in many ways. 

Take security. We can desire physical, financial or . These desires can lead us to purchase home alarm systems, financial planning services and status symbols like designer clothing.

Now, what does this mean for your business?

How to Identify Buyer Motivation: A 5-Step Guide

If you want to increase the impact of your marketing efforts, you have to get to the core of why customers buy from your business and then infuse that knowledge into every decision you make. Here are five steps to take:

1. Consider Your Market Positioning

Start with your brand positioning — where do you sit in the market?

and sit at the high end of the auto market, providing elite engineering and luxury. At a glance, we can tell that their customers are dissatisfied with uneventful driving and blending in with the crowd — they desire excitement and status.

On the other hand, brands like and Kia provide cars for the average earner. Their customers are likely dissatisfied with unreliable cars and high transportation costs. They desire affordability and safety.

Where does your business sit in the market, and what type of buyer motivation does that attract?

Related: The Fastest Way to Find New Customers

2. Evaluate Your Target Market

Your target market largely determines your customers’ motivation to buy.

The average teenager is likely to be motivated by the need for social validation—people in their 80s, probably less so.

For instance, my clients are driven by the dissatisfaction of wasted time and money from ineffective marketing practices. They don’t hire us for social validation or prestige. They hire us for guidance, security, relief, and — most importantly — financial gains.

Who are your ideal customers? What drives them?

3. Determine What Happy Customers Look Like

When you determine what a happy, satisfied customer looks like, you can reverse engineer the transaction to identify their buyer motivation.

For example, using financial management software can help people feel more secure about their financial situation, so perhaps they bought the software to relieve anxiety and fear.

What do your happy, satisfied customers look like?

Related: The Art of Feel-Good Loyalty Incentives

4. Evaluate Your Data

Once you’ve got a bird’s-eye view of the situation, it’s time to dig into the details. Evaluate your sales and marketing data to identify what drives customers to purchase.

If you’re not sure where to start, begin with your ads and landing pages — typically, it’s easier to match buyer intent with a specific ad campaign than with other marketing methods, such as search engine optimization.

For example, you could study your most successful ads and determine the pain points or desires that each ad addresses. Is there a pattern?

5. Boil It Down: Dissatisfaction and Desire

Once you’ve gathered and analyzed your data, you should have a solid understanding of the reasons your customers buy. It’s time to distill what you’ve found into actionable directives. 

First, define customers’ initial dissatisfaction and their resulting desire. Then link them to your key value propositions and solutions.

Ideally, you should end up with a clear list of the reasons customers purchase each of your products or services.

For example, say that you run a B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) business providing social media chatbots to e-commerce businesses. Your target customers could be dissatisfied with their ability to:

As a result, you may find that they desire to:

  • Meet their target market wherever they spend most of their time online

  • Deliver enticing lead magnet offers through social chat

  • Use chat to gather insightful data about their target market

This information empowers you to showcase your key value propositions and solutions in a way that resonates powerfully with your target market.

These distilled buyer motivations should act as the foundation of all your sales and marketing messaging.

How to Use Buyer Motivation to Increase Sales

Once you have a deep understanding of why customers buy from your business, it’s time to turn the strategy into tactics.

Here are three ways you can apply the knowledge you’ve gained to increase sales.

1. Improve Your Messaging

Engage your target market by addressing what they care about most. Your website, ads, landing pages, content and social media posts should address your buyers’ motivation.

There are countless ways to do this, but perhaps one of the simplest and most effective is the old copywriting formula known as PAS:

  • Problem: Highlight the dissatisfaction that your target market has

  • Agitate: Agitate this dissatisfaction by highlighting the reasons why it’s a problem

  • Solution: Present your solution in a way that meets your target market’s existing desire

This formula can be used in every type of content you create, whether it’s an ad or a blog post.

2. Design for Buyer Motivation

Tailor your website’s appearance and user experience to the reasons your target market buys.

For example, if you’re trying to sell do-it-yourself safety equipment online, you’ll need to appeal to your customer’s sense of fear. In this instance, bold sans serif fonts and colors such as yellow and black are likely to resonate with your customers’ core motivation.

Whether it’s your website, product packaging or social media posts, make sure that every design element invokes your target market’s buyer motivation.

3. Create Resources

To quote investment adviser and New York Times bestselling author Robert G. Allen:

“No matter what your product is, you are ultimately in the education business. Your customers need to be constantly educated about the many advantages of doing business with you, trained to use your products more effectively, and taught how to make never-ending improvement in their lives.”

To put it another way, you need to create content that caters to buyer motivation.

Let’s return to our example of a B2B SaaS company providing social media chatbots to e-commerce businesses. This business could benefit from creating resources that guide buyers by setting up chatbots and using them to increase sales.

If the business sells fast-fashion accessories to teens, it likely will need to create style tips and look-book videos to showcase hot new trends.

Whatever content you create, educate your target market on what they care about most.


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