Why Did You Buy That?

by Paul Simister on June 8, 2011

If you want to learn about how to influence and persuade your target market to buy from you or to buy more often from you, then you need to understand their wants, needs and motivations.

And if you want to understand other people, there’s no better place to start learning than by understanding yourself.

In particular, why did you buy what you bought?I think you’ll be amazed at the answers you come up with and especially if you ask why several times and you’re honest. That means that if you buy something to impress someone else, then you admit it.

Exanple 1 – The Original Soundtrack

As an example, let’s work through my latest classic rock purchase from Amazon – The Original Soundtrack by 10cc.

Why did you buy that?

I wanted it and it was cheap.

Why did you want it?

Because it was a hole in my 10cc album collection.

Why did that matter?

Because I know it’s a great album. I’ve just never got around to buying it because I haven’t seen it cheap before.

But why did that matter?

Because I wanted to hear the album again and every time I looked at 10cc on my iPod, I was irritated to see the jump from the first two albums, 10cc and Sheet Music through to the fourth album How Dare You and I’m playing 10cc a lot at the moment.

I know this is hardly life or death but it was a source of irritation and I feel better now that I’ve bought it because it really is an excellent album and I no longer have the irrational discomfort a collector feels when there is a gap in his or her collection.

Example 2 – Heinz Tomato Soup

Why did you buy 4 tins of Heinz tomato soup?

Because I had a tin last week and I was reminded just how much I like it.

Why did you buy 4 tins?

Because there was a special deal on in the supermarket which let me get four tins for the price of three.

Why did you buy Heinz soup?

Because I think it’s much nicer than any other brand of tomato soup I’ve tried and while it is more expensive, I think the extra flavour is worth it.

Example 3 – Thinking for a Change: Putting the TOC Thinking Processes to Use

Why did you buy this book?

Because I believe the Theory of Constraints thinking processes are powerful but they are difficult to understand.

Why do you want to understand the thinking processes better?

Because I want to use them with more confidence in my coaching and consulting work with clients. I’m frustrated because they are quite complicated and my real life examples seem overwhelming until I develop confidence with the techniques.

Why do you want to use the thinking processes?

Because they help focus attention on the few key things that really matter and will have the biggest impact on my client’s performance. I think the use of the thinking processes and focus on constraints will differentiate me from other coaches.

Why did you buy this particular book?

Because the reviews on Amazon said that it explained the thinking processes clearly and because it has exercises to help apply them. It’s the only book that I could see that really did this.

It was quite expensive for a book. Why wasn’t this important?

I did buy it from the cheapest source I could find but I feel that the potential value I can get from the book outweighs the cost (and from the time and effort involved in reading it and doing the exercises.)

Summarising Your Reasons For Purchase

You need to do the exercise for more than three purchases to get a comprehensive idea of what’s really going on in your mind.

As you build up your why’s, you’ll see various patterns develop.

You’ll see what’s important to you because our values come out in what we choose to buy.

In certain places, my purchase is driven by preference – I just like 10cc and Heinz tomato soup.I know because I’ve enjoyed both before.

Price is important to me. It encouraged me to buy 4 tins of soup and it didn’t stop me buying the 10cc album (yes at less than £5 but no at £10 or whatever I’ve seen it at in the music shops).

I took reassurance from the reviews on Amazon for the book. If the reviews hadn’t been so consistently good, I’d have probably decided to wait and done more work on my own with the thinking processes.

I bought the book as a stepping stone. It’s not an end in itself but a way to get to a way to get to an end.

By that I mean that I bought the book to understand the thinking processes better. But that isn’t the end either. It leads me to a way I believe I can help my clients better (which is worthy) but ultimately it’s about helping me to make more money to fund future purchases.

There’s also an insecurity factor. I’m frustrated because I don’t quite get it but I want to because I believe it is important. I can use some elements of the thinking process with confidence and find them a big help for finding clarity and believe the entire methodology will be very useful.

I gave three examples and each has a different driver.

The soup is driven by my need to eat, drink and keep warm – very basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The music is driven by my desire for pleasure, both in listening to classic 70s rock and for having an extensive collection.

The book is driven by my purpose and my desire to do it the best that I can (or anyone else).

Applying The Motivations To Your Products

First a warning, your customers don’t think about your products in the same way that you do.

You’re an expert and you are likely to find little differences between your product and those from your competitors fascinating.

Your customers see your product as a short-cut solution to a problem. They are probably not experts unless they by very regularly.

What I’m trying to say is that why you’d buy your product probably isn’t why your customers do.

But some of the other factors that cause you to buy other things will apply.

The better you understand them in yourself – the emotions and the gratification you get from buying – the more you can use them to understand what your target wants, develop products and  communicate stronger, more compelling marketing messages.

It also helps you to audit your current marketing messages and if they are not working well, understand why. It may be that there is mismatch between what’s on your customer’s mind and what you say.

Paul Simister is a business strategy coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace…. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.

You too can move past your profit tipping point (free report) by answering the seven big questions of business success (mp3).

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