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Leverage Consumer Behavior With These 3 Strategies

Deck: The “rational actor” of economic theory was always a fiction. When you know why people really buy, you’ll know how to convey the value of your offering.

No matter how great your product or service might be, it’s not going to sell itself. Nearly half of startups fail within the first four years, and you can bet there were at least a few good ideas among the ones that went belly up. To build a brand that lasts, it’s up to you to communicate the value of your offering. Since value varies depending on your audience, the key is knowing whom you’re communicating with.

Every buyer is different, which means it takes different tactics to reach each one. Some, particularly Millennials, want to purchase from brands that support causes they find meaningful. Others will search high and low for the greatest value, researching products and comparing prices online and in-store. When you know what type of consumer you’re trying to attract, you can create targeted messages that significantly outperform generic ones.

Consider an experiment in which customers were offered a free trial of a product at the cost of a $5 delivery fee. By changing the language from “a $5 fee” to “a small $5 fee,” researchers at Carnegie Mellon University prompted a 20% conversion increase among conservative spenders (24% of customers). That one-word addition led to a substantial boost in revenue — and it could be a lesson to take to heart when courting a price-conscious buyer.

Building a target audience is a great start, but it’s by no means the end of the journey. Once you know whom you’re marketing to, follow these three steps to capitalize on established buying behaviors.

Earn trust with values-based messaging.

Appealing to consumers’ ethics allows them to view your brand as a conduit for living out their values, shifting the focus from your company’s profits to its purpose. When values-based messaging is perceived as authentic, it builds trust with an audience whose skepticism is only growing. In fact, Edelman’s research indicates that more than half of global consumers believe that the current form of capitalism does more harm than it does good.

Give consumers a reason to believe that your brand is doing more good than harm. For example, Triscuit used a wheat harvest celebration at its primary agriculture cooperative to emphasize its brand values to all in attendance. Public relations firm Mitchell used the experiential three-day press and influencer trip to showcase Triscuit’s authentic ingredients, farmer partner relationships, and commitment to sustainability. There is one caveat to taking a values-based marketing strategy, however: Make sure your company both walks the walk and has a record of speaking out on the values it claims to espouse. “When a brand doesn’t have a history of commenting on a cause, consumers call them out for it,” notes marketing consultant Katie Martell.

Resonate with consumer emotions.

\You’ve probably heard the adage “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” This bit of sales-speak is actually backed up by data: One Harvard researcher found that 95% of purchasing decisions were influenced by the subconscious mind. Because your customers are people, you’ve got to appeal to their emotions — but feelings are shifting targets.

Emotional motivators differ based on the industry, the customer segment, and a buyer’s position in the customer journey. In another study, data from intelligence solution provider Motista found that feelings of security, for example, tend to be important motivators for older generations. However, in banking, safety and security are crucial motivators for anyone early in the customer journey; building feelings of trust and safety is crucial to acquiring new customers. Emphasizing how a financial brand can help a customer succeed in life, meanwhile, becomes important for retention later in the relationship. No matter what you’re selling, it’s a good idea to pinpoint what specific consumers feel at each point in the customer life cycle. Show your audience members why your product or service meets their emotional needs, and they’ll be eager to give you their business.

Give your target audience what it wants.

Purchasing behavior varies from one generation to the next, so your sales strategies should follow suit. Data from Salesfloor shows that Baby Boomers, for example, demonstrate the strongest preference for brick-and-mortar retailers, with 67% choosing to shop in-store when an item is available both at a local retailer and online. Meanwhile, 90% of Millennials acknowledge that they read product reviews online, meaning your product needs stellar reviews to appeal to this consumer group.

There are two lessons here. First, cater to your specific market by meeting their particular demands. If your customers are Millennials, create emotional connections by explaining how your product can improve their lives. If they’re Gen Xers, give them the facts, illustrating why your product stands above the competition. At the same time, make sure you’re taking steps to appeal to all buyers. Everyone, regardless of generation, appreciates excellent customer service, and 89% of shoppers consider payment security important. Forget about these differentiators, and your brand could end up paying the consequences.

With so much data available on today’s consumers, it would be easy to get lost in the minute buying behaviors that influence customers in small ways every day. Instead, focus on the overarching behaviors that will make the biggest impact for your brand. By conducting research and getting to know different purchasing groups, you can increase conversion rates, boost revenue, and help your brand hit its next home run.


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Rhett Power
Rhett Power is responsible for helping corporate leadership take the actions needed to drive impact and courage in their teams that will improve organizational performance. He is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful (McGraw-Hill Education) and co-founder of Wild Creations, an award-winning start-up toy company. After a successful exit from the toy company, Rhett was named the best Small Business Coach in the United States. In 2019 he joined the prestigious Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches and was named the #1 Thought Leader on Entrepreneurship by Thinkers360. He is a Fellow at The Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. He travels the globe speaking about entrepreneurship and management alongside the likes of former Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and AOL Founder Steve Case. Rhett Power is an acclaimed author, leader, entrepreneur and an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.