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The 5 Things People Really Buy

selling No matter how many shiny, cool features and benefits you cram into your marketing messages, brochures and presentations, you better find ways to help the prospect get what they really want. And, no matter if you sell heating and cooling services, legal services, hand painted greeting cards, or consulting, at the end of the day, your customers all buy some variation of the same five things.

So you better make sure you show them how you and your products and solutions are going to:
1) Make them more money
2) Save them more time
3) Allow them to avoid the frustration of doing stuff they don’t like (like wasting time and money)
4) Help them save or not lose money today and in future
5) Help them feel better about themselves

Copy these five points and refer to them often as you develop your marketing and sales pitches.

Now, you can focus all of your energy around selling one of these points or you can come up with ways to mix and match. Some lead to getting another, for example people want more of #1 to get them more of #5. Understand though that just because you tell a prospect they will save money or look and feel better doesn’t mean they will buy – they’ve also got to believe your solution will work for them and sometimes the hurdle is they don’t trust themselves – in fact, this is often the most frustrating “no” for a salesperson.

I know this can seem like an awfully simple and somewhat cynical approach to marketing, but I’m not suggesting you understand this concept so that you can paint your products and services in ways they are not, and I don’t really even mean that you should change your core marketing messages to address one of these five points.

What I am saying is that at some point this is how a decision about you, your products and solutions will be made, so you must answer one or all of these questions along the path to yes.

Image credit: Tanel Teemusk

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  • http://miconian.com/ miconian

    Where do food, medicine, and school supplies fall on this list? I suppose you could argue for #5, but that would be a stretch in many cases. There are plenty of things that people buy because they have a need, or at least perceive a need, that is neither about money nor self-esteem.

    Also, as far as it goes, I think that #5 should actually be a the top of the list. You're assuming a very time- and money-oriented mentality here, but many people are much less concerned with those things than you are.

  • http://recessionproofthinking.com/ Susan Kuhn Frost

    This is a good list to help you think about your product from the point of view of the customer. It is not too basic. I keep finding that no matter how much experience we have, we need to go back to this basic point, or we drift into thinking we know what someone should buy.

    I think reading this list every day should be the marketing equivalent of the core basketball drill that every champion does for a long time at every practice: the layup. The similarity is: repetition of the basics forms a solid foundation on which more advanced play can be successful.

  • tomgray

    I think you need to add security and protection (aka Fear) on the list. From a biz perspective this would cover purchases for everything from insurance to surge protectors to automatic data backup and building security.

    In reviewing your list, Fear is actually covered but it's not consigned to any one category but assuaging fear contains elements of all 5 and, because of this, maybe should be elevated to it's own Meta category…

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Tom – I don't disagree as fear of loss is often more motivating than promise of gain, but I think you can make a case for that fear being the driver behind all of these – control or a feeling of lack of control is the common thread.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Food, medicine and school supplies fall all over the list. It's not about what they buy, but how they decide what to buy. For example, food – we have to buy it but we can buy it at Barney's Discount Barn to save money or Whole Foods to feel better about ourselves.

    On the second point, there is no order to these, move #5 to #1 as it can be the lone reason someone buys a certain make of car. This might make an interesting poll too.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I like your core drill analogy, I'm going to use that – it would make a great training exercise to identify those drills every employee at your company must practice 15 minutes a day on.

  • http://www.MarketingActionClub.com/ Kevin Dervin

    John,

    I certainly can't disagree with your list. I'm sure we could debate endlessly about whether it's complete or not, but then I think people would be missing the point.

    For me, the point is that it's not about YOU, it's about THEM.

    If your marketing messages are all about what you have and/or what you do, then you're likely not communicating what's most important to your clients and prospects.

    Everyone has their own set of problems, issues and challenges they're dealing with… and they're looking for solutions to help them personally, professionally, spirtually, etc.

    I guess the one caution I might suggest is that just throwing those five points out in your message might not get through either. People might want to make more money or save more time, but if they don't see how your solution can help them then why should they buy from you? Be sure with your message your helping them answer the question of how your product/service will help them accomplish the desired outcome.

    Nice post.

    All my Best!
    Kevin

  • http://www.business901.com Josep T. Dager

    When confronted with so many choices for products, many times we choose what we perceive as the safest. We always seem to be trying to be the coolest when in fact given a choice to buy ketchup…

    Not all of us are on the leading edge and that is a very popular alternative to some of us that are a little less sexy than others. Simple down to earth points that really ring true and I think growing in popularity.

  • http://www.lotusjump.com/ Robert Brady

    Couldn't agree with you more John. Sometimes we try to make a buying decision so complicated. Do I ride a bike to work to save the environment? Not really. I ride to work because it saves me money and keeps me healthy (makes me feel better).

  • chrissfife

    This is great, John! Our take at Idiom Strategies is slightly different, but makes a similar point: people don't care about products, they care about fulfilling their wants and needs at the least possible cost.

    Both our view and your 5 points are simple, yes, but I don't think they are cynical, just practical. People don't look to fulfill their wants or needs (or look to buy based on the 5 points) to be mean or self-centered, etc. They do this as a practical matter. If they were going to use these 5 points to consider donating to a charity, that would be cynical. Ignoring these and spending money willy-nilly, with no purpose for the purchase would be crazy. :)

  • http://www.movingfrommetowe.com KareAnderson

    Best list of its kind – thanks!

  • chrissfife

    I like this idea of a drill, too. I already commented about this, but in a sense I do it as my own drill daily–what is at the core of people's wants and needs? People just don't buy products just to spend money. They buy products to fulfill a want or need and if they could fulfill that want or need without buying something, they would, unless, to John's list, they could fulfill the want/need in a way that would:
    1) Make them more money
    2) Save them more time
    3) Allow them to avoid the frustration of doing stuff they don’t like (like wasting time and money)
    4) Help them save or not lose money today and in future
    5) Help them feel better about themselves

    Along these “simple”, “drills” I posted a short eBooklet yesterday on Conversation Marketing Tips. It outlines the Requirements for a Market Conversation and tips for interacting in the market conversation.
    http://issuu.com/idiomstrategies/docs/engagingi

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Robert, But what's cool about your example is that some do ride to save the planet and you can promote to that market as well.

  • http://www.knoxtours.net/ Mike O'Neill

    You are right on target! You've made your sell when you are believed in.
    Make your customer feel secure, satisfied and Happy!

  • Barney Austen

    Excellent post. It might be stating the obvious – but thats no bad thing. If your product and/or service doesn't do anything in the 1-5 above then you are wasting your time and money! I am putting the list on my screen to remind me when I'm doing up marketing “blurb”!

  • http://www.terrancecharles.com/ Terrance

    Great post, that's so true.

  • http://www.more-for-small-business.com/ Kris Bovay

    Saving time and making money seem to be strong themes in this approach. When I stopped to think about some of the issues/problems I deal with in business, I realized that most of those do related directly to either time or money. Good reminder. Thanks.

  • http://www.jivesystems.com/blog Flywheel aka Ortonom

    At the root, people buy what they desire; what they need and/or want.

    It is my belief (maybe my hope) that marketing is evolving. This largely due to social media. Social media is fast becoming the determining factor in the buying process. In a growing number of industries social media is the trigger for the actual acquisition of a lead. Therefore, I believe, it's not so much about what we say, it's about what they (our customers) are saying.

    This leads me to believe that the best marketing is done through customer service and support. [It's definitely a paradigm shift].

    Instead of telling my prospect how our service fulfills your 5bullets, I am going to show our customers. We already do, but there is always room to improve, right?

    Thank you for publishing this article. It has been the source, as you intended of inspiration for me. In the form of bring clarity to an already deployed concept that I had yet to find the words to describe.

  • Pacman

    You are missing the entire point of the argument – those that think they are trying to save the planet may not be as noble as they think – maybe its their egos that are trying to justify their existence. You, as a marketer, can not be naive about the true reasons people buy and should cover that and then sell to their noble side so they have something to tell the world about, except self-interest. Napoleon thought he had cracked open a great mystery when he discovered that men would die for little pieces of stamped metal. Not pretty but true, and a marketer can't afford the luxury of lofty idealism but must see human nature for exactly what it is – mostly self-interest.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    How can I miss the point of my own arguement?

  • http://www.san-antonio-business.info/ Jerry

    I think #4 is the most common for most
    “4) Help them save or not lose money today and in future”
    Most of the small business owners I have dealt with are more concerned about not losing money instead of making more money. This has shocked me, because I thought the first reason would be the most common. It may also depend on the business and the financial condition of the small business owner.

  • http://www.san-antonio-business.info/ Jerry

    I think #4 is the most common for most
    “4) Help them save or not lose money today and in future”
    Most of the small business owners I have dealt with are more concerned about not losing money instead of making more money. This has shocked me, because I thought the first reason would be the most common. It may also depend on the business and the financial condition of the small business owner.