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Why Your Customers Buy: 3 Motivators Small Business Owners Should Know About

Whenever you go into a shop or pick up the phone to place an order, something has prompted you to take action and buy. Have you ever stopped to consider what that prompt was? What thought went through your mind, which led to you putting your hand in your purse or wallet?

Its all down to motivation what motivates you to buy. Understanding your customers motivation will help increase sales and profits! So, lets spend some time examining what motivates people to buy and how you can apply this knowledge to help make your business more successful.

Motivation 3 basic drivers

Any purchase boils down to satisfying a need, want or desire. These are 3 distinct stages. You usually have to satisfy your needs before you can progress up to wants and desires. Lets have a look at each of them in turn.


Abraham Maslow, in his work on needs, highlighted that at the basic level, before we can consider bettering ourselves, we have a set of requirements that are essential to survival. The most basic of these needs include food, water, heat and shelter. This is mass-market appeal, from the big supermarkets down to your local corner shop. Sell into the needs category and you are looking at high volume, low margin.

Other than the odd special promotion, you rarely see the local shop advertising; they know that they will always get a core trade because they are satisfying needs (a bottle of milk at 9 oclock at night!).

Unless you have a huge market penetration, you will never make a fortune just satisfying needs. Find another market if you want a high-living lifestyle!


Youre getting warmer now! You are getting into the realms of people who have satisfied their basic requirements and can afford to step up the ladder to satisfy their wants.

These are nice-to-have items not essential but they make life comfortable. A car, a TV, a CDDVD player generally a decent standard of living. To capture the market of satisfying peoples wants you will have to work a bit harder on two fronts.

Firstly, the customer can take it or leave it. He may not really need it at the end of the day, so you have to clearly highlight the benefits. Secondly, there is always someone else offering the same product. In this day and age you could argue that wants, to many people, have become needs, so there is an element of mass-market selling in this sector. You are up against many other businesses offering your product; you have to advertise, make people chose you over your competition.

You will make a decent living and create a decent business. But you should want more than this! To achieve greater success, you have to find a product that satisfies desires!


Desires spring from emotions. Big, profitable sales are achieved on the back of emotions. Why? Because if someone has a burning desire to satisfy, then logic more or less flies out of the window! Someone buying on emotion will pay a high price excellent profit for you.

If you are in the business of satisfying desires then you are probably selling niche products or services, something, which doesnt have mass-market appeal. You are focused on people who are happy to pay a premium to get what they want. A businessmans heaven!

Understand the real motivator

Having identified the 3 buying motivators, the next step to sell effectively to these groups is to see what the underlying need, want or desire is. Getting an idea of what drives your customer to buy means you can tailor your sales message accordingly.

The need motivators

To eat and drink to stay alive!

To stay warm

To have shelter

To be healthy and clean

To avoid pain

To ensure general security and protection

The want motivators

To be sociably acceptable everyone has one

To look and feel good sex appeal!

To save time or money

To improve general comfort levels

The desire motivators

Although some of these can be similar to the want motivators, desire motivators are more driven by emotion and so the need to achieve is more passionate money is almost no object.

Sex appeal

To improve social standing not just keeping up with the Joneses but to be better

To demonstrate love

To gain prestige or to impress

To be popular

Regaining a forgotten youth

You can see by comparing the various motivators that selling to the desire group can be easier and more profitable. They have more money and so you dont have to try hard to sell your product. All you have to do is uncover which motivator is pressing them to consider purchasing and exploit it! Theres nothing better than being in a niche market.

Steps to take

In summary, here are the steps you can take:

Identify which of the motivators you are out to satisfy needs, wants or desires

Speak to your customers and find out which of the specific motivators is driving them to buy

Tailor your sales and advertising pitch to match

Spend some time thinking and studying your customers motivation and you will be richly rewarded.

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