How We Uncover the Drivers of the Purchase Decision

Buyers just don't seem to be able to accurately tell you why they purchase something. Oh, they tell you something, it just isn't the actual reason. But they're not lying; they just don't really know themselves. How can this be?

About sixty percent of the 30,000 new products introduced every year fail. Most all the companies introducing those products spent untold sums trying to determine whether the market would purchase; they failed. This high rate of failure is testimony to the difficulties of uncovering the purchase motivations of the buyer.

But, as a close friend of mine puts it, "If you're not getting the right answers, you're obviously asking the wrong questions."

And this is really the problem: asking the right questions and asking them the right way.

The marketing world has long recognized that emotional factors influence the purchase. But, the market research world has not risen to that challenge. What both the marketers and the researchers need to realize is that, at their foundation, all decisions are emotional. Some even have a rational overlay, but at their core, they are driven by emotions.

Until you can understand the emotional drivers, you cannot understand how the buyer decides. You have to be able to accurately probe emotions. Researchers rely on surveys and focus groups. And that leads to failure.

Surveys have two problems:

  1. Surveys generally ask rational questions and elicit rational answers. We need to explore the emotional.
  2. Surveys are great at counting how many. They don't answer why. We need to know why.

Detailed problems with surveys

The net is that surveys just don't help that much in uncovering the emotional drivers. And that's why the market research world invented focus groups.

Unfortunately, there are problems with focus groups:

  1. First, a focus group is not conducive to sharing your innermost feelings.
  2. Second, most focus groups try to cover too many issues to allow real focus. There just isn't enough time to probe in depth.

Detailed problems with focus groups

Yet, with this high failure rate, marketers continue to use surveys and focus groups. And the track record of failure after failure just continues on. But there is another way.

How to Find the Core Drivers

What we need are techniques to enable and encourage a buyer to talk about the emotional aspects as they make a purchase decision. Hey, guess what, marketers, there is an entire professional category that specializes in this: the mental health profession — psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers. They are very good at uncovering emotions; they have to be to help those with mental problems. All we want to do is to work with mentally healthy people about a daily occurrence in their life.

We went to school on this group. They taught us how to get people to open up, lay out their innermost feelings and explore the core drivers of their behavior. What was amazing was how simple it was in concept. And it works. Like a charm.

We developed a technique for personal interviews. We had to provide an atmosphere of trust and security for the respondent and be able to help them with language. While this isn't brain surgery, it is difficult in practice and takes considerable training. You have to be a spectacular listener with a solid understanding of both psychology and marketing to pull this off.

We identify purchase drivers at the core emotional level. The impact on the success of the marketing is remarkable. You can shorten sales cycles, increase the effectiveness of your marketing activities, and design products with greater appeal to your market. More sales, less effort.

Case history examples

A deeper understanding of the psychology of the decision process