The importance of understanding gratification mode and purchase preference
Ask a business owner why his or her customers choose to buy their particular product or service, and you might hear a variety of answers:
- "I have no idea, but I'm lucky they do, and I hope they don't stop!"
- "I guess it's because they like what I'm selling."
- "Actually, people aren't buying from me, and I don't understand why not. I think I have a great product, and I use it myself all the time."
If those sound like your answers, perhaps you're wishing there was a system you could use that would help you to rely less on guessing and assuming, and more on producing predictable and sustainable sales and revenue results for your business.
To create a system like that, you need to know two things: (1) who is likely to buy, and (2) why they buy. This article focuses on the why the marketing science of psychographics. If you can understand your customers' motivations their psychographic profiles -- you can think strategically about how to appeal to those motivations through your product.
Purchase decision making: Shoppers think with two minds
A man shopping for a particular car stops and admires the red model on the showroom floor. Immediately his mind floods with a series of thoughts and impressions:
- "My cousin Ned once had a red car. We really had a lot of great times in that car!"
- "Wow, I imagine that even just driving to work would be exciting in a car like that! People would definitely notice me."
- "But it's going to show dirt easily. And I read somewhere that people driving red cars get a lot more speeding tickets."
- "It's a really beautiful color, though. I could just wash it every weekend so that it won't look dirty. Plus, I'm a pretty conservative driver, so it isn't likely that I will get a speeding ticket."
This simple example illustrates that every buying decision is made for both emotional reasons and rational justifications, and that every buyer engages in a split-second series of conscious and unconscious associations of attraction and avoidance. We can even diagram and tally this shopper's internal conversation:
- "My cousin Ned once had a red car" - is an example of an unconscious attraction. Our shopper associates this car with his favorite cousin, Ned, and the fun they had.
- "It's an exciting car and people will notice me" - is another example of an unconscious mind attraction. Its attractive and thrilling!
- "It's going to show dirt easily
and I might get more speeding tickets
" - is an example of conscious mind avoidance. This car will be more work and more trouble than the same car in a different color would be.
- And finally, "It's a beautiful color, though. I'll wash it often and drive it carefully - is an example of a conscious mind attraction, equating to I want and can handle this car!"
The end score of this internal conversation is three attractions-to-one avoidance. Isn't it clear what this shopper is intending to do?
What are your customers' emotional and rational styles?
People can generally be grouped into one of three emotional styles, called "gratification modes," and one of three rational styles, called "purchase preferences." Fortunately, it's not difficult to match your customers with a particular gratification mode and purchase preference.
The gratification modes and their associated purchase preferences are:
- Interpersonal Gratification Mode / experimental Purchase Preference - people with this buying style respond well to talking with sales people, sharing information among their friends, and trusting in recommendations from people they know or recognize. Interpersonals tend to have Experimental purchase preferences - they like new and revolutionary products.
- Objective Gratification Mode / Performance Purchase Preference - people with this buying style respond best to interaction with inanimate objects, like taking a test drive or kicking the tires. Their purchase preference is facts and figures about how the product performs, and price is typically a key factor.
- Introverted Gratification Mode / Value Purchase Preference - people with this buying style respond in a solitary fashion to their own ideas about things, like deciding to buy a Lexus because that's their personal idea of luxury, no matter what anyone says about Mercedes and BMW. Their emotional decisions are supported by perception of value, considering whether something is the best price in its class, or "worth the money."
Of course, most people can relate to all of the emotional and rational styles to a certain degree, but one gratification mode and one purchase preference will dominate over the others.
How can you get started?
A good first step for you to take is to determine which percentage of your target market segment falls into which gratification mode and purchase preference segment. Its easy to observe which mode and preference dominates an individual by observing how they spend their time, or by what occupation they choose to do for a living.
For example, real estate agents tend to be "Interpersonals" in gratification mode. They enjoy talking with people and sharing information with others. They tend to have Experimental purchase preferences, and gravitate toward trendy or innovative products.
So you may want to start by collecting information about your target market's predominant jobs and professions. Once you identify your target markets psychographic profile, you will be well on your way to designing a marketing and sales system that will appeal to those potential buyers; both emotionally and rationally. The outcome? You will likely experience more sales, greater profit, and steady, predictable, and repeatable results.