Understanding How Customers Feel at the Moment of Buying

Marketers have appealed to customers’ emotions since long before the term marketing even existed. Now, they’re turning that idea on its head, trying to adjust their messaging to what potential customers are already feeling when they make a purchase.

Business leaders need to understand how their customers feel at the moment they decide to buyTo truly identify with customers’ emotions, leaders of companies and organizations are moving beyond analyzing the demographics — age, income level, ethnicity — of their customers and exploring their motivations at the moment of a purchase. Here’s an example of the concept in a company that provides roadside assistance to drivers:

“The stranded traveler is going to have different emotions from the road tripper,” said Kyra Reed, co-founder of the Made to Order social media agency in Los Angeles. After her firm determines at least three potential customer motivations for purchasing a client’s product, it then tries to establish which emotions they feel at the moment of the sale.

The successful strategy for selling tires to the stranded traveler lies in proactively addressing the traveler’s anxiety, she said. Determining various purchase motivations is the first step to understanding how customers feel when they are ready to buy, she said.

Finding out what makes customers happy

Addressing customers’ emotions is an outgrowth of new trends in marketing that focus on both companies’ and customers’ motivations, according to Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy at Omnicell in Emeryville, California. Borrowing from Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why,” companies are starting to craft their messages by first referring to corporate values, the “why,” rather than the products and services themselves, or the “what.”

If you go to Sinek’s website, Perez said, you’ll notice the word “feel”: “Imagine a world where we feel safe at work. Feel inspired and inspire others. Why good leaders make you feel safe.”

“Good marketers and good companies understand why they do what they do. If you have insights into what motivates your customers, what makes them really happy, what drives them, you can tailor your products and services so that they can accomplish that,” Perez said.

However, Reed cautioned that addressing customers’ emotional state is more than stating a company’s mission or manifesto. It’s making a corporate promise to address customers’ feelings. “It’s what you will or won’t do as a company,” she said.

“The company makes a promise to you that we’re going to get you on the road safely, help you understand what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. That becomes more meaningful communication than ‘We have cheap tires and we work fast.’ ”

Keeping it real

Sometimes, a good marketer can anticipate pain points and inform customers of potential pitfalls such as new regulations or requirements before the customers know about them, Perez said. “You bring something to the table, and that may create an emotional response, but you’re not trying to manipulate them,” he said. You’ve got to convey, “I’m on your side, I’m going to share some information. I’m trying to help you. You may have an emotional reaction, but I know how to fix that.”

One way to avoid manipulating customers is to look beyond the individual sales and view the interactions as a way to form relationships with the customers, Reed said. “Feelings are the doorway to foster connection,” she said.

Perez says he first seeks to gain the customers’ perspective. “I always use that first when I approach customers. It dignifies customers.” He uses that perspective in everything down to the very languages he uses, he said. “My first question is always, ‘Can you give me a sense of your background in health care?’ ” If the customer is unfamiliar with the field, he’ll “dial down” the language, but if they’re more familiar, he’ll use industry terms in order not to insult them, he said.

Perez said that empathy helps him keep the interactions genuine.

“Even before I put anything on paper or meet with them, I put myself in their shoes.”

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