Marketing 101 says that people buy to fulfill needs – probably needs inspired from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. People will buy to fulfill their physical needs first (like food, water, shelter) then buy to fulfill their safety needs (like locks on the door, etc.)
But there are 4 other major influencers that decide when and where people will buy and how much they’ll spend. You may not have control over their needs, but you do have control over some of these influencers (or at least how they perceive them) allowing your business to be able to generate sales when everything seems to be working against you.
Marketing mix: The first influencer is another Marketing 101 concept: the “4 P’s of Marketing” include product, price, place, and promotion and you do have a lot of control over those. Selling hamburgers for $2.50 at a fast food store or the same burgers for $10.99 in a cafe-style setting- this is an example of how all 4 P’s work together.
Psychological influences: These include such things as perception of the product or the store and the motivation to buy. From the example above, you may be selling the same burger but the perception is different: a fast food restaurant versus a cafe, the cafe allows you to price your products higher.
Sociological influences: These influences include what other people are saying about your product. That’s why the adolescent market is so huge: because teens see other teens buying products and they want them too. Your market may be more or less influenced by peer pressure but to some degree every niche is influenced by sociological influences. Word of mouth advertising falls into this category as does economic accessibility to the product (is it priced too high for your niche? Or too low?).
Situational influences. This is another area where you have a lot of control. Consider the situation that will influence how people buy: is it easy for people to drive into your store’s parking lot? Is it easy for people to navigate around your website? Is your staff upbeat and helpful? Are they hard to find? Are they too pushy? One example is the store that drives away elderly customers because the lights are too dim for them to comfortably see the price tags.
These four sets of influencers may be secondary to your customer’s inner needs to buy, but they will influence the purchase. A customer who wants food will go to a store that offers a product with the right marketing mix, that meets the psychological influencers (like perception), that is congruent with their sociological influences, and that supports their ideas about the situation it’s sold in. They may drive past one restaurant because it’s priced too high (marketing mix), past another because they couldn’t possibly be caught eating there (psychological), past another because their friends have warned them against eating there (sociological), and past another because it’s too hard to get into the driveway during rush hour (situational). Will they end up at yours?
You may not have a lot of say over their ultimate needs, but you can make an impact on the other 4 influencers that determine whether or not a prospect will buy from you.