What really drives people to purchase?

Have you ever been too scared to jump? When our senses are overwhelmed, we struggle to think clearly. Too much emotion makes it difficult to act.

What many people don’t realise is that a lack of emotion can affect us in the same way. If we can’t feel, we can’t act.

When Nokia found itself significantly behind rivals Google and Apple, CEO Stephen Elop stood in front of employees and delivered a speech that no one expected and many still remember, 10 years later.

There is a blazing fire around us, said Elop, comparing Nokia’s market position to a man on a burning oil platform. As the man looked down over the edge, said Elop, “all he could see were the dark, cold, foreboding Atlantic waters” beneath him.

Should Nokia remain on the platform, waiting to be consumed by fire? Or should the company make a leap into the unknown?

The burning platform speech became famous because it preceded a bold change in strategy, but also because Elop had recognised an inalienable rule of behaviour change: without emotion, we are motionless.

B2B communications is finally discovering its senses. And for good reason.

Each decision maker represents a different set of emotional requirements that marketers need to fulfil: reassuring the risk-averse CFO, empowering the land-grabbing CMO, galvanising the strategic HR director.

It would be wrong, though to assume that emotion trumps the rational. In fact, head and heart have a more collaborative role to play than many of us realise.

How do you sell a piece of automation software to a finance department? To the CFO, automation is a rational decision: the removal of laborious processes makes everybody more efficient.

But how do you get the department to use the tool? Users may see things differently to buyers. And the flipside of efficiency is spare capacity. Would jobs be at risk?

For users, the hook is emotional. Invoice processing is the most mind-numbing of all tasks. Nobody wants to spend their days locked in an endless process cycle. Let the machines do the dull work and free up the staff for more creative tasks.

So what really drives professionals to buy? No decision is made in isolation. On average, each major purchase is influenced by seven different people, each with their own influences, fears and biases.

Sometimes we’re too frightened to jump. And sometimes, we’re not frightened enough.

Feeling something means everything. All it takes is a push.

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