I’ve heard it said that we choose with our hearts, and then justify with our heads.

Except for engineers, maybe, who I’m sure do have hearts, but, well, I won’t get into that. The point is, we’re rarely aware of the bubbling brew of internal and external forces that act on us, from the ding-dong recognition of a need, to the final slap of the credit card hitting the sales counter.

How well do we really know ourselves?

I used to try to find an even balance between logical appeal and emotional appeal in the marketing messages I’ve developed. But it’s since occurred to me that emotion plays a much bigger role than we realize in why people buy. When we think a purchase “makes sense,” how can we be sure that it objectively makes sense, or if it’s simple human desire slinking around behind the scenes to pump up the positives and gloss over the negatives?

Was that clothing purchase influenced by the tastes of a friend who I feel is more stylish than me? Am I buying that 15 megapixel camera because I really need all those pixels, or because I just like the idea of owning state-of-the-art-stuff? Am I paying twice as much for my company’s inventory software simply because I’m afraid of looking bad to my boss if the standard product doesn’t cut it?

Dig deeper into customers’ heads.

When I have the chance to talk to my clients’ customers or prospects these days, in addition to asking the normal questions about what drives their purchase decisions, I now also ask them how they feel about each point that comes up. Not everyone opens up totally, but it’s a surprisingly enlightening exercise when they do. And these nuggets of insight are always invaluable grist for the marketing mill.

Marketing of course generally focuses on product features and benefits. But we need to think of these as not just selling points, but as ways to help people rationalize something they’ve already, if subconsciously, decided they want. And they want it, perhaps, because we’ve done such a good job in appealing to underlying emotions. If you don’t think this applies as much to business purchases, note the emotional satisfaction you feel after making a good, rational, comparison-shopped business decision.

Change your tactics in mid-stream.

One inescapable pattern I’ve noticed over the years is that emotion plays a bigger role in the early, “discovery” phase of the buying cycle. We see something appealing, something that connects with our pre-existing desires, and those little morphine-like endorphins start doing fast laps around our brains.

However when we start doing our research, and comparing various types of solutions and competing products, focused logic really does seem to take over. The more we learn, the deeper we get into the details, and the easier it is imagining the outcomes, practical benefits, and potential pitfalls of various after-the-buy scenarios.

I’ve actually found this to be a pretty valuable insight, emphasizing the need for different types of communications to prospects who are at different points in the purchase process. When that’s impossible though, we can still structure our marketing appeals to start with the emotional stuff, then proceed to the smart logical benefits of buying from us. But at the very end, when we’re trying to get them to pull the trigger, our call-to-action should come back and reinforce the feelings we sought to ignite at the very beginning.

Help your buyers sell.

The other dynamic that I’ve found it helpful to consider, is that buying decisions aren’t always made by a single person. Think about how the reader will get their spouse or company colleagues to buy into the same conclusion they did, and arm them with both logical and emotional persuasion points that target the sensibilities of those decision influencers.

So, as a savvy marketer, what did you think about this article? Perhaps more importantly, how did you feel about it?

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