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Cooper: Why people buy

 23 November 2020     Donald Cooper 

You could fill a large room with all the books ever written on the subject of why people buy, why they don’t buy and what they really want when they do buy. Most of these books over-complicate the subject. The simple truth is people buy stuff, including whatever you sell, in every part of their business and personal lives for one reason only – to make some of their stress go away.

That’s it! Whatever product, service or experience you sell, people buy your ‘stuff’ to reduce some physical or emotional stress in their lives. Therefore, our real job and, in fact our only value is to be a stress remover. People give us money and we make some of their stress go away. That’s the deal.

Here’s a quick reality check from your own life experience. When was the last time when you were the customer that the business to whom you were giving your hard-earned money actually gave you more stress than you had before you gave them your money? Did you think that was compelling value? Could you hardly wait to give them more of your money so they could give you more of their stress? No, this is ‘goofy’ and ‘goofy is a technical term for ‘stupid’!

So, what is ‘stress’ anyway? Stress is any physical or emotional factor that causes tension, pressure or pain. Examples of physical stress are disease, injury, hunger, exhaustion and pain. Emotional stresses include confusion, fear or anxiety about money, technology, security, status, time, appearance, failure or relationships. In our western society, generally, people have less physical stress than ever before but more emotional stress.

When it comes to buying what you sell, stress is a ‘pull – push’ phenomenon. There are stresses in people’s lives that pull or attract them to buying what you sell. Then there are stresses that might prevent them from buying what you sell, or from buying it specifically from you.

To understand your customers and your business in a whole new way, here’s a valuable little exercise that’s well worth doing. Sit down for one hour with a small group of your brightest and most caring people. Think and feel like a customer and answer these three questions: 

  1. What are the physical and emotional stresses in our target customers’ lives that attract them to buy what we sell?
  2. What physical or emotional stresses might be preventing them from buying what we sell, or from buying it specifically from us?
  3. What stresses do we create for our customers that could prevent them from doing business with us again?

Once you understand what stresses are ‘attracting’ or ‘preventing’ your target customers, get creative. 

How can you reinvent your customer experience and every aspect of your marketing to creatively emphasize the stresses that attract people to what you sell and how can you boldly eliminate the ‘preventors’ that could be keeping them from buying or buying specifically from you?

Here’s a real-life example to show you how powerful this process can be. One of our clients, a very successful travel agency, addressed the three questions above and came up with hundreds of insights, one of which was that ‘fear of flying’ could be a stress that’s preventing some people from becoming customers of their travel agency. One of his staff came up with the idea of offering a seminar on this subject with the help of a local psychologist. They promoted the event with the help of local radio, television and newspapers. It attracted many new clients; they now offer the course twice each year and the media coverage has helped make them ‘famous’ in their community!

So, how will you use this simple truth about why people buy to improve the customer experience and increase sales in your business?  If you need help with this, I’m easy to find at [email protected] 

Here’s a little something to this about:

The power of scent. Research shows 75% of the emotions we feel every day are affected by smell, and we are 100 times more likely to remember something we smell over something we see, hear, or touch. 

As soon as we smell something, our amygdala, the part of the brain where emotion and emotional memory is processed, is activated, resulting in an instant emotional response.

Fun facts about employment in the United States: Governments of various levels are the largest employers in every state in America. Of non-government employers: Walmart is largest non-government employer in 22 states; a hospital/medical centre group is the largest in 17 states; a state university is the largest non-government employer in six states.

An actual business other than Walmart is the largest non-government employer in only five states: Boeing in the State of Washington; General Motors in Michigan; MGM Resorts in Nevada; Altres Staffing & HR Resources in Hawaii; and, Wakefern Food (supermarkets) in New Jersey.

That’s it for this week. Stay safe, live brilliantly and do at least three important or kind things each day!


Phoenix AMD
Sealy Canada
This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.


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