Do You Know … the Basics of Buyer Behavior and How They Apply to Direct Marketing?

October 30, 2014 | Vol. 13 | Issue 10

Do You Know …
the basics of buyer behavior and how they apply to direct marketing?

How prospective members make their membership decisions, and how they decide what and when to purchase can sometimes seem informal but is actually extremely complex. A fundamental understanding of basic buyer behavior can help marketers better develop their acquisition and sales strategies. This knowledge also helps shape the search for prospects, the style of messaging, and the terms of the offer.

Tip: Determining prospect behavior can be more art than science, but one thing holds true: good marketing should always be written and designed to be personal—from one person to another.

Though Each of Us Is Different, in Many Ways We Are Much the Same

Marketers have long recognized the motivational importance of basic human emotional needs, such as fear (what will happen if I act, what will happen if I don’t?), exclusivity (I want to be recognized as separate and apart from others), guilt (how will I feel about myself, how will others see me?), greed (I want it because I want it), and need for approval (how do others feel about me?).

Abraham Mazlow further defined human behavior with his Hierarchy of Needs and David McClelland added to the knowledge with his Theory of Learned Needs. Both describe aspects of human behavior that can be sources of marketing persuasion.

Tip: Individuals are all motivated by emotions, but their needs are different. That’s why marketers increasingly employ niche marketing to better target and segment their prospects.

From Perception to Purchase, Our Senses and Our Minds
Take Us through a Process

There are many theories that describe how and why prospects make the joining and buying decisions they do, but a fundamental sequence of events usually needs to take place.

  1. The marketer gains a prospect’s attention, usually by sight or sound (identifying the medium).
  2. The prospect’s attention must be held long enough, often enough, and communicated clearly enough so the prospect understands what the message is about (crafting the message).
  3. The prospect will try to assign meaning to the message (creating understanding).
  4. The understood message must be memorable enough to be retained (establishing recollection or recall).
  5. The prospect can finally be prompted to move to a decision (leading to action on the offer, motivated by emotional or rational needs).

Tip: We generally process information in a series of logical steps that leads to the decision to join or buy…or not. The decision process usually includes:
Exposure → Attention → Interpretation → Memory → Decision

Attitudes, Beliefs, Feelings, and Behavior

There is no magic bullet to shaping behavior. Consider the following:

  • Sometimes, attitudes are developed by beliefs that reinforce feelings that lead to behavior.
  • However, some attitudes are developed by behavior that reinforces beliefs that leads to feelings.
  • Finally, some attitudes are developed by feelings that reinforce behavior that leads to beliefs.

Marketers attempt to develop attitudes in their prospects based on rational arguments, mood-evoked feelings, or behavioral learning.

The challenge to stimulate an action differs depending on whether attitudes are being reinforced, created, or changed. Reinforcing attitudes and the behavior that results is easiest of the three. More difficult is creating new behavior. Most difficult of all is changing existing behavior.

Tip: Marketing plans should be designed with human behavior in mind. Success will be dependent upon matching the appropriate emotional motivation with the closest approximation of a prospect’s attitude in order to achieve the action required.

To find out more about buyer behavior and how it affects your membership or product marketing strategies, Contact MGI.

Marketing General Incorporated is a full service direct response marketing firm offering programs that bring knowledge into the marketing process.

From fundamentals to advanced analytics, Marketing General Incorporated is your marketing solutions partner, helping grow list sales, memberships, conference attendance, advertising sales, and more.

Want to learn more? Call 703.739.1000 and ask for Rick Whelan or e-mail him at to discover the many ways MGI can help.

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