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Why Clients Don't Buy-- and 8232;The Hierarchy of Choice

Copyright (c) 2008-2019
(See This Article in its Original Format.)

So you struggle over getting all the details just right, like pricing and timing, and all the other features included in your offers so your best clients will buy from you. So why aren't they buying?

It's because all of those details are actually the least important part of a purchasing choice.

One common misconception says that human beings make choices based on what's best for them, but that falls apart really quickly in the aftermath of several empty tubs of ice cream, as you hold your stomach and groan, "Why did I do that again?!?"

There's a slightly more sophisticated version, which says that we make choices based on emotions, flinging rationality out the window. Well, this has a little more truth, but how many times have you, or someone you know, seesawed back and forth on a decision, unable to come to grips with it? Emotions do form a big part of who we are, but we aren't run by them.

The truth is, there is no one particular way we make choices. Our decision-making apparatus is complex with many different variables wired in. There are many eminent cognitive scientists who can speak in much more detail than I can, so I'm just going to paint the picture with three broad strokes so that you understand how our choices cascade and in what order the variables apply.

Yes, that's right: the variables apply in a certain order. Humans make decisions in a cascading manner. When a choice is presented to one of us thinking bipeds, there is something we consider first, then second, then third. So what are those things?

The One-Two-Three of Your Customers' Decisions

The first thing any human looks for in a decision is an answer to this question: "Does it match my identity? Will this decision put me inside or outside my 'tribe'?"

Belonging is such a deep, primal need. And no wonder. We human beings are not very adept at surviving on our own. First of all, we like company. Second, we?re not really well equipped to survive in the face of predators, and so there's safety in numbers.

Being ostracized from your tribe is tantamount to death. No wonder it's our first priority. So, when faced with any choice, the very first thing we?re thinking is: "If I do this, do I risk losing my tribal membership?" Here's how an executive of a global corporation explained it to a consultant I know: "We've come to the conclusion that our customers make their decisions exclusively on their values." Values are things you believe in or hold dear. And where do values come from? They mostly come from your community, your tribe. It's a way of identifying who you belong to, by identifying what you care about.

This is the single most important consideration in any decision. Remember this, because the need for identity is the foundation of why Worldview is so important to your business.

If you want proof of whether this is correct or not, take a look at how consistently wars have happened throughout history. Whatever the reason the leaders had for starting a war, soldiers choose to risk their lives because of patriotism--defense of the tribe. Unhealthy lifestyle choices can fit into the same category. The ego can identify so strongly with things like smoking or drinking or extreme sports that it won?t let go, even when facing the likelihood of dying. Identity is the trump card in the human decision-making tree.

And Numbers Two and Three in the Hierarchy of Choice?

The second choice in the decision-making hierarchy, once it passes the tribal test, is "Do I need or want what this choice will bring me?" Personal choice and need comes more into play once your very identity is no longer at risk. What you want for dinner, what you want to achieve in life, what color iPod you want all fall into this second level of choice.

There is a strong distinction between need and want--generally want is more powerful than need except in extreme cases. You can see this when someone has a heart attack and they quickly quit smoking and start eating a healthy diet. But as the event fades into the past, they fall more and more easily back into their desires for bacon and mashed potatoes with melted butter, instead of the brussels sprouts and broccoli that will help keep them alive.

Finally the choice come down to: "Okay, this decision keeps me in the tribe, and I want or need it. Now, is it possible for me? Do I have the resources to make this choice?" Logically, you would expect the possibility to come second instead of last, but that's a testament to human ingenuity and persistence. We first figure out if we need or want something, and then we see if it's possible.

Don't Get Stuck on the Third Choice

When your customers aren't buying, it's often easiest for you as a business owner to go to that third choice: "Can I make it more affordable for my customers?" Sometimes, if business owners have thought it through a little more or have had some marketing training, they'll climb one higher on the decision tree, putting more intention to helping a client decide whether they want or need the offer.

Very few businesses spend time deciding which world they live in and which world their best clients live in. But the ones who do see results. Let me give you some pointers.

Keys to Implementing the Hierarchy of Choice

  • When Do You Want to Buy What You Don't Need?

  • Look for websites, stores and other businesses that make you feel like you belong there. Look for offers of products and services that you don't need and yet are compelling to you just because you want to get close to the person or business.

    That may sound strange, but you know it happens. Like my client who admitted that she just liked being in Starbucks even though she doesn't like the coffee so much. Or someone else I know who was tempted to sign up for a course she didn?t need just because the person offering it was someone she wanted to hang out with.

    Find those businesses, however rare they may be, that do that for you.

  • Why Do You Want To Shnuggle Up?

  • What about those businesses is so compelling to you? Print out one of their web pages, or remember an interaction with them and go over it in detail. What specific things help you feel so comfortable?

    I'm going to guess that a big part of it has to do with two things. The first is how they use language and the second is the aesthetic look and feel of the business.

  • And Your Business?

  • Comb through at least one of your website pages or brochures or whatever you are doing to present your business out in the world. Is it representing your tribe? Is it doing those little things, language-wise and aesthetically, that are going to help your tribe feel at home?

    It may seem artificial, but those bits and bobs are actually representations of your core values, of how you see the world and what you believe in. And that's not artificial at all, that's profound.

    I was emailing with the owner of a website who was selling beautiful organic cotton bedding, yet her website was all square corners. I suggested that at the very least she bring in some rounded edges, because there's a whole aesthetic to helping express core values of comfort, rest, and ease. And sharp corners don't do it.

    Start infusing those bits and bobs into your business. It may seem odd that the way you decorate, or a turn of phrase that is uniquely you would be more important than the specific details of your offer, but they are.

    As you bring more and more of your tribe into your business, I bet you'll find more and more people shnuggling up, sticking around and becoming customers.

    The best to you and your business,

    Mark Silver


    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    Mark Silver is the author of Unveiling the Heart of Your Business: How Money, Marketing and Sales can Deepen Your Heart, Heal the World, and Still Add to Your Bottom Line. He has helped hundreds of small business owners around the globe succeed in business without losing their hearts. Get three free chapters of the book online: http://www.heartofbusiness.com

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