I’ve got a question for you…
If you’re selling products and services (someone else’s or your own) should you assume you know exactly why people would buy your stuff, simply based on the products themselves?
I don’t think so.
I think we should first look into the primal reasons why people spend money.
Why do they decide it’s time to part with their hard-earned cash and purchase something you offer? What compels them to see your products and services as something of value?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a local repair shop, a freelancer pitching clients, or the head of your company’s marketing department.
“Once you understand what makes people buy things, you know how to sell – and how to write copy.” – Robert W. Bly, The Copywriter’s Handbook
If you know why people spend money on your products, you can figure out the best way to sell it to them.
Therein lies the power of the following list.
Most of this list is curated, but I came up with one section off the top of my head.
I wanted to highlight every possible reason people could have for spending money on products and services, to give you insight into the minds of your customers or clients.
Once you can nail down their decision-making process, you can optimize everything from your advertising, to your website, to your store layout, and maximize the odds of your prospects pulling out their wallets.
Writing this article was a great learning experience for me, and it ingrained a lot of these motivators into my brain. Now when I look at products, I immediately try to pick out the most influential psychological motivations behind why someone would buy them.
It should serve you well, no matter what you’re selling or who you’re selling it to.
So I urge you to spend some time reading and re-reading this list until it’s hardwired into your marketing mindset. Think deeply about each reason. Mentally play around with how it applies to the products and services you sell.
Some of these reasons might seem mundane or obvious to you. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from copywriting, you should state the obvious, so uncertainty about the product’s usefulness vanishes from your prospect’s mind.
Ready to learn this magic vanishing trick?
Without further ado, here’s your roadmap to sales mastery.
(Looking for freelancers to help grow your business? Check out Baggl, an online marketplace where businesses can trade a combination of barter and cash for their services.)
From Robert W. Bly’s checklist of copy “motivators” – 22 motivations people have for making purchases.
1. To be liked
We all want to be liked. It’s hardwired into our social conditioning.
Sometimes we buy things (like the latest iPhone) just because it’s cool to have. We think people will see us in a better light for owning it.
We also might buy a nice car, or a nice house, or live in a nice neighborhood, all to increase our likeability.
Think about what you sell. Is there a “like factor” involved that you could leverage in your marketing and advertising?
2. To be appreciated
Why do we buy gifts?
For the joy that comes from being selfless, and to be appreciated for doing something for someone else.
We go grocery shopping and pick out their favorite snack. We treat them out to a spa day. We know they don’t have enough money for a concert ticket, so we buy it for them.
If your business has holiday promotions, this is a great motivator to focus on.
3. To be right
Nobody wants to be wrong, and everybody wants to be right.
When we buy something to show that we’re right, it’s usually because we made a claim about the product and we want to prove that it’s true.
Like when you buy a bag of cappuccino flavored Lays to prove to your friend they taste good (or bad, in my opinion.)
4. To feel important
Luxury goods run this angle all the time.
When you buy something expensive, you feel important.
You feel this way when you drive a fancy car, wear a $100 watch, and buy a tailored suit and wear it to work every day.
(Sidebar: Here’s a great article from Neil Patel, discussing how wearing nice clothes can help you make more money.)
If we feel important, we feel better about ourselves. We feel like we’re contributing to the world and that we deserve to have our place in it.
Sometimes, we buy stuff to make us feel this way.
5. To make money
This is a semi-oxymoron, but sometimes we spend money to make money.
We buy marketing courses and books that teach us how to build businesses. These products claim the buyer will recoup the cost within a certain time frame by using the principles hidden inside.
Selling products to help other people make money is a great service, as long as it’s done genuinely for someone else’s benefit.
With my services, I help businesses grow through content marketing. A large part of it is making more money, but the driving force is through improving the lives of their audience first.
6. To save money
Another semi-oxymoron; sometimes we spend money to save money.
We buy accounting software to help us manage our expenses, so we can see where we need to cut our spending.
We buy cars with higher gas mileage to save money at the pump. We buy generic brands to save money on groceries.
If your products help people save money, don’t leave this key motivator out of your marketing plan.
7. To save time
Make money. Save money. Save time.
These are three of our strongest motivators – not only to spend money, but in our life decisions in general.
What do we buy in order to save time?
We buy apps that help us organize our work. We buy vacuum cleaners that vacuum by themselves.
We get drive-through fast food. We make instant coffee. We buy faster computers and smarter smart phones.
Our time is valuable, so we’re willing to spend heaps of money to save some of it (click to tweet this epic quote).
8. To make work easier
Wouldn’t you love to make your work easier? Don’t you wish you could push an “easy button” and have your most grueling work done for you?
Enter virtual assistants, outsourcing, ergonomic chairs, and pencils with more comfortable grips.
Work is tough, so if your products can make someone’s work easier, tell them about it.
9. To be secure
Our drive for security can mean a number of things. It can mean our physical security, like home alarm systems and gated communities.
It can mean books and courses on becoming more self-confident and overcoming insecurity. It can mean financial stability and saving for retirement.
Our drive for security comes from our fear of not knowing what’s going to happen in the future, while being bombarded with the possibilities every day.
If there’s a product or service that can lessen these anxieties for us, it’s quite likely we’ll spend money on it.
10. To be attractive
Makeup, plastic surgery, nice clothes, salon haircuts, razors, perfume, deodorant, body wash, hair gel, nail clippers, nail filers, gym memberships, yoga classes, etc, etc.
We want to look good. We want to feel good. We want other people to think we look good, to make us feel good.
11. To be sexy
Being sexy relates to being attractive, but at a deeper level.
The purpose of almost every Victoria’s Secret product is to make you feel sexier and increase your sex appeal.
Deodorant commercials like to poke at this motivator as well. They show attractive people getting a whiff of each other, and with a wave of uncontrollable desire, they’re overcome with emotion.
We all have a desire to be desired. And it’s a great selling point.
(Credits to Mark Manson for that one.)
12. To be comfortable
Heated leather seats. $2000 couches. Comforters and Tempur Pedic pillows.
Being comfortable is nice. It’s relaxing. It calms our minds just as much as it calms our bodies.
If your products and services help people live more comfortable lives, stress this fact as much as possible.
13. To be distinct
Distinct – Different in a way that you can see, hear, smell, feel, etc. Noticeably different (Merriam-Webster)
Making purchases to be distinct is similar to luxury goods. These things set us apart from the rest.
Flying first class. Being the first to buy a hot new product. Being a paying member of an organization or community.
Distinction sells, and at a high price.
14. To be happy
According to some studies, money can definitely buy happiness, up to a certain point.
But the psychological reasons why money can buy happiness have no effect on why we buy stuff to make ourselves happier.
It’s based on how we predict we’ll feel after the purchase. We think we’ll be happier after we get rid of our crappy car and buy a new one.
We think we’ll be happier after we eat a bowl (tub) of ice cream after a breakup. We think we’ll be happier after seeking therapy.
In terms of people’s motivations, whether these are the actual outcomes do not matter. It’s the drive to be happier that compels us to act and to buy.
15. To have fun
16. To gain knowledge
Non-fiction books are all about gaining knowledge and learning something new. Same with documentaries.
We want to be “in the know.” We want to learn so we can succeed. You’re reading this article right now to take advantage of the knowledge gained from understanding why people spend money.
For humanity as a whole, our quest for knowledge is undying. Therefore, our drive to spend money to gain knowledge is undying as well.
17. To be healthy
We buy organic food. We buy gym memberships. We buy health-conscious cookbooks.
We buy medicine. We buy health insurance. We spend money on acupuncture.
All in the name of being healthier people and living longer, more fulfilling lives.
Our motivation for being healthy comes from our motivation to live. Just like our motivation to gain knowledge, this is undying as well.
18. To gratify curiosity
Have you ever bought a $0.99 book on Amazon because it was so intriguing you had to buy it? You weren’t even interested in the topic, but you were so curious that you clicked “Buy now with 1-Click” anyway?
Yup. We’ve all done it.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also made me buy Ann Patchett’s The Getaway Car.
19. For convenience
Drive-through’s. Convenience stores. Peanut butter and jelly in the same container.
Need I say more?
20. Out of fear
We may spend money out of fear for our safety, or for losing our home.
Fear is an extremely strong motivator. It compels people not only to spend money, but to do unthinkable things, both good and bad.
21. Out of greed
We spend money out of greed when we buy things in excess of what we need or want.
We also spend money on excess products simply because we CAN buy them, not because we should.
We hoard every video game we can. We buy so much jewelry we couldn’t possibly wear all of it. We buy five BMWs so we can drive a different one to work each day.
It’s not a necessity. It’s greed.
22. Out of guilt
If your friend buys you an expensive gift for Christmas, and you only bought her a $5 necklace, or worse, nothing at all, your guilty conscience is going to be firing on all cylinders.
You’ll immediately check her profile to see when her birthday’s coming up, so you can buy her something substantial enough to destroy your guilt.
Guilt is powerful. No one likes feeling it, yet almost all of us feel it quite strongly.
And if spending money provides a quick and easy fix, we’ll most likely succumb to it.
23. We succumb to our moods
Hunger, craving, and arousal drive us to satisfy our immediate needs.
When we feel good, we’re more likely to reward ourselves.
(So make your prospects feel good. Stroke those egos.)
24. Different states of mind
Being tired, distracted, mentally drained, and preoccupied can lead us to irrational decisions.
25. We have stubborn buying habits
We’re used to it, so even if the product loses quality, we may continue to buy it simply because it’s familiar.
Michael’s List of Buying Motivators
26. Because we can
This is tied to greed. It’s buying in excess of what we truly need or can possibly use or consume.
27. To have a meaningful experience
In my opinion, this is the absolute best way to spend money. I also think it’s the best motivation to make more money.
You spend money to have meaningful experiences that make a profound imprint on who you are.
You take a trip to a foreign country and immerse yourself in the culture.
You bungee jump off the Harbor Bridge in Auckland, New Zealand (so crazy!!!).
You go to a concert with your best friends.
These experiences far outweigh their monetary value. An accumulation of these will bring you more happiness than any amount of money.
P.S. This is also a great selling point.
28. To give as a gift to others. To make ourselves feel good.
29. To improve our skills
Private coaching. Training courses. Seminars.
We all have a drive to get better at what we care about.
I’ll definitely pay money to become a better writer, a better content marketer, a better businessman.
And I’m guessing you’d also fork over some cash to become better at what you do.
30. To satisfy our basic needs (food, water, shelter)
Without adequate amounts of these, we can’t survive. It’s a no-brainer.
31. To move us closer to our goals
32. To make us more efficient (software, instant coffee, productivity apps)
33. To overcome anxiety (courses, books, pills)
34. For the memories
If I’m ever hesitant to do something with my friends because it costs too much money, I usually justify doing it just to have the memory.
It’s worth it.
35. For the story
Sometimes we spend money on things, or to do things, just to say we’ve done it before.
Should it really cost $45 to run a 5K? Not necessarily. Most people would gasp if you asked them to pay money to go for a run.
But if you win the race, it’s an awesome story that’s totally worth $45.
36. To be “cool” (status)
37. To feel “cool” (perceived status)
38. Because it’s new
“New” is one of the most powerful words in copywriting and advertising.
We’re attracted to novelty. If something is new, it has a higher perceived value.
39. Because it’s upgraded (new features, new model)
40. Because it’s better than what our friends have
This is the “keeping up with the Jones’s” motivator.
We compare ourselves to other people, especially with our friends.
Upgrades. New models. Cooler products. They all play into our drive to be comparatively better than other people.
41. Because everyone else has it
Many buyers fall into this category. They buy popular products after both the early-adopters and the people who follow the early-adopters.
They succumb to societal pressure to have what everyone else has. I know you’re probably already thinking this, but iPhones and other smartphones are perfect examples.
42. Because we trust the brand
One of the top goals in content marketing is building trust with an audience. If the audience trusts you as an authority, they’re more likely to trust your products and services over your competitor’s.
Likewise, if you trust the brand, you trust the product. And unless the brand does something to destroy your trust, or their product suddenly plummets in quality, their trust will most likely remain constant.
It’s far easier and more cost-efficient to keep a customer than it is to convert a new one.
43. Because we trust the person selling it
We may buy products simply because we trust who’s selling them to us.
We trust the blogger who has been providing high value content to us for free, so when he offers an eBook for $4.95, we hop on it.
We trust the salesperson who recommended not only her products to us, but her competitor’s products who offer cheaper prices.
When we trust people, we believe them. We believe in what they’re offering.
Our potential to feel buyer’s remorse is drastically minimized, so the product just needs to follow through on its promises, and we’ll be happy customers.
44. Because we have always bought their products
It’s a habit that’s tough to shake. It’s just easier to continue buying from this company, even though everyone says another company is better. We’re used to it, so rather than spend time researching and making a new decision, we just stick with the decision we’ve always made.
45. Because the business has a good reputation
Social proof is powerful. Just this morning I tweeted an article simply because I knew other people had been tweeting it. It was a good article, but without social proof giving me the final push, I probably wouldn’t have bothered.
In terms of a business’s reputation, if people are saying good things about them and no one has any complaints, you may even neglect doing your own research and do what everyone else is doing. You trust that if the majority of people are doing it, it must be the right thing to do.
That’s social proof in a nutshell.
46. Because their reviews are solid
Amazon and Yelp are huge proponents of reviews.
Imagine this: Your friend tells you about a new movie she wants to go see. What’s the first thing you ask?
“Have you checked the reviews?”
Auto shops, massage parlors, hair salons. Everything gets reviewed these days.
It’s an important factor when we judge which businesses to take our money to.
47. Because the product’s reviews are solid
Books, movies, video games, etc.
48. Because an authority, such as the Better Business Bureau, vouches for them
Even if we have no idea what the rating means.
Now that’s powerful.
49. Because the product or service was recommended to us by someone we trust
50. To protect our lives (weapons, home security, safer cars)
51. To protect our family’s lives
52. Because it’s on sale
53. Because it’s selling for a significant discount from the original price (comparative value)
54. Because this discount is only lasting for a limited time
We’ve got a strong fear of missing out. We don’t want to miss out on a great deal.
Even if we don’t need the product, the deal may be too good to ignore. If it’s going to be gone in three days, that may be enough to push us over the edge to make the purchase.
55. Because there’s a limited quantity of the item, or the service is only being sold to a select number of people
This sparks a sense of urgency. We don’t want to regret our decision.
56. We believe we deserve it. It’s a reward for working hard.
57. Because we think we may need the product one day. We’re preparing.
58. To accommodate a special event (Halloween, weddings)
59. Because we’ve already spent a lot of money, a little more couldn’t hurt
60. To escape reality
Sometimes we spend money to get away from the “real world.” We go golfing to take our mind off things. We go to the movies to immerse ourselves in someone else’s story.
61. Because we’re bored
We’re shopping because we have nothing better to do.
62. We believe we’re getting our money’s worth.
Here, the value of the product significantly outweighs its price, so even if we don’t necessarily need it or want it, we can justify buying it in the moment.
63. We know there will be ongoing customer support after purchase
This is an important stage in the buyer’s purchasing cycle. Buyers want to know that if the product isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, or if they can’t figure out something, there will be someone there to help them.
If no one’s there, they’ve just wasted their money. If there is someone to help them out, the buyers have gotten their money’s worth and they’re happy again.
Customer support should be non-negotiable, especially for technical products.
64. To replace an older product
65. To protect and secure our current products
Safes. Phone cases. Laptop covers.
66. We feel nostalgic towards the item. It relates to our past.
This could be food from our home country, our parents had the same type of furniture, etc.
We feel a connection to the product.
67. Because the item itself is scarce
This is why collectibles are so highly coveted (and so expensive).
68. For emotional fulfillment
69. We have a cultural, religious, or community affiliation and bond with the product (Brian calls it a “niche identity”)
70. The “Girl Scout Cookie Effect”
When we buy things we don’t need, or wouldn’t normally buy, because it will help someone else.
72. For leisure.
For the immediate satisfaction of consumption, like food, drinks, and entertainment.
To be one of the few who own the product, receive the service, or are part of the club.
75. To attract envy
To have a product someone else desires, but cannot have.
76. Business advancement
77. To avoid the loss of something
78. To avoid pain
79. To avoid criticism
80. To reduce risk (warranties)
81. To reduce effort required
82. To reduce doubt and worry
83. To avoid boredom
84. To be good parents (hence the market for baby and child-rearing books. And toys, for that matter)
85. To become a recognized authority (like paying to take a class and to get certified)
86. To stay up-to-date (newspaper or magazine subscriptions)
87. To become more independent (buying your first car and living on your own even if it’s more expensive)
Ca$hvertising, by Drew Eric Whitman
88. Sexual companionship (heyoooo!)
89. Cleanliness of our body and surroundings
90. For dependability or quality
We’ll pay more for something if we know it’s dependable, will work better, and/or will last longer.
91. It has been proven that the product or service gets results (studies, case studies, statistics, data, facts)
92. There’s a compelling money-back guarantee to squash the potential for buyer’s remorse.
The longer the guarantee, the better. It conveys greater confidence in the product, and squashes additional buyer’s remorse.
When I eventually launch my own products, I’m going to play around with 6 month to year-long guarantees.
The theory is, this conveys so much confidence in the product, you will get more sales than you would have otherwise. Those additional sales overcome losses from the people who want their money back.
As long as you make sure your product is the highest quality possible, your net profit is higher.
93. We have imagined ourselves using the product, and now that desire is too strong to control.
We must have it. Like when you were a kid and you wanted a toy really badly, and you thought about it for months until Christmas finally rolled around, letting that desire build and build.
Same thing happens as adults.
Influence, by Robert Cialdini
94. We like the person who’s selling us something, even if we don’t know them (often quoted as one of the essential techniques of face-to-face selling)
95. Commitment and consistency
We have previously stated or written down that we would buy it, so we want to keep our word. We don’t want to seem like liars or people who aren’t trustworthy.
When someone does something especially nice for you, and you feel like you have to pay them back.
97. Because we have no choice (Internet Service Providers)
98. Because it’s the cheapest choice
99. We can pay with our card
It doesn’t feel the same as cash when you pay with your card, because you’re not actually handing over any bills. This is especially the case when you’re paying with credit, because the money isn’t coming out of your account yet. You can worry about it later.
The lesson here is to make it as easy as possible for people to buy your products.
Allow people to make one-click purchases, like Amazon does. Allow people to save their card details so they don’t have to re-enter them every time they want to buy something. Make navigation to your products extremely easy.
Make it as simple, quick, and efficient as possible for people to buy your stuff.
100. Money is coming in the future, so we feel justified spending money in the present. (click to tweet this epic quote)
Your paycheck is just around the corner, so even if you can’t afford it yet, you feel justified spending money right now.
Why People Buy Stuff – Reason #101:
Because a cunning business person orchestrated the sale from beginning to end, and the prospect had no chance to resist.
If you’re selling products and services that genuinely help people’s lives and make the world a better place, this is the most important reason of all.
I believe business should be used to spread value throughout the world.
Use this list to spread your value, and to make your mark in history.
What do you think influences people’s decisions to buy? Any instances from your own business?