Make marketing strategy easy by understanding how customers make purchasing decisions about your product. One of these three formulas explains why your customers buy from you and how you can persuade them to stick with your brand.
1. Mass Market Selling: The Learning Hierarchy
The hierarchy of effects is a marketing concept that most business majors encounter in their core business courses. When they go back to get an MBA, they study the concept in a lot more depth. Essentially, the hierarchy of effects describes the steps that customers go through before making a purchasing decision. The learning hierarchy model states that consumers take five steps before they make a purchase:
- Awareness. Your customers first learn that your product exists.
- Knowledge. After learning that your product exists, your customers start to learn more about it.
- Liking. Your customers buy into the way you’ve positioned your product, and they form a positive opinion of your brand.
- Preference. Customers learn to differentiate your brand from your competitors.
- Conviction. Customers decide that they want your product, and they purchase it.
According to researchers, the learning hierarchy works best under these four conditions:
- The buyer is involved. Buyers think your product is important and they identify strongly with it.
- The product is clearly differentiated from its competitors. It’s easy to tell how what you do differs from what your competitors do.
- Mass media matters. You’re not advertising within a small niche; you’re offering your services to the world.
- Your product is relatively new. It’s in the early stages of its maturity cycle.
2. Person-to-Person: The Dissonance-Attribution Hierarchy
For some types of products, customers decide why they purchased the product after they purchase it. The dissonance-association hierarchy starts at the end of the learning hierarchy and circles back around:
- Purchase. Customers purchase a product related to something that they’re already doing.
- Liking. After purchasing the product, they decide that they like it.
- Rationalization. Customers come up with a reason why they purchased the product — this is the attribution point.
- Brand repurchase. Because they’re pleased with their purchase and think they have a good reason to buy more, customers make repeat purchases from the brand.
If these scenarios describe your customers and your product, then build your messages around the dissonance-association model:
- Customers are involved with your product.
- Your product isn’t clearly differentiated from a competitor’s product.
- You’re focusing on personal selling instead of mass marketing.
- Your product is in the early maturity stage of its life cycle.
3. It’s Nothing Personal: The Low-Involvement Hierarchy
Some products are so low-risk that customers would prefer to buy them and try them out instead of researching them. If they think your product is decent, they’ll stick with it, but if something shinier catches their eye, they’ll buy from your competitor. These customers follow the low-involvement hierarchy:
- Trial purchase. They see your product and think, “Hey, I’ll try that out.”
- Recognition. When they see your product again, they recognize it as something that they liked.
- Recall. Instead of depending on an external stimulus to make them think of your product, they might remember that they thought positively of it and suggest it to a friend.
- Liking. They like your product and begin to become involved with it.
With the low-involvement hierarchy, your long-term goal is to shift existing customers from low-involvement to high involvement. To attract new customers, you’ll have to come up with a way to break their habit of purchasing from your competitor.
Your customers are probably low-involvement when these scenarios are true:
- Your products are similar to your competitors’ products. Examples would include products like toothpaste, toilet paper, and sandwich bread.
- Your customers learn about your product on broadcast media. They see a commercial, and when they see your product in the store, they vaguely remember that they’ve seen your product before.
- Your product is in the late maturity section of its life cycle. Your product is established and has a strong following.
Your Job as a Marketer
Customize your marketing messages according to your customers’ involvement level, how they get their messages, and how established your product is. Avoid reinventing the marketing wheel every time you start a campaign. Instead, base your strategy on one of these established marketing formulas.