Understanding your customer’s why

What emotion drives your customer to buy? Whether it’s music, boats, technology, or senior living? Each buyer resonates with a particular emotional appeal. The music example first. My rural roots keep resurfacing in my favorite songs. One of the essential entrepreneurial skills is pattern-recognition. So, I’m fascinated by recurring themes in the economy, in a business, or in my own life. There’s almost always a lesson in a pattern if you can extend the general rule to the next specific case. Or to the analog. Songs are pre-packaged emotions. The surest mood-altering drug in my arsenal. What’s the entrepreneurial lesson in these songs? I’m buying the same emotional appeal in each of them. A lesson for both sellers and buyers, entrepreneurs and customers. Can you recognize the pattern?

The Appeal of Rural Roots

One recurring theme in my favorite music? Rural roots. The foundation of farming and ranching. The value of hard work. And the lesson that the grass is not always greener when leaving the outdoors behind for the lights of the city.

If nothing else, there’s a lesson that nostalgia for our cultural roots remains attractive. On YouTube (and elsewhere) farming, homesteading and off-grid living have an appeal even for people who never lived in the woods, fields, or mountains. One example. We watch Cole the Cornstar, a young farmer. He reminds us of cousins still on the farm. Since he has more YouTube followers than the number of farmers in the United States? You know there’s an attraction where corn don’t grow (sic).

Where Corn Don’t Grow

I was reminded of this with a recent Grand Ole Opry performance of Where Corn Don’t Grow by Travis Tritt. Where Corn Don’t Grow, is by songwriters Roger Murrah and Mark Alan Springer. It was first recorded by Waylon Jennings on his 1990 album The Eagle, peaking at #67 on the country singles charts that year. Six years later, Travis Tritt covered it on his 1996 album The Restless Kind. Also released as a single, Tritt’s rendition was a Top Ten country hit in 1997, peaking at #6 on the same chart. I remember the Travis Tritt version. I always sing along when I hear it. Rural nostalgia is an emotion that makes me buy songs. Your experience and emotional triggers may vary. But you’ll see the lesson is the same.

Rural Roots Playlist – Can you recognize the emotional pattern?

Hearing Travis Tritt again, I started a list of some favorite songs with similar lessons from rural roots.

  1. Where Corn Don’t Grow – Travis Tritt
  2. Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper’s Dream) -The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  3. The Dirt Road – Sawyer Brown
  4. Red Dirt Road – Brooks & Dunn
  5. Where the Green Grass Grows – Tim McGraw
  6. The Lowlands – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band featuring the sons, Hanna & McEuen
  7. I Ain’t In Checotah Anymore – Carrie Underwood
  8. Rain on the Scarecrow – John Mellencamp
  9. Down the Road – Kenny Chesney
  10. My Town — Montgomery Gentry (I miss Troy Gentry.)
  11. Praying for Rain – Don Henley
  12. Amarillo Sky – Jason Aldean

I could keep going. But twelve is a decent playlist or album. And establishes the pattern.

Here’s your first test. What songs did I miss? Can you suggest additional songs that belong to this pattern? Leave them in the comments below.

Sell Emotions Because That’s Why Customers Buy

But back to entrepreneurship. There is a lesson. We often talk about entrepreneurs solving problems or pain points. Same for any business. But don’t forget sometimes entrepreneurs also serve passions. An entrepreneur should always sell emotions, either explicitly or implicitly.

Look for patterns in your bullseye target customers. Customers may justify purchases rationally. But customers buy emotions. What emotions appeal to your customers? What’s the pattern? Can you explain what you do in ways that provide that desired emotional reward?

If your product serves a passion rather than solving a problem? Emotion is, even more, a core piece of your product or service. What emotion drives your customer?

Spirit of Adventure

I live on a resort lake in Northern Iowa. It’s part of the Minnesota chain of 10,000 lakes dipping down into Iowa. A remnant of the Wisconsin glacier, 10,000 years ago. On summer weekends? It feels like there are 10,000 boats on the water. In a town of 10,000. Clear Lake features some pretty fancy boats for fishing, partying, or water skiing. No one here buys an expensive boat out of necessity. These boats serve a passion. They are prepackaged emotions. Maybe family time. The joy of being on the water. The excitement of a fish striking the lure. Lounging with friends in the sun in the redneck yacht club off of State Park beach. The thrill of speed. The satisfaction of a walleye dinner. Or maybe the boat is a solution to a problem? The problem. How to escape the pressures of the workweek.

My boat is a simple aluminum canoe. One of the cheaper vessels on the lake. Nothing makes me feel more like a frontier voyager than paddling a canoe. I can drop back two hundred fifty years or more. I’m Hawkeye, living The Last of the Mohicans with each stroke of the paddle. Being on the water is my romance with the spirit of adventure. How to Plan an Adventure, Aging With Freedom. Even if my closet is still full of suits and ties. My secret self is more adventuresome. The business attire didn’t get much use this last year. The canoe got a lot more.

No one ever got fired for buying IBM

Even if you sell technology? Your customer buys on emotions, not features. Feature lists often fail the customer’s “Why do I care” test or “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?”

Perhaps the emotion is as simple as, I don’t want to make a mistake. Remember the sales pitch, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM?” Why? When buying complex technology? IBM sells confidence in job security and protection against a fatal career error.

Fear and safety are powerful emotions. But they are not the only ones that your technology buyer may feel or want. What emotion drives your customer?

Emotional Pattern Recognition. Before making a major purchase...look for the emotions being marketed and how they align with your own emotional drivers.

Senior Living Post-Pandemic Design — what’s the emotional pattern?

In senior living, one of the big debates is how the experience of the COVID pandemic should change senior housing design. For an example, see this discussion from RLPS Architects. POST-PANDEMIC PLANNING, Strategies for reinforcing your community’s position as a safe haven of senior life in the future. A lot of the ideas serve the revealed needs of operators for easy resident isolation and staff efficiency. Those address operators’ fears of never repeating the same mistakes twice. Makes sense since architects sell to operators. But let’s practice some emotional pattern recognition.

But architects also sell to senior living developers. And senior living developers and operators sell to residents. That means design must also consider the emotions of the end-customer – the senior living resident. Residents and prospective residents want something else post-pandemic. They want social connection and freedom of movement.

The post-pandemic solution would ideally hide the mechanics of the operator’s business needs from residents while delivering on the emotional needs of residents. Social connection instead of isolation and loneliness is essential. It’s a unique value proposition of group or social living for seniors. I can be isolated with aging-in-place. And was during the pandemic. Why would I move so you can isolate me without my consent? That’s the worst outcome. Moving for social connection and still ending up lonely.

The entrepreneurial answer requires listening for patterns and some art in striking the balance and the messaging. But as always, consider the audience. You must communicate in the language of the listener and strike the chord of their emotions.

Conclusion – Emotional pattern recognition and the Language of the Listener

You can see the challenge. Our rationales and our emotions aren’t always perfectly aligned. And there can be more than one customer or decision-maker that matters. And more than one driving emotion. Not all of your customers want the same emotional buy. But emotional connection should lead when selling a solution. The logical rationale is backfill to the original emotional construction. You never get a chance to logically justify a decision unless you first make the emotional sale.

Successful entrepreneurs get to know their customers. Not just their outward needs and wants. But also their inner emotional lives. You must serve both. Look for repeating patterns in your customers’ emotions and emotional needs. When marketing? Explain your benefits in the language of your listener. And remember the listener may change because you may have more than one customer or decision-maker that matters. What emotional patterns drive you to purchase? What emotional patterns drive your customer? Emotional pattern recognition is an essential skill to be a problem-solving servant.

For Senior Living Customers?

Watch for appeals to emotion. Applying the entrepreneurial lesson as a customer is the flip side of the coin. We need to watch for our own emotional pattern recognition. And when sellers are selling on emotion. And make sure we agree they’re promoting the emotional reward I want to buy.

When shopping for Senior Living? As a senior living prospect, when shopping? Ask yourself what emotional appeal is a community making to me? Is it really what I want? And even if it’s what I want? Can you see evidence that current residents still believe they are getting that emotional need filled? Marketing staff, service staff, and residents should all concur that the emotional reward is more than a marketing gimmick. Saying it and doing it are two different things. Never buy without spending some extended time with residents without marketing staff hovering over the conversation. You want to feel wanted by residents for you. Not just wanted by commissioned sales staff that really want your money.

Margaritaville Test. As a test, what emotional pattern recognition can you find in the new Latitude Margaritaville Senior Living developments? What are they selling? And given their relative popularity, how is that different than conventional senior living marketing? We’ll discuss in a follow-up article. YOU HAVE A LICENSE TO CHILL AT YOUR NEW HOME IN PARADISE.