Why People Buy

These days, marketers and copywriters must probe more deeply to peel back the hardened layers that prospective customers add over time to their persona.

Emotions on the surface may have hardened, but under the surface, core emotions are real and often raw.

Recently I wrote how ideas sell. Without a big idea, and without a big idea that goes to a deeper emotional core, any headlines and story become noise.

That’s why copywriters and marketers must work harder to peel back the hardened layers that over time, people add to the complexity of their persona.

Consider the following scenario. At first glance it may seem simplistic, but looking past the pure utility of whatever you’re offering, to a deeper end benefit can lead to the clarity of “why.”

A man walks into a hardware store. An employee asks him what he’s searching for.

“A drill,” he replies.

The employee shows the customer to the aisle with drills. Without probing any further, the employee says “if you need something else let me know” and walks away.

The employee simply assumed the customer wanted a drill rather than chit chat and engage the customer. But what if the employee had found out that this purchase was for more than just drilling a hole? What if it was learned that the customer was building an awning on the backyard of his home? And that he may have needed additional materials or tools for the project?

Or perhaps the employee would have learned that the reason the customer was buying a drill was because he was building the awning for his daughter. Then, she would have a place to sit in the shade on a sunny day, and under protection on a rainy day.

Or, maybe with more conversation, the customer would have revealed that the deeper reason for building the awning was because his daughter was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. And sitting outside was the only time for his daughter to breathe fresh air.

After peeling back the layers, you realize you’re not just selling the simple utility of a drill. You’re in the business of helping your clients and customers get to an emotional satisfaction—of helping them achieve their bigger goal that’s driven by the “why.”

The point of this thought process, and the reason to keep asking “why,” is that even something as simple as purchasing a drill may have a much deeper emotional reason behind the purchase. 

When you know the deeper persona of the person you’re reaching, or can imagine their story, your message can get to the core of a deeper emotional feeling that enables the customer to make their decision in a heartbeat. 


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.