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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

14 factors of consumer psychology every business leader should understand

A basic understanding of consumer psychology can help you drive trust, connections, and, ultimately, sales.

14 factors of consumer psychology every business leader should understand
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]
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Every business leader has heard the mantra: “If you want to boost sales, you’ve got to get to know your target audience.” Many companies limit this strategy to learning basic demographic information like age, gender, geographic region, and household income. But a smart leader knows that building an understanding of their customer or client base should also involve understanding human psychology.

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If you and your team understand basic psychological principles, you can form genuine connections with consumers, thereby building loyalty and trust (and sales). To help you achieve this, below the members of Fast Company Executive Board share 14 things every smart business leader needs to understand about consumer psychology.

1. THEY ACT BASED ON RELEVANCY AND PURPOSE.

Relevancy and purpose ultimately drive people to open up their wallets and make a purchase. It’s also known that consumers trust recommendations from peers on social media more than they do their friends and family in real life. As such, brands that partner with influencers who represent shared beliefs can effectively create meaningful connections while educating and driving purchase intent. – Jessica Thorpe, gen.video

2. THEY WANT AN EXPERIENCE WORTH TALKING ABOUT.

I believe people talk about the products and services they love. As a company, you only get one chance to make a lasting impression. Try to see things from your customer’s perspective, and give them an experience worth talking about. Strive to communicate in a way that produces emotions in your clients. The world’s most successful brands are the ones that connect with their customers on a personal level. – Nicolas Susco, (ea) ElipseAgency

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3. THEY WANT BRANDS THEY CAN COUNT ON.

It’s about trust. Know what the customer wants to do with a product or service—what outcome they seek—and then provide a better way for them to do it. Customers want brands that give them what they can count on to give them what they need. Keep doing that and they trust you; let them down and it can be hard to get them back. – Andrew Binns, Change Logic LLC

4. THEY RESPOND TO SOLUTIONS, NOT SALES PITCHES.

Intelligent business leaders don’t just list product features or sell from the first word. Instead, they take time to listen to customer pain points and consult customers on how to solve their problems, regardless of whether that involves their business’s product or service. Building trust from a genuine place of wanting to help goes a very long way toward creating a long-term relationship with customers. – Yuri Kruman, HR, Talent & Systems Consulting

5. THEY MOST WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO THEM.

Most companies don’t think nearly enough about the cost of one bad customer experience. You can do a million things right, but one bad experience can tarnish your brand and destroy trust and loyalty. Research shows that customers really want companies to listen to and understand them. That’s the key to unlocking connections that will deliver the experiences your customers are looking for. – Joyce Kim, Genesys

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6. THEY ARE STRONGLY INFLUENCED BY PEER REVIEWS.

Happy customers become your brand’s biggest cheerleaders, so it’s important to offer the best customer experience possible. When customers are passionate about your product they are more likely to recommend it to their friends and family, which has a huge influence on consumer purchasing behavior. Offering a 100% money-back guarantee also shows your commitment to customer satisfaction. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

7. THEY CRAVE MEMORABLE, POSITIVE EMOTIONS.

We are all emotional human beings, so focus on experiences that fuel memorable, positive emotions. Exceed expectations through every interaction and create a sense of awe and surprise through everything that you do. Deliver value, wisdom, and insights that go beyond your product or service offering. Discover your clients’ aspirations and purpose so that you can help them move from dreams to reality. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

8. THEY SEEK OUT HELPFUL INFORMATION.

Do some reverse engineering and check what this specific audience needs. What keeps them up at night? Go into your competitors’ blogs that are doing well and see which articles went viral. Which solution have they delivered to your audience in need? You can drive trust if you’re quick to solve their most burning problem. – Yoav Vilner, Walnut

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9. THEY WANT TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEMSELVES.

I think that no matter what business you’re in you can always do well if you make your customer feel good about themselves. For example, if your product is for a B2B customer, you can focus on how they will be an industry game-changer. Appealing to people’s values, higher goals, and self-esteem works in almost every industry. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

10. THEY BUY FROM COMPANIES THEY CAN GET TO KNOW WELL.

There are three stages of a buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. You can’t expect people to consider buying from you if they don’t know you exist. And you can never make it to the decision stage if you weren’t among the list of alternatives in the first place. Brand awareness is key. So first, get to know your audience, and next, help them learn more about you. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

11. THEY WANT TO BELONG.

People yearn for a sense of belonging. This is why so many brands successfully create customer communities that powerfully advocate for the brand without any incentive. When you create a culture where customers find like-minded people with whom they can band together to work toward a common vision or goal, they will be your biggest cheerleaders. – Marie Zimenoff, Career Thought Leaders

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12. THEY ARE OPEN TO ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS.

A successful leader must dive deep into the mind of the consumer. It takes time to observe an array of factors in a myriad of scenarios. Asking strategic questions of the consumer in a variety of ways is something that can lead to great results in understanding the buyer’s ultimate needs or desires prior to their taking action on a purchase. This can also help develop more trust and connection. – Benjamin Nader, 6 Figure Recruiter

13. THEY ARE OFTEN DRIVEN BY EMOTIONS, NOT LOGIC.

Successful brands, whether corporate- or consumer-oriented, build a strong emotional affinity through their marketing, PR, and direct promotion efforts. It’s critical to figure out what your narrative is as a business and how to connect that emotionally to the needs of your customers. – David Shrier, Esme Learning Solutions, Inc.

14. THEY RELATE TO VULNERABILITY AND AUTHENTICITY.

Being vulnerable and authentic with your audience is a way to build trust and connections. It is difficult to relate to a picture of perfection as we approach a post-COVID era. As we build back a more equitable future, we need to show that all of us have failures, challenges, and struggles. This will ultimately drive increased trust and compassion, which are the core drivers for building collaboration. – Dianne Dain, World Humanitarian Forum