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Buyer motivation: What moves your target customers to purchase your product?

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Buyer motivation is created by the buyer’s recognition of a discrepancy between an actual situation and a desired situation. The result of this discrepancy is a need to change—a need that is sometimes apparent and other times more latent, which is mostly the case for innovative products. When marketing new products, start-ups must stimulate this desire for change by developing a compelling reason to buy (CRTB) (also generally referred to as a value proposition).
The CRTB does not equal your need to sell, nor does it equal your product or any of its bells and whistles. The CRTB depends on the situation your target customer faces and how that situation can be improved when they buy.

Buyer motivation is based on circumstances

Individual, specific circumstances motivate customers to purchase a product—not product attributes. When customers become aware of a job that needs doing, they look for products to help them get the job done. They look for the most effective, convenient and affordable solution. The functional, emotional and social dimensions of the job are the circumstances that lead customers to buy. These circumstances can be categorized, and marketing can target products based on these categories.
In business-to-business (B2B) transactions, the motive to purchase is based on the economic consequences of either

  • Doing nothing
  • Making an investment to exploit an opportunity
  • Solve a problem

The motivation to buy can be either overt (apparent to everyone involved) or latent (only understood and appreciated by the person willing to put up the money). Triggering the motivation to buy is the first step in the buying process.

Market stages and the compelling reason to buy

Each stage of the technology adoption lifecycle (TALC) has a different compelling reason to buy.

Early Market

Technology enthusiasts and visionaries are motivated to purchase products (technical innovations) with a very large potential for competitive advantage (high gain). They are also motivated by the process involved in implementing the innovations (high pain).


Pragmatists are motivated to buy products (solutions) that will help them to solve existing problems (reduce the pain). They need to quantify the results that your innovation will deliver over the existing system.

Bowling Alley

Pragmatists need to identify and associate with others (that is, comparable market segments) who had similar problems that your products solved.

Knowing customers and markets

Startups must get to know their customers to understand their motivation to buy. This involves performing market research (for example, talking to customers and asking the right questions, understanding the customer value for the product). It also involves estimating the level of market demand to understand the buying behaviour of actual and potential customers.


Wiefels, P. (2002). The Chasm Companion. New York: Harper Business, pp. 121-127.
Christensen, C.M, & Raynor, M.E. (2003). The Innovator’s Solution. Boston: HBS Press, pp. 74-80, 93-95.
Viardot, E. (2004). Successful Marketing Strategy for High-tech Firms. Boston: Artech House, 73-74.
Mohr, J., Sengupta, S., & Slater, S. (2005). Marketing of High Technology Products and Innovations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, 169-172.