Getting to the "Why" Means Knowing Both the Rational and Emotional Side

In today’s age of customer-centricity, coupled with the seemingly abundant amount (or perceived abundance) of customer data available, it’s still a surprise to me when companies do not have a comprehensive understanding of their customer.

What tends to exist is a more general profile – Broad demographics (and maybe firmographics), some behavioral characteristics, a little bit of psychographic information, and possibly satisfaction (or not) with a company’s products and services.

While having this information is important, and a place to start, it only scratches the surface. The issue is that the data doesn’t lend enough insight into the predictive nature of a consumer’s behavior - What shapes their perceptions and motivates their actions? What attitudes, interests and EMOTIONS trigger their behavior?

The challenge - You don’t know (and subsequently can’t solve, develop, sell, market) what you don’t understand

–Malcolm Gladwell

Fully understanding your customers is like putting together pieces of a puzzle. You know you have to answer the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY AND HOW. But are you diving deep enough into the WHY?

They may have a certain mindset – a way of thinking so to speak that impacts their behavior. But the way they think isn’t the only aspect they use to make decisions. It’s also about the way they feel.

Getting to your customers’ WHY, requires you to understand both their rational and emotional side.

Consumer behavior isn’t based on rational decisions alone. Emotions are dominant in dictating their thoughts, spurring motivations, and actions.

In fact, Dr. Lamia, a psychologist and expert who studies the impact of emotion on adults, teens and kids says that…

‘Your emotions will drive the decisions you make today…When an emotion is triggered in your brain, your nervous systems responds by creating feelings in your body (what many people refer to as a "gut feeling") and certain thoughts in your mind. A great deal of your decisions are informed by your emotional responses because that is what emotions are designed to do: to appraise and summarize an experience and inform your actions.’

So it comes down to identifying their emotional needs and subsequently triggers behind the who, what, when, where and how.  

But let’s remember that emotions and attitudes are not the same - Emotions influence attitudes. And attitudes influence emotions. Thus why many psychographic attributes found in customer profiles I see still don’t offer a comprehensive picture.

Creating profiles that paint a complete story around how your customer thinks, behaves AND feels, will ultimately help you better predict what they may or may not do. It’s also through this shared psychological understanding of your customer will it then be easier for you and those around you to best service them.  Addressing these emotional needs will likely help formulate a tighter relationship with them in the long term.

“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”  – Zig Ziglar