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Marketing success hinges on emotional connections

In this book excerpt, consultant David Forbes advocates that companies focus on understanding what motivates consumers when marketing their products.

Marketing strategies can easily fail if the companies that execute them know nothing about what motivates their...

customers to buy in the first place. To keep customers coming back for more, companies must focus on developing the emotional responses that their products induce in their customers. This excerpt from David Forbes' book, The Science of Why: Decoding Human Motivation and Transforming Marketing Strategy, highlights best practices for companies striving for marketing success centered on customer needs. Forbes is a consultant at Forbes Consulting Group and works with industries, such as pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, financial services and more. In this excerpt, he advised companies to evaluate who they are and the impact of their marketing messages on customers before they can establish an emotional connection with consumers.

Think about how the consumer insights that your business already has may actually speak to the inner motivations of those consumers. And work to discern how the messages your brand has been sending to its consumers all along may have implicitly carried the promise of deeper emotional fulfillment. Successful brands have succeeded for good reasons, and typically, those reasons include an intuitive understanding of what motivates consumers.

Once you have conducted a thorough review of your brand as it exists today, I would recommend you take a few initial steps toward making good business even better.

Take a good, hard and fresh look at your consumers. Conduct new qualitative or quantitative research, or simply conduct a careful review of research that you've done recently. Ask yourself which of the kinds of aspirations and frustrations you've learned about here are likely to be operating in the lifestyle moments in which your products are at work.

Take a hard look at the messages you've been sending to your consumers about your product. This includes your explicit messages in advertising and promotional material, as well as the messages you send implicitly with your package design and any other sensory elements involved in your product. Try to decode the emotional messages that come through with all of this communication and think about ways you might bring your message content closer to what you think your consumers really want.

Think also about the tone and style of your messaging. If you decide the benefits of your product really are intrapsychic ones, then your communications -- implicit or explicit -- should be telling the consumers about how they will feel about themselves. By contrast, if the benefits of your product appear to be interpersonal in nature, then your communication should be focusing more on what people close to the consumer will think or feel about them. Similarly, if you think the benefits of your product focus on expanding life's possibilities, you should focus on the promise of the future. And if your product's benefits appear to be focused on getting great results, then you need to be showing those results.

Plan in advance and try it out. No matter what decisions you make about a motivational marketing strategy for your product, remember that executing this type of communication will require a good amount of thought. Emotional promises are usually better delivered implicitly than explicitly, and can often be delivered more effectively by tonality than by text. And getting it right may take a few tries,  as you work to evoke an emotional response without engaging in hyperbole or just plain schmaltziness. Find a good creative agency and work closely with them. And make sure that they're thinking and working in the same emotional terms that you are.

As the emphasis on marketing messages shifts to focus on consumers' emotional experiences and the emotional fulfillment that results from them; as we increase our ability to measure and understand those emotional needs and to build pathways to nurture and sustain them; as consumers increasingly influence the products, services and messages they bring into their hearts and homes; and as our consumption of products and services becomes more and more personalized and fulfilling, we will witness a sea change in what we do, how we do it and how it all feels.

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What kinds of research does your company do to identify customer needs?
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My wife would call it 'seat-of-the-pants' research. I call it being a consumer myself and using my experience and intuition to inform my moves. If I can put myself in the shoes of my buyers and clients, then I'm fully prepared to create better solutions for them and sell them more services and products. It just works. Know your audience. Then create the things that will help them work better and be more successful. The result will be more success for you, too.
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Simple answer - yes. Longer answer - of course. I know this by seeing and participating in the conversations that drive my business and inform my customers. For my main client - http://planterhill.com - I am running a year-long direct mail and social media campaign. The direct measurable is home sales in our region. The results are easy to quantify and tracking the leads back to my materials and marketing is simple too. So, yes, my messaging is having an impact.
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