Market Research Qualitative Research

Would You Rather Persuade, Manipulate, or Motivate? Three Selling Strategies

The job of marketers is to get people to purchase our products and services, at a profit. We use three strategies for that: persuasion, manipulation, and motivation. All three selling strategies are effective when used correctly. Here is how we view these strategies:


Persuasion (noun) – Causing someone to do something through reasoning or argument.

Persuasion involves offering the customer benefits, or reasons why they should use the product. Those benefits offered to persuade in Marketing are often functional, for example, my product gets clothes cleaner, delivers better gas mileage, or even makes you smell nicer. Persuasion is a good way to convince a prospective customer that the product is worth trial, then the actual product experience can seal the deal for future purchases. When we seek to persuade someone, we must understand what benefits they are seeking for themselves.


Manipulation (noun) – Controlling or influencing a person or situation cleverly, unfairly or unscrupulously.

Manipulation is used all the time to influence a customer to buy more or to buy in a different pattern, although most marketers would say they would not want to be associated with manipulation. Nonetheless, manipulation can encourage buying frequency among people who already use the product or service: the basic limited-time sale and BOGO, loyalty rewards programs and other rewards to encourage customers to buy or to “stock up now.” Even today’s FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) marketing strategy is a form of manipulation. In all its guises, manipulation effectively takes customers out of the market for some period, preventing competitors from accessing future buying occasions.


Motivation (noun) – (1) the reasons someone has for acting or behaving in a way or (2) the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.

Motivation is a very powerful marketing strategy but is used less often, probably because it is usually harder to do. Students of human psychology know that the most powerful motivators touch a person’s values: the more fundamental to the person’s core beliefs or values, the more powerful the motivation. It follows that the marketer who is interested in this strategy must deeply understand the potential customer’s value system and have a product that authentically delivers or supports it to motivate customers to purchase. This is challenging, but the rewards are rich. When a product touches one of these core values, consumers will seek out the product proactively, driven by this intrinsic motivation, rather than being pulled into purchase by extrinsic persuasion. Even better, these motivated consumers are the one ones who become the brand’s advocates in the marketplace, influencing others by word of mouth or social media.

A simple example would be peanut butter. Would a mother of small children be motivated by the message that a brand is “the peanut-tiest”? Or by the message that a brand is the one that choosy mothers choose? Clearly, you need to understand what is motivating Mom. Does she want to be (and be perceived as) a selective mother or does she want to please her kids with yummy food?

Qualitative research gives the deep, rich exploration of attitudes, perceptions, behavior and emotion to obtain a consumer’s subjective truth, a truth which gets constructed based on one’s values. Whether in groups or individually, online or in-person, qualitative research open-ended questioning allows the consumer – and the researcher – to follow unexpected paths to gain new and fresh insights. There are a variety of methodologies that can be used from… focus groups, in-depth interviews, shop-alongs and ethnographies to dig deep with the participant and even more techniques to understand their motivations for their behaviors.

Any powerful motivational selling strategy must begin with a deep understanding of the consumers’ values. Conducting qualitative research lets you develop that understanding, and in the consumers’ own words. Marketing materials that not only sell, but connect with customers’ values to lead to brand advocacy, create long-term financial and brand success.

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