Motivations are powerful, but are not easy to get people to identify and articulate in marketing research. Because motivations are about unconscious patterns, consumers think, feel and behave in ways that are often automatic and without much thought. However, motivations are always based on very deep and personal values. Depending on the product or service category, or industry, different approaches may be used to pinpoint your customer’s motivations.
Our experience shows that hybrid approaches are the most effective at de-constructing consumers’ motivational patterns. As such, these research approaches should be considered in combination when uncovering customer’s motivations and values.
- Carefully examine any available secondary research for any theories, facts, and existing research that might apply to your situation. Secondary research is a cost-effective way to throw a wide net and look at history, mythology, psychology, literature, art and current affairs that might be associated with a specific topic, brand, or product category. While it’s unlikely you’ll find your complete answer, this research can help you develop hypotheses that you can then test in primary research. Having “cues” culled from secondary research can be helpful because consumers find it difficult to articulate deeply-held beliefs and values, and cues may help them identify those values.
- Conduct qualitative research with individuals. What an individual can or will tell you about their personal values in a confidential setting may be different than what they are willing or able to reveal in a group setting. Conducting personal interviews at some point in the process may deliver an important perspective you would have otherwise missed. Notably, it may work best to conduct these interview face to face in some situations, or online in a different situation, or by telephone, or a combination.
- Conduct qualitative research with groups. Individuals may not be in touch with or able to talk about their deeply-held values and how to connect to motivate their behavior. Using a group discussion, where individuals can react to what others say, may be more effective for identifying motivational values. As in one-on-ones, group interviews might be conducted in person and/or on different platforms.
It is important to keep in mind that uncovering motivations requires a flexible and creative approach to research, often using a combination of different techniques. The research design will always be customized to the specific project needs for each product, brand, and category.
While it can be challenging to understand consumer values and beliefs and connect them to motivations for behavior, the end-result can be very powerful for marketers. Once you’ve been able to tap into those values, marketing messages and programs can motivate many different behaviors in many different marketing situations. Here are some examples of how you can leverage your motivation research findings:
- New Product Development. Understanding what motivates your buyers can give you critical insight to evaluate your product portfolio. Are there any gaps that you should fill? Or do you have products that are overlapping, competing among themselves for the same motivational segment? Also, it may be a smart strategy to look to developing or improving products so that they connect more deeply with customer values.
- Employee Training. Once you understand what motivates your customers’ behaviors, how can your staff tap into those motivations, to better serve or reinforce the values that drive them? When your staff understands their customers, they can deliver a more customized customer experience. Experience suggests that this understanding both elevates their capabilities but also motivates the employees as they feel more empowered. It also sends a great signal that your organization values a customer-centric approach.
- Communications Development. In addition to crafting motivational messages, understanding your customers’ values can help you develop compelling language and visuals that can quickly evoke those values. Additionally, if your goal is communications development, you can design the methods so that motivating “sights and sounds” of the category can be one of the deliverables.
- Competitive Advantage. Understanding your customer’s deep-seated values and motivations allow you to look at your competitors through that lens to identify competitive differentiation and advantage. Identifying gaps between competitors and customer values can create opportunities that you can leverage in developing a competitive strategy.
The power of understanding your customers’ values and connecting those values to motivate behavior is marketing gold. When consumers believe that your product or service reinforces their values, they are more loyal, purchase more, and are more likely to recommend you to others. Because consumers’ deeply held values are not likely to change quickly, connecting with those values creates a very stable basis for consumer preference and choice. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort!