The holidays are a prime time for businesses of all sizes to drive sales, and a thorough strategy requires analyzing what's working to convert customers and grow your business. Having insight on why people spend their hard-earned dollars on things is the key to setting up your marketing and sales strategies to win.

"The most successful brands and businesses use marketing triggers to help elicit certain buying behaviors," says Jennifer Kem, a Strategic Brand Advisor, "It's what makes some brands stand out and have massive loyalty, and others struggle to be seen as a leader in the marketplace."

Kem says buying decisions are as emotional as they are logical: equal parts heart and head. "People's heads make decisions that the heart justifies," she says. "And when you know what these heart triggers are, you're in a great position to offer something their head will say yes to."

To help entrepreneurs and other business owners tap into these emotional purchase triggers, Kem shared the top 5 reasons people buy some brands over others, and how to leverage those triggers to "build a brand that gets seen, heard and paid for more."

1. To Belong or Be Relevant

So many of our purchase decisions are driven by perception, Kem says. We think about how our purchases, items and display of those items will be perceived by others and what they say about us. This trigger is largely un-impacted by economic downturns, she says, as that perception becomes even more important as our financial situation changes. 

She offers Louis Vuitton as an example of this resilience, pointing toward their growth even during down economics. "People want to have totems to show they are still doing OK, even if that isn't completely true."

"Brands that press this button by showcasing how the thing gives them social status in the networks they want to be in, are more successful at getting people to purchase," Kem says.

2. To Be Right or Not Be Wrong

Some purchases are driven by pride, too. We want to be able to share positive recommendations with our peers that display our own wisdom in having made that choice in the fist place. 

Kem suggests that marketers and advertisers show the alternative or stakes of making the wrong product choice, helping "anoint the customer as right every time they invest in their brand." In making their product a clear choice in avoiding an undesired outcome, marketers can convert their consumers to vocal advocates who benefit as much personally from their recommendations and purchases as the brand does. 

3. To Fulfill One of the Four Basic Needs

"The Four Basic Needs are defined as Health, Wealth, Relationships and Self, Spirituality or Happiness," Kem says. These are the four states that humans are programmed in pursuit of, and these needs drive many of our decisions.

"Anything that teaches or provides an upside to one of these 4 areas of our life, specifically targeting one of the angles, will have an advantage over others who just speak to benefits of any particular product or service," Kem says.

Kem gave the example of a fitness expert leading with the health-related promise to "drop 10 pounds after the holidays."  Once the client is intrigued, Kem says, that expert can speak to the ancillary benefits of working with them, tied to other deeper needs:

  • Wealth: "Feel more energetic in leading your team and business." 
  • Relationships: "Feel confident and ready to date again."
  • Spirituality/Happiness: "Love the skin you're in everyday!" 

4. To Have Security

"Whomever invented insurance is one of the most brilliant marketers of all time," Kem says, "Because people want to prevent loss." 

We've all found ourselves buying into the up-sell for a 2-year service warranty on a device, she points out. We know we likely won't need it, but we want the security of knowing that in the off chance that something does happen to our new product, we're covered. 

"Marketers who position their products and services as supplementary offsets to loss are in great position to get the wallet share of consumers,' Kem says.

5. For Memories and Loyalty

"Brands that showcase that other people trust them, and have trusted them for years, are likely to get chosen to purchase," Kem says, because it gives us a sense of easy confidence in our choice. "Anything that has been proven to work helps us prevent decision fatigue, allowing us to default to that choice rather than take the time to research others."

Kem says this works particularly well for marketers targeting Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, speaking to their "wisdom" and "knowing." Our ego drives us to choose loyalty vs. risking what's new and not proven, she says.