top of page

How the Decision-Making Process Affects Marketing

Have you ever heard of the following oversimplification of marketing:

“Describe the client’s problem and show them how you solve it.”

In practice, most small business owners would say that there is so much more to attracting clients than that. If it were really that simple, they would bring in a steady stream of clients with minimal effort. Since it is an oversimplification and not a myth, however, there is something to it.

Marketing is largely about showing people how you can solve a problem or improve their circumstances.

To be effective, marketing has to perform that process many times, in several ways, to address different problems, all at various phases of a potential client’s journey.

Meet People Where They Are in Their Decision Process

husband and wife browsing in light store

I help my clients distill the people who make up their target audience into one or a few personas. The persona is a fictional representation of the person whose problem your product or service will solve.

Your marketing strategy should be designed to help your persona make decisions at several points along their journey. I avoid calling it a “buyer” journey, because not every decision on the journey is about buying, nor is every marketing action. I use the following steps in a Persona Journey:

  1. Awareness of need/desire

  2. Consideration of options

  3. Final decision making

  4. Use of final decision

  5. Formation of opinions about decision

You’ll notice that your persona is continuing on their journey even after they’ve made a decision. Sometimes, their final decision is not to make a purchase or sign a contract for your service, and sometimes they do buy but do not use the product or service. We continue following the persona on their journey past the point of purchasing or not purchasing for a few reasons. First, it may provide insight into how to market to the same person in the future, whether or not they became a customer this time. Second, it provides valuable information about marketing to others who fit your persona profile. Finally, it allows you to fine tune and optimize your marketing strategy.

Decisions Do Not Happen in a Straight Line

What makes good marketing practices more complex than our original oversimplification is that we need to determine the persona’s problem and show how your service solves it at every phase of their journey. 

It gets even more complex when we consider the following:

  • Certain phases of a persona journey are more important for one industry or type of business than another.

  • Massage therapists, business coaches, and interior designers need to put a lot of work into the Awareness/Need phase of marketing.

  • Insurance companies and dentists can mostly skip Awareness to focus on Consideration and Final Decision.

  • Course creators and subscription services need a strategy for all phases, but it’s vital to hone in on the Use and Opinion phases to boost their future Awareness success.

  • Businesses need to apply specific marketing activities to each step in the journey.

  • Social media ads tend to generate Awareness for people in the target demographic who might not yet be aware of a need.

  • Google ads capture people in the Consideration phase when they have awareness-based terms to search.

  • Blog articles, email campaigns, and calls to action impact the Decision phase.

  • Follow up emails, service plans, and exclusive features keep the purchase top of mind for the Use phase, and they influence Opinions.

  • The journey is not linear for most potential clients.

  • Awareness and Consideration may generate interest, but not everyone is motivated to pursue that interest.

  • The Consideration phase might reduce the feeling of need, or it might create Awareness of a different need altogether, while a Decision might spark a whole new Awareness.

  • Unrelated expenses and life circumstances can cancel or delay a Decision, affect Use of the decision, and impact Opinions.

We always need to remember that our persona is a high level portrayal of the ideal client as it relates to your business. The real people involved have a lot more going on! But, if you’ve done your persona work properly, you should be able to take some of that into consideration, especially when crafting your messaging.

Facilitate Decisions in Favor of Your Business

No matter how simple or complex we make it, the end goal of marketing is for someone who fits your persona to make a decision in favor of your business. We need to look at how people make decisions in order to be most effective at showing someone how you can solve their problem. 

man purchasing with credit card on phone

The psychology of making decisions whittles down to another oversimplification, which is that every decision is made to either gain pleasure or avoid/relieve pain. While all kinds of logical and cognitive processes are at play, decisions are ultimately made for these two emotional reasons.

Our overly simple marketing statement is pain-based (to solve a problem) partly because the urge to avoid or relieve pain is stronger than the urge to gain pleasure. For instance, you would not stop to pick up a $100 bill while being chased by a tiger. It’s not completely straightforward, though. We factor short-term and long-term results into our decisions as well. An example of this would be accepting the pain of sore muscles for the long-term pleasure of looking and feeling physically fit. Of course we’ve all made decisions for short-term results that panned out in a less than ideal manner over the long-term.

When it comes to the financial decision of choosing to work with a service provider, there has to be a good balance of pain avoidance and pleasure receipt. The very act of spending money causes pain to most people, so that needs to be offset by either a gain or the avoidance of worse pain. There might also be some emotional pain at stake due to the trust clients must place in you. Service providers will always learn something that their clients would not share with just anyone. The pain that your service relieves or prevents - or the pleasure it provides - needs to be greater than the pain of revealing that information.

Final Decisions are Rarely Final

Many business owners fall into the mistaken belief that if the potential client makes no decision at all, their marketing efforts have failed. This is not true! What is really happening is that the individual is not yet motivated enough by pain or pleasure to make that decision. Their circumstances may change, and they can enter right back into the journey at a point where you are still ready to help them decide. The ultimate goal of marketing is to be visible and compelling to the right people at the right time in their journey. 

As a business owner, it’s important to keep in mind that you are making decisions also. And yes… you are making them based on those same factors of pain and pleasure. You have already made - and will make many more - decisions about your marketing strategy based on short-term and long-term pain or pleasure. 

My advice is to try to think big picture and long-term as often as possible. Remember the whole journey in light of how people make decisions to consider how your entire strategy works together.

Each piece is part of a whole plan, rather than a standalone marketing activity. Patience and consistency are key to integrating all the phases of the journey into an overall strategy that produces long-term gains.

If you need support in sticking to the long-term plan for your marketing activity, I’d love to have a conversation with you! Get in touch to book your discovery call today.


bottom of page