Different types of people respond to different types of marketing in different ways. This is a truth of marketing. It shall always be.
What works for Joe, may not work for Bill.
That’s why conversion optimization must be adaptable. That’s why conversion optimizers must be smart. That’s why any articles on the subject must be balanced and nuanced.
And, that’s also why I don’t have the time of day for articles pretending to bestow “best practices that always work all of the time in all circumstances and will increase your conversion rate by 5,801% by tomorrow morning!”
(Image source) (Use of apostrophe evidently not required.)
Give me a break.
That’s also why I want to introduce the humanistic buyer.
Why? Because the humanistic buyer is one of the four major buyer modalities. The humanistic buyer looks at the world in a different way, and you need to be aware of the various kinds of customers who are considering your products and spending time on your website.
Let’s talk about different types of buyers.
This article is a sequel to my article about the spontaneous buyer.
In that article, I traced out the four types of buyers. To sound smart, or to sound like an Eisenberg fan, you can call these four types of buyers the “Eisenberg Buyer Modalities.”
Here’s a quick review:
The four main types of buyers are organized according to two axes. (Note: Axes is the plural form of axis.) The speed axis identifies whether the buyer reaches a purchase decision quickly or slowly. The emotion axis defines the power of emotion vs. logic in the purchase decision.
Most buyers are within one quadrant.
Getting pegged into a single quadrant for eternity isn’t totally fair. Buyers can move in and out of quadrants, depending on their mood, the product and their season of life.
Heck, even the time of day might have something to do with it. Even if I tend to be a methodical buyer in general, I will not exemplify typical methodical buyer behavior if I want coffee at 7 a.m. on my way to work.
In fact, I may exemplify such a strong competitive streak that I "accidentally" cut you off while swerving into the Starbucks drive-thru.
A buyer may be in the competitive quadrant if the purchase decision has to do with food. If the purchase, however, is a car, then such a buyer may be extremely methodical. It all just depends.
Categorizing buyers by quadrant has both benefits and risks. The benefit is that it gives you a useful tool whereby to understand users, and shape a website accordingly. The risk is that you depend too heavily upon a quadrant-based modality, and fail to understand the shifting dynamics of users and intentions.
What we must understand is that different buyers have different approaches to buying, and those differences should influence our conversion strategy and marketing approach.
It’s all about motivation.
I need to explain something very important regarding these types of buyers. When we discuss types of buyers, we need to understand that their characteristics affect their motivation.
"Motivation" is the operative word here. These characteristics describe not just features of such buyers, but it describes their motivation.
Another way to structure the conversation is by asking the question what motivates these buyers?
Human motivation is at the core of customer psychology. Motivation refers to the internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy.
- Why does a person do something?
- Why do they cease to do something?
- Why do they repeatedly do something?
- Why do they pursue a certain behavior?
These are all questions of motivation.
Although I’m discussing characteristics, I want you to understand that we’re not merely looking at items in a museum. We’re examining the dynamic functionality of human motivation and behavior.
Characteristics of Humanistic Buyers
Let’s talk about the humanistic buyer now. What are the characteristics of the humanistic buyer?
To put it succinctly, humanistic buyers are value-driven. They make buying decisions that purport to further their view of social good.
Yes, they do read labels, but there’s more to it.
There are fewer humanistic buyers than any other modality.
Even though their numbers are small, they are often some of the most passionate buyers. Why?
- First, because they both think deeply and feel deeply about their purchase. If you plot their position on the quadrant, you realize that they have high emotional involvement in a purchase. That feature alone causes them to feel strongly.
- Secondly, they are deliberate in their decision-making. It takes them a long time to come to a decision. The lingering and thorough process of making a decision means that they will hold their decision with more firmness and tenacity than someone whom, for example, made a decision in a split second,
Humanistic buyers as a group tend to be smaller, but there are characteristics of humanistic buyers in virtually every other buying modality. A competitive buyer, for example, may have the marks of a humanist buyer, even though her overall categorization tends competitive. A spontaneous buyer, too, can have features of the humanistic.
Takeaway: Even though there are fewer humanistic buyers, pay attention to them. Their numbers are few, but their passions are strong.
They are driven by values.
The most notable characteristic of a humanistic buyer is her focus on values. A humanistic buyer cares about what a company stands for, believes in, promotes, supports and engages in.
To the humanistic buyer, it matters.
This Portlandia clip nails it.
Values are the overriding consideration of a humanistic buyer. Yes, quality matters, but this consideration is equal to the need for shared values of the company.
Takeaway: If you have strong company values, be bold about declaring them. If you don’t have particular values, don’t try to pretend that you do.
They get involved.
Humanistic buyers are more likely to have an active part in the company’s activities. For example, if the business calls upon their customer base to participate in some cause, the humanistic buyer feels an emotional longing to be a part of that.
That’s why a company like Starbucks, known for its environmental care, can ask their customers to use a tumbler instead of a disposable cup.
Toms, a shoe and apparel company, gives shoes to people around the world who do not have shoes.
Their website features a popup with this message:
A company like Toms is likely to gain the buy-in of motivated humanistic buyers who share their desire to help others, improve life and give back.
If you click the “I agree,” button above, Toms uses the opportunity to invite you to join its mailing list.
You’re probably familiar with the use of popups in other contexts. Popups often promote the now, the free of an offer, which may drive up engagement from spontaneous buyers. This popup, however, is clearly intended to capture the attention and engagement of a humanistic buyer.
Takeaway: If you connect with your target audience on values, then feel free to ask for reciprocal giving from your customers.
They shop local.
Many humanistic buyers prefer to shop local, recognizing the positive impact that can have on local industry, the local economy, and the environment in general.
Takeaway: If your site has a local dimension, promote it. You can seldom go wrong with pushing a local message. Just don’t get all provincial and territorial.
They value creativity.
Much of the humanistic modality focuses on the freedom of emotion and spirit. This kind of attitude is carried along by creativity. Humanistic buyers have a love for the creative, and a desire to buy and own products that are unique.
If the creative project is backed by a story, an artist or a cause, even better.
This online store is called "Project Have Hope." The purpose of the store is to sell products produced by women of the Acholi, Ugandans who are providing a means to support themselves and feed their families.
Though an e-commerce site, it is focused on creative projects and a passion for justice.
Takeaway: Keep this bent toward creativity in mind when designing your website. Your site should look good, plain and simple. Beyond that, push your products that have creative value and unique appeal.
They are loyal.
When humanistic buyers find a company that matches what they are passionate about, they tend to latch on. It’s all about loyalty.
Takeaway: Companies that possess values can better engage humanistic buyers through the use of loyalty programs.
They focus on a few aspects of humanistic motivation.
The term “humanistic” is, by its very definition, quite broad. A humanistic buyer, though driven by values, cannot be driven by the whole realm of human feeling and motivation.
Thus, some companies position their humanistic appeal around a few central tenets of humanistic identification. I’ll cite three examples of common humanistic motivation that inspire humanistic buyers:
1. Care for the environment.
The environment is a popular source of humanistic motivation, and with good reason. Caring for the environment is an aspect of behavior that is essential to human well-being and longevity. Caring for the environment is deeply embedded into many business practices, not just as a marketing gimmick but as a legitimate source of sustainability.
Here’s Starbucks, making their statement on environmental protection:
Climate change is one of the most significant areas of corporate involvement. Many businesses make a major push for the protection of the climate, disclosing carbon emissions, building LEED-certified buildings, and limiting waste and energy consumption.
Environmental care comes across in many ways. Here’s Chiquita’s emphasis on environmental care:
2. Care for human rights.
The breadth of human rights is a wide one. It can include issues like fair trade, peace, marriage, GMO, rBGH, vaccines, clean water, AIDS, malaria, slavery, race, and on and on.
People who care deeply about a topic like, say, GMO labeling, will make a decision about which ice cream to buy, based on their beliefs on the topic.
That’s part of the reason Ben & Jerry’s ice cream supports GMO labeling, among other things.
3. Care for animals.
Many companies do things that affect animal life. They realize that many customers are sensitive to things that could negatively impact animal life. That’s why a food company like Nestle places this message prominently in their public relations messaging:
Johnson & Johnson, too, emphasizes their protection of animals.
A company can’t address all the possible motivations for a humanistic buyer, so the usually pick a few.
Toms, for example, is focused on giving shoes, helping with eye care, improving access to water, and improving safe birth conditions.
An organization like a bank (BNY Mellon) is working with an audience that, although humanistic, doesn’t have the same specific interest. Thus, BNY Mellon focuses on market integrity, their personnel, and human rights on a broad scale. The motivating humanistic elements are still there, whereas the specifics are different.
ShopPaul, a faith-focused e-commerce site, takes a different approach. Recognizing the values-driven nature of their target audience, they allow buyers to choose a charity for donation.
Takeaway: As a business, you can’t promise to solve all the needs of the world, nor should you even try. Values-driven buyers in the humanistic modality only need to find the one issue that resonates with them. Few other things matter. Get excited about one thing, not everything. You’ll find your tribe.
Appealing to the Humanistic Buyer
Of all the buyer modalities, appealing to the humanistic buyer is the toughest.
Why? Because you can’t fake it.
Humanistic buyers can smell BS. They know when a business truly believes in certain values, or if they’re faking it. There’s a difference between “let's-support-climate-change-because-everyone-else-is-doing-it” and truly believing in a cause and carrying it forward.
In essence, it’s more than just supporting causes and being bold about beliefs. It’s about a shared motivation and a consonance of values.
It’s hard to put a price on that.