Courtney Eckerle

Five Questions to Ask to Understand Customer Motivation

September 21st, 2017

This article was partially informed by The MECLABS Guide for Optimizing Your Webpages and Better Serving Your Customers. For more information, you may download the full, free guide here.

Motivation is a powerful tool in any marketer’s belt. If used correctly, it can maximize the effectiveness of your marketing message and move customers toward conversion.

After all, motivation is the key reason why any of us do anything — it’s just a matter of identifying what your customer’s motivations are and helping them understand how your product or service fits into that.

Question #1. Where is your customer in the thought sequence?

Looking at the MECLABS Institute (our parent company) Conversion Heuristic, you can see motivation (m) placed right at the beginning. However, as you can see by the number “4” placed in front of it, not all these elements hold equal weight.

Motivation is the single most important factor when it comes to affecting conversion. You can’t change something as intrinsic to your customers as motivation. You can, however, gain an understanding of it.

By learning where your customer is in this thought sequence and mapping out the other elements (value, incentive, friction and anxiety), you can craft your marketing message in such a way that it is optimized to speak to all four, leading to conversion.

Question #2. Where is the traffic coming from?

One way to maximize your conversion efforts is to leverage data to identify and understand the level of motivation of your prospects. By asking and finding the answer to questions like this in the data, you can understand how motivated your customers are to purchase.

If traffic is coming from a similar or related source, those customers are probably highly motivated. If it’s coming from a Google images search … they’re probably not very motivated, and you need to assess why that is happening.

Metrics that often indicate amount of motivation are:

Conversion Rates: If conversion rates are high in general, it indicates a high degree of motivation. Also, if conversion rates are minimally impacted by significant changes, it would indicate a high amount of motivation.

Clickthrough Rates: Like the conversion rate, a high clickthrough rate can also indicate high motivation. However, excessive clicks can also indicate confusion. Consider if your customers are really finding what they’re looking for.

Average Order Value: Beyond conversion and clicks, a higher average order value often indicates a high degree of motivation. Customers are finding what they want in excess.

Price Elasticity: If conversion rates are minimally impacted when price is raised, it also indicates a high amount of motivation. If small price fluctuations don’t drastically affect conversion rates, the customers are motivated by something aside from price.

Channel Exposure: If the source of your traffic indicates awareness of previous marketing exposure/brand awareness, it often indicates a high amount of motivation.

Question #3. What conclusions do your prospects need to make before buying?

Knowing what conclusions your prospects need to come to before conversion can help you answer a lot of questions and ease friction, which frees up their motivations.

For example, in a recent case study with Willow Creek, an organization with 25 years’ experience in running The Global Leadership Summit, the marketing team was working off of motivations using what they “thought” they knew about attendees. When they began testing, however, they realized that their customers could still surprise them.

As part of the effort, John Jordan, Executive Director of Digital Marketing for The Global Leadership Summit, and his team launched a geo-targeted email test based on the registration addresses of previous event alumni. The control subject line was general event messaging with a call-to-action of “Register now for a location near you.”

In the test’s treatment, the messaging was, “This year, the closest host site to you appears to be: host site name, city, state” and the call-to-action was, “Reserve your seat here now.”

The more geographically localized treatment resulted in an additional 87 registrations than the general control messaging.

There was a similar test on the event landing page, but it found a different conclusion through testing. The team thought that by localizing landing page content, they would be more relevant and specific to potential attendees and hence see more registrations.

“We have more than 600 different host sites. Rather than emphasizing on the landing page the experience here in Chicago where the event is broadcast from, we were emphasizing the local experience from many of these different host sites and asking the user to self-select their location first,” Jordan said.

The team assumed they would see a massive lift in registrations, he added, because “we were doing all this work to customize the content based on their local experience. We saw a 32% increase in clickthrough rate, which was great that we throttled the quantity of traffic, but we saw no difference in conversion rate. That really surprised me.”

These tests show not only the importance of understanding motivation (in this case, geography), but understanding where different platforms could affect what that motivation is.

Overall, by testing for motivation and value proposition with event landing page and email marketing, the team was able to increase email-driven event registrations by 66%.

Question #4. What are their pain points?

This is a question you should ask yourself to understand what is driving a customer’s motivations. Pain points are a powerful motivator, but no matter what it is, you need to understand the nature of your customer’s motivations.

A few metrics that often indicate the nature of motivation are:

Clickthrough Tracking (next-page reports): Knowing which page the customers clicked to can indicate which content is most in-line with their motivation.

Channel Source: Likewise, knowing the page(s) that customers are coming from can often indicate what is motivating them. Piecing together the path they took can help you stay one step ahead by providing the answer they’re looking for, fueling motivation.

Time-on-Page: Often, noticing how long a visitor spends on a page can provide insights into what is motivating them in particular. But understand that a high time-on-page can also indicate confusion.

Event Reports: Setting up tracking on particular actions (like watching a video) enables you to understand the nature of customers’ motivations by observing what they did (or did not do) on the page.

Return Frequency Percentage: Knowing how many times a visitor has come to a particular page (possibly even before converting) is helpful in understanding the nature of their motivation.

Question #5. What do they value?

Understand that every action a customer takes in response to a given marketing message is a window into two key aspects of their motivation:

  • Amount (how much are they motivated)
  • Nature (what is powering their motivations)

Once you understand that, then this question (What do they value?) leads you from motivation to the next phase of the Conversion Heuristic — value proposition.

With a customer’s motivation(s) in hand, you can begin to form a value proposition that translates into, “We understand what you need, here’s why we’re the best option.”

The question forces you to pull out what customers value in their motivations, which inevitably transitions into how you’re the one, out of all your competitors, to provide it to them.

If motivation is what gets a prospect into the funnel, the value proposition process is what begins to guide them through. With a solid motivational base, you can begin to work your way through the heuristic to a full conversion funnel.

You might also like…          

Email Marketing: Five ideas to increase your email’s perceived value

Marketing Optimization: 4 steps to discovering your value proposition and boosting conversions

Why is Value Proposition So Important? [Media Center video]

Learn more about customer motivation and the MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic here


Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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