Remember Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs? Maslow described “deficiencies” that cause an individual discomfort when her needs are not being met.
In other words, deprivation causes some degree of pain.
Making that pain stop is the motivation for nearly all purchasing decisions. People buy to lessen the physical or emotional pain; pain of loss, of disappointment, of longing.
The decision to purchase isn’t instant. People naturally hope the pain is temporary. They will continue to do things as they’ve always done them, at least at first, because change is painful, too. The second level of Maslow’s pyramid is Safety Needs, which include orderliness and predictability.
But when the growing pain of postponing action becomes greater than the pain of change, people will make a purchase decision.
Usually an event brings the new pain to greater focus and finally prompts the sufferer to act. We call this event a trigger.
Triggers occur at every stage of pain.
At each stage some prospective customers actively seek relief. At deeper stages, the triggers become both more predictable and more frequent. And, regardless of the business you’re in, there are only four stages of pain your customer can feel.
Stage 1: No Interest, No Need. – The vast majority of the public has no interest in what you sell. (A good reminder that no message can possibly reach “everyone.”)
Stage 2: Initial Awareness. – At this stage, your message should help early stage buyers to understand you can help them, even if they don’t have the vocabulary to ask the critical questions.
Stage 3: Sorting Options. – Stage three shoppers are dealing with constant pain, and considering the perceived value of options to make the pain stop hurting. At stage 3, your customer will listen carefully to testimonials of people who have eliminated her exact problem.
Stage 4: Ready to Purchase a Solution. – Stage four shoppers are no longer willing to suffer. They will make a purchase. They’ll do it within hours.
These four stages can be used to describe every retailer, every not-for-profit, every service business.
Let’s look at a few.
The Stages of Pain for Plumbing.
Stage 1: “Wash your hands.”
Stage 2: “Be sure to turn the knob tightly. It tends to drip.”
Stage 3: “I could buy the washer kit at Wal-Mart. I hope I don’t have to replace the whole faucet. Do I have any friends who know anything about plumbing? I wonder what a plumber will charge?”
Stage 4: “You grab the Yellow Pages. I’ll get the mop.”
The Stages of Pain for Accounting.
Stage 1: “Put it in the payables pile. I’ll get to it.”
Stage 2: “I really need to get organized.”
Stage 3: “Why can’t I get the checkbook to balance?”
Stage 4: “The IRS wants me to bring my records.”