Tapping Into The Buyer’s Brain With Psychology-Driven Marketing

How do you increase sales? Know your audience. Columnist Jordan Kasteler explores 10 marketing strategies that will help you understand what makes buyers tick.

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Ever read a website and think, “How do they do it? How do they know exactly what I’m thinking?”

It’s jarring, yet also alluring. You don’t expect the person behind the computer screen to know what you want. When they do, you’re hooked.

The best marketers use psychology to tap into a buyer’s brain. It’s an art and a science. Here are 10 of the best and most utilized psychology-driven strategies in marketing.

1. First Impressions

As humans, we’ve evolved a great deal from our hunter and gatherer days. Still, our primal brain dominates our thought patterns. Love ’em or hate ’em, first impressions are here to stay.

When a visitor sees any of your marketing, she’s immediately thinking, “Is this a friend or an enemy?” She’s wondering whether yours is a company she can trust, if you truly understand her needs, and if it’s worth her time to keep reading your marketing message.

Your headlines, opening lines, imagery and first price point all have a direct impact on these snap judgments. They’re known as anchors. The first piece of information your audience receives is what they’ll use to decide whether you’re a friend or not.

2. Limited Supplies/Time

Flip on QVC and you’ll see a countdown of how many items were sold and how many remain available. You want to buy your items before they run out because they’re in limited supply.

Today’s millennials call this “FOMO,” or the “fear of missing out.” It’s a fear triggered in all generations because psychologically, we respond better and faster under pressure. With limited supplies, you need to make a snap judgment to buy. Your fear of missing out on the product tends to slant the purchase decision in favor of buying instead of missing an opportunity.

This is known as scarcity. Any time there’s a limited product, it puts pressure on the consumer to decide quickly. The limitation can be scarce supply or scarce time to make the decision. In either case, scarcity sells.

3. Giving Back

One of my favorite parts about going to Costco is enjoying the free samples while I roam the aisles. I also love snagging my copy of a free e-book on websites. All these freebies aren’t for nothing — they’re conjuring up the psychological trigger of reciprocity.

Dr. Robert Cialdini cited a simple example of this in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” He shares how one waiter increased his tips by 3% when offering patrons a mint after dinner. When he offered two mints, tips went up 14%. When he left a mint, then returned to give the other person at the table a mint, tips went up 23%.

When patrons receive an unexpected gift from someone, they feel special. Not only do they want to return the favor, but they want to give back to someone who went out of their way to give to them. They want to reciprocate kind gestures.

When you give back in your marketing or during the sales process, you incite this desire. This makes it easier for your buyer to say yes to the sale.

4. Good Deeds

Heard of Tom’s? This company donates a product for each product sold. It’s a grand gesture that’s caused Tom’s to become a household name. It’s called “cause marketing.”

This psychological trigger “refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit,” according to Wikipedia. It taps into a person’s desire to give back without asking for a donation. It allows buyers to feel good about their purchase while at the same time swaying them away from the competition.

5. Mob Mentality

Over 70% of mobile consumers say they use product reviews to help make their purchase, according to Power Reviews.

Your buyer doesn’t trust your marketing as much as she trusts the reviews of her peers. Instead of trusting someone whose motivation is to sell, she trusts someone who shares her hands-on experience with a product, with nothing to gain.

Showing reviews on your website and soliciting feedback from customers lets your buyers see the product through a different lens.

6. The Trust Game

Your buyer knows she has a problem. She’s just not sure how to fix it. It’s up to you, the marketer, to show her that you understand her problem and that you have the solution. This requires getting to know your customers’ unspoken desires — the ones even they don’t know they have.

This is often referred to as the hurt and rescue principal.

Show your consumers that you understand the hurt they’re experiencing. Build trust that you “get them.” When you do, hit them with the tool you’re going to use to rescue them from this hurt — the product you’re selling. Remember, it’s your job to know what your buyer needs — not theirs.

7. Hand Holding

How do you get repeat business? You hold your buyer’s hand to the finish line over and over again.

Hand holding is a trick that works well for repeat buyers. Instead of making your buyer go through the same hoops with each purchase, ease the burden and create a system that simplifies the process.

This could be a subscription program where the buyer automatically gets a repeat shipment. Or it could be a membership so that when buyers need a refill, they can quickly log in and push a single button to get it shipped.

8. Start High, Get Low

People don’t buy based on price. They buy based on emotional need. The problem with that is, most buyers don’t know what they need to be happy. It’s your job to guide them to a purchase decision by taking price out of the equation.

One way to do this is to add an out-of-this-world priced item on your site that you know most buyers won’t opt for.

Here’s an example. If you’re selling a washing machine, chances are you have a basic model for $299 and a nicer model for $599. The comparison in price alone is a shock, but if you add a higher-priced model for $699, the decision suddenly becomes less price-focused. Now, the buyer is considering the differences a little more closely so he or she can make the best decision.

9. Play The Part

People want to live up to other’s expectations. As a marketer, position your buyer to where they want to be instead of where they are. This is called altercasting.

A good example of this is Kiva.org. This website encourages people to donate to entrepreneurs in third-world countries. Its slogan is, “Empower people around the world with a $25 loan.” This casts the buyer in the role of a good Samaritan as an investor for an ultra-reasonable price point of $25.

There are two ways to use this:

  1. Tap into a new or existing role by making it more prominent through your marketing.
  2. Force your buyer into another role using subtle triggers in your messaging.

Use this psychological tip with caution. Over-glorification of something simple and straightforward can look disingenuous instead of powerful.

10. Segregation

Segregation is a negative term, yet when done right it can be powerful in marketing.

Convince your target buyer you understand her needs by segregating her into a specific group of people. There are a few ways of doing this:

  • Make her feel like she’s either in or she’s out. There’s no in between with your company.
  • Create doubt by challenging past beliefs and then giving an answer. For example, “Your mechanic gives you a free car wash every time, doesn’t he?”


Getting familiar with your audience and using one of these psychological drivers to reach your buyers will boost sales. Have you ever used these in your marketing?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Jordan Kasteler
Jordan Kasteler is the SEO Director of Hennessey Consulting. His work experience ranges from co-founding BlueGlass Interactive, in-house SEO at Overstock.com, marketing strategy at PETA, and agency-level SEO & marketing. Jordan is also an international conference speaker, columnist, and book author of A to Z: Social Media Marketing.

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