The Triggering Event

Small business owners are often surprised when they learn that advertising alone, doesn’t make people buy things. It doesn’t cause people to come into their store or call them on the phone. The only thing that advertising does is create awareness. Advertising informs. It tells a story.

People make a decision to buy a product or a service after they have a triggering event. The triggering event is something that happens in the consumer’s life that changes their status quo. The triggering event triggers the need or the desire for a product or service. The advertising informs the consumers about their options.

Helping your advertisers understand and identify the triggering events that the customers experience that put them in the market for your advertiser’s products will help you be perceived as marketing consultant instead of just and advertising sales person.

The triggering event is the single most important aspect of the consumer buying process. For example, a plumber could advertise heavy discounts all day long, but most people won’t respond regardless of the offer because they don’t have a leaking pipe or a plumbing project on the horizon. They simply don’t have the need or the desire no matter how much the plumber discounts.

Another example could be a body shop that repairs cars after a collision. It doesn’t matter how much the body shop advertises or what kind of a discount or special they offer, if the consumer doesn’t have any damage to their car, they simply won’t respond.

This is a good example why, in most cases, offering a discount or a special price does nothing to further your efforts to establish yourself on the Ladder of Importance in the consumer’s mind. You know from your audience data that X number of people heard the commercial X number of times, but because there is no need or desire, the consumer says no to the offer. And since the offer is time sensitive and discount based, the brain quickly forgets the message and moves on to other tasks.

A far better way to advertise would be to develop a message that resonates for the long term. Instead of the plumber offering a discount, perhaps they should differentiate themselves from the other plumbers with a message like “Next time you need a plumber, call Bob the Plumber. We don’t charge extra for nights and weekends.” Some might ask how Bob the Plumber can afford not to charge extra on nights and weekends. With that kind of a positioning statement, Bob the Plumber could charge a little bit more all the time.

The mother of all triggering events is a couple getting married. Not only does the couple spend money but so do the parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends on both sides of the family. This new couple needs everything to start a household.

Starting a family is a triggering event. It triggers the need for medical services, perhaps a new home or a remodeling project, baby clothes, baby furniture, car seat, insurance, day care, toys and the list goes on and on.

A kid growing up is a triggering event to buy new clothes that fit. A change in season may trigger the need for warmer clothes. Getting tired of the lime green paint in the kitchen is a triggering event to repaint with a new color. Renewal time is a triggering event for insurance, especially if the premiums go up.

Virtually every purchase decision is preceded by some form of a triggering event. Without the triggering event, there is little need or desire for the product, regardless of the offer. With the exception of businesses that experience high frequency purchasing, like food, fuel and other consumables, having a sale is not a triggering event for most small business owners. It is very likely that offering a discount only gives away your hard earned profit margin to someone who was probably already going to shop with you any way.

Become a student of the triggering event. Help your customers identify them and how often they occur in that category. This will be very helpful in helping you and your advertiser establish some reasonable expectations for the advertising.

Understanding how the triggering event affects the consumer is also the first step in crafting emotionally engaging words that help your customer rise to the top of the Ladder of Importance within their category.

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