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Ramona Sukhraj

By Ramona Sukhraj

Feb 9, 2023


Content Marketing
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Content Marketing

4 Ways Marketing Can Help Buyers 'Sell' Themselves

Ramona Sukhraj

By Ramona Sukhraj

Feb 9, 2023

4 Ways Marketing Can Help Buyers 'Sell' Themselves

Why do we do the things we do?

At a glance, this seems like a big, philosophical question only the sages should ponder, but it’s actually one marketers and sales professionals should be thinking about on the regular.

Marketing is as much about psychology as it is design, copy, or data. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about it.

Why do humans behave the way they do? Why do they make certain choices and decisions? Why do they buy what they buy?

All of these come back to the greater question of understanding consumer behavior and the answers may really depend on the person.

Decision making is extremely personal and the best decisions — the ones that tend to deliver the best results and minimize regret — are not forced; they’re made naturally by those actually affected by them. 

In other words, no good decision is forced. The same goes for purchase decisions. 

As modern marketers, salespeople, or business professionals, we can’t force our sales pitches on our buyers and expect them to just give in. What we can do is guide buyers through a journey of “self-discovery” to help them make the best decision for themselves. 

I don’t mean a dramatic eat-pray-love-style awakening, but a helpful educational journey uncovering their real needs, fears, and hopes, allowing them (and you) truly understand what they want and need as a solution. 

It all starts with understanding what factors drive people to buy. 

The psychology of buying decisions 

Consumer behavior is complicated — far more complicated than anything that can be covered in a single article, so let’s zero in on what really matters to businesses: what influences a buying decision. 

People buy products to fulfill a want or need. In other words, they have a problem to solve or an “itch to scratch.” 

The problem could be as big as a leaky roof or as small as a popcorn kernel stuck in their teeth. Maybe they broke a heel on their shoe or they’re craving something sweet. Overall, the motivation could be something tangible thing that can be seen and touched or emotional. 

While there are dozens of things that can lead to and influence purchase intent, in Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand, the former script writer turned marketer argues buyer motivation can be broken down into three key levels of problems — external, internal, and psychological. 

He explains it like this:

An external problem is a surface-level one. It’s usually something fairly obvious or even tangible. It’s the direct reason that brought someone on to a business’ website or into a salesroom. For example: “We need a new car.”

The internal problem they face is less obvious. This is the frustration underpinning the external problem or the experience they’re having. In the case of the car, maybe the car is having a lot of maintenance issues. It also looks dated, scratched, and dented.

The psychological problem is the deepest. It’s the problem related to fears, hopes, and emotions that the buyer may not even realize. In fact, research shows emotion has more impact on consumers when evaluating brands than information.

With our car scenario, it’s a potential buyer wanting to have a car they are proud of and that reflects their hard work; something they feel safe in and don’t have to worry about breaking down randomly. 

Feb. Blog Graphics (1)

Any of these factors can be the catalyst for someone buying your product or service and in order to make the sale, you need to be able to appeal to them in your marketing. 

62% of buyers say they want marketing that speaks to their pain points while 52% would even like to see content organized by pain points

But here’s the thing: You can’t simply tell a buyer they have a problem. 

It’s like telling a teenager they're hanging out with the wrong crowd. They’ll likely resent you and keep doing it.

Rather, you need to help prospective buyers recognize that they have a problem on their own and need a solution like yours. 

Your marketing needs to help them discover you as the answer to their problems. 

Ways to get people to self-discover through marketing

1. Help them understand their motivations and diagnose their pains 

Your product or service exists to offer a resolution. This could be a solution to a problem or a scratch when you have an itch that you can’t pinpoint. 

With this in mind, one of the biggest opportunities to connect with your buyer arises when they’re trying to figure out what the problem is and what they need to fix it. 

Sometimes people don’t know what they need yet — in fact, they frequently don’t; that’s why we have doctors, stylists, mechanics, consultants, and trainers. All they know is they are experiencing some sort of discomfort that needs to be taken care of. 

You can help start their journey of self-discovery by diving into their pains and showing you understand them.

What do the pains feel like? What do they look like? Why are they so bothersome? 

In most cases, this means working through the three types of problems described by Donald Miller. Let’s use making a purchase from a CRM software company as an example.

The psychological problem a prospect may face is feeling like they’re letting their company down or may even lose their job. They’re frustrated, scared, and feeling defeated. 

The internal problem, a potential buyer is not hitting their sales quota. Their sales team is disorganized. Different reps are reaching out to the same prospects and having poor conversations because they don’t have any shared records of their or their prospects’ behavior.

The external problem, they need a way to help their team align and track all of their prospect and customer activities.  

As a marketer, use your content to resonate with your audience through the experience of these problems, what’s causing them, and eventually possible solutions (i.e. the one your business offers).

For example: 

You can also highlight problems in your messaging.

Nephesh Pilates, a pilates studio in East Sacramento, California follows The StoryBrand Framework and does a great job of touching upon all of these problems on its homepage:

Nephesh-Pilates-Contemporary-Pilates-Studio-in-Sacramento-CA (1)

Psychological problem: Wanting to the life you truly want

Internal problems: Lacking energy, strength, and confidence

External problem: Need personal pilates training

When you first arrive on the website, the company immediately touches upon each level of the pain points they treat and naturally lead you toward their solution. 

2. Guide them with a self-service tool

Research from Zendesk shows 60% of our buyers want to navigate the sales process by themselves. They want to evaluate and move through the buying journey at their own pace without unsolicited help.

That’s why another powerful way to get a buyer to self-discover is through a self-service tool

Self-service tools — like the name suggests — are features or interfaces that allow users to find the answers to their questions or customize the buying experience to fit their own needs. 

In other words, the tools can help prospects identify on their own what product, level, plan, or type of service they need without speaking to a salesperson. This could include taking a quiz, talking to a chatbot, or using a pricing calculator among other things

Take Proven Skincare’s formula quiz, for example.

In it, the skincare brand asks several questions diving into what’s bothering the user including skin issues and even lifestyle and environmental pain points to provide them with a custom formula and regimen to address the problems.


Yes, the primary focus is ultimately on buying their product, but they also do a deep dive into each concern and the ingredient that treats it to help the buyer understand what they need. 


3. Show the dangers of not resolving a problem

If you want people to act, you need to give them a reason to. You need to help them understand why it’s important or valuable that they do. 

In marketing, this may mean highlighting the benefits of your product or service, but as we’ve already seen, highlighting pains and problems can be more effective. 

Knowing this, educate your audience on the risks of not resolving the problems they face. Show them what life would look like if they didn’t find a solution or didn’t act.  

In the popular sales and copywriting formula called PAS (Problem-Agitation-Solution), this is what is considered ‘agitating the problem’, or increasing the impact of the problem.  

Using our example of a CRM software company, this may look like drilling into how not having a CRM could:

  • Lead to a poor customer experience
  • Make you inefficient
  • Cause poor team collaboration 
  • Lead to an inability to plan strategically, among other things

By highlighting these negative effects, you help your audience further understand the cost of inaction. 

4. Provide educational resources

Overall, the best way to get a buyer to self-discover is to empower them to do so with the resources they need to learn and make an informed decision. 

Modern buyers don’t want to be sold to. They want to do research, gather as much information as possible, and make the best buying decision for themselves when they are good and ready. 

Educating them is how you stay top of mind when the lightbulb goes off and they’re ready to take action.

Google recently released what it called the "helpful content update," urging creators to once again, focus on people-first content. In its announcement, the search giant suggests:

"People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value. 

Answering yes to the questions below means you're probably on the right track with a people-first approach:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?”

Getting more specific, create resources that thoroughly and honestly answer questions your buyers are asking and searching in Google. This can span a wide range, but a good place to start is with what we call The Big 5:

  1. Costs: How much your solution costs (factors, considerations, what defines value, etc.).
  2. Problems: The negatives about, or issues with, your solution (that buyers tend to ask about).
  3. Comparisons: How your product or solution compares to similar products or solutions.
  4. Reviews: Honest and unbiased opinions and observations about your product, solution, etc.
  5. Best: What the best solution available is.

In our experience, these are the topic areas every buyer considers when making any purchase. 

Starting with these and other popular concerns lays a strong foundation for being seen as a trusted resource and teacher in your space and helping buyers discover their need for your solution on their own. 

Guide with your marketing, don't force

Recently, 39% of modern buyers reported vendors could improve their content by curbing sales messages. 

As modern marketers and sales professionals, your job is to not to pitch, it’s to guide. It’s to be a trusted advisor who helps a buyer move through the buyer’s journey at their own speed. 

You need to enable them by providing the right information, resources, and messaging to help them discover on their own what the right purchase decision is for their needs.

When you do this, using the tips we shared, you’ll not only get more people to “self-discover” your solution, but also build the trust needed to get them to buy.

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