Sell More by Understanding Intrinsic Human Motivation


Sell More by Understanding Intrinsic Human Motivation

Human Decision MakingI was watching an online video the other day of a Buddhist teacher. She said something that made me really think. In her first teaching, she was told by her own teacher that there are two forms of human motivation - those things that we do to avoid pain and those we do seeking pleasure. Me being me, I began thinking about how to take this information and apply it to marketing. After all, in many ways I have always felt that marketing is a form of psychology. Our goal as marketers is to, in effect, change the way customers and potential customers view our products and services. As in, what is the motivating factor for someone to go from casual observer of a cool, email to instead engage with the content.


I’ve put together a few examples of what I mean by engagement using human motivation as the impetus to act.


Example of pain avoidance as a form of motivation – A great example of motivation based on pain avoidance is the desire to visit a dentist. We go to the dentist to prevent future pain brought on by poor dental health rather than to seek pleasure.


Example of seeking pleasure as a form of motivation – In contrast to pain, an example of seeking pleasure would be a decision to go to the movies. We go to the movies to escape the stresses of everyday life and therefore provide pleasure.


These examples are, of course, pretty obvious. The application of this concept could though have profound effect on your own marketing. What product or service are you offering? Consider the current buying decision your customers make when choosing between yours and another company/product. Is their decision based on preventing future pain or is it to seek pleasure? Moving forward, could tweaking your messaging capitalize on these intrinsic human motivations?


Here are a few popular businesses and how I would approach a marketing campaign for each based on the pain or pleasure model. Of course, each case and business is unique, this is more of a generality for most cases.


Avoiding pain as the motivator:

Tire Service

Auto Repair Service

Laundry Products

Air Conditioning Repair Company




Seeking pleasure as the motivator:


Family Entertainment Center

Food Products

Fitness Center

Flower Shop


Vacation Rental



Jake Burns
An award-winning, Master Certified partner and is the founder of SouthDirekt, a Tampa-based internet marketing firm.