Brand & Marketing Strategy

Identifying Customer Triggers – What creates the need to buy what you’re selling?


When running a small business, it’s crucial to understand what makes someone come looking for you. While you may not be able to predict one hundred percent of these decision-making processes, having an overall understanding of your customer triggers can make a huge difference. It is a key factor in creating a successful marketing strategy.

So; how do you go about identifying customer triggers? These will vary hugely from industry to industry. In this post, I’ll outline a few common triggers and explore how to use your existing customers to learn more.

What are customer triggers?

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A customer trigger is the step in the customer journey before they shortlist their options and make a buying decision. So before they compare you and the other options they have, what makes them start looking in the first place?

Customer triggers are the event that occurs in a customer’s life that makes them realise they need someone like you. It isn’t what makes them choose you specifically, but rather, it’s what makes them realise they need to look for products or services like yours.

How can you find out what these triggers are?

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It sounds obvious, but: ask your past and your existing customers! Depending on how many clients you deal with and how they get in touch, you might already be able to get an idea of their trigger by looking at their initial inquiry.

If that doesn’t work, no worries. They are a goldmine just waiting to be talked to. It can feel intimidating, but there are simple ways to go about it.

Why not create a survey asking a few questions about what made them start looking for your products/services, and how they came to choose you? Or you could even take it a step further and offer discount codes or vouchers to a small group of customers who are willing to take part in a focus group for you.

The main objective is to figure out what made them go looking for you – and hopefully, through your research, you’ll start to find the common threads. Then, armed with your list of customer triggers, you can take the next steps in streamlining your successful marketing strategy.

What are some examples?

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Triggers will vary hugely from industry to industry. But here are a few examples I have encountered over the years. I’ll start with some of my own (as a service-based business) and include a couple from a client for product-based businesses.

They have a problem

People are often looking for help with their marketing because their business has gone quiet. Everyone deals with lulls at different times of the year, but an unexpected quiet spell can be alarming for a small business owner.

To help give things a boost, they will start to explore opportunities for their marketing. This will lead them to the different options they have – I wrote a whole post about this! This quiet spell, then, is the customer trigger, and the steps they take after it are what will (hopefully) lead them to me.

They have something new

When a business is preparing to launch a new product or service, it’s a key time to invest in your marketing. The success of a product rests on how the business goes about promoting it to your audience.

So, again, this is a time when they will begin exploring their options. The trigger is the new product/service, and the step they take is to begin searching for someone to help them make it a success.

They want to improve things

Businesses aren’t fixed – they evolve and change over time. And this can sometimes mean that you are no longer attracting enquiries from your ideal clients. Or you are at the start of your business journey and would like to get more of your favourite customers to buy from you.

In any case, your marketing needs to be updated. Here, the event is the change within the business that has led to the wrong enquiries. Are you starting to see the pattern?

What about product-based businesses?

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To give you a few examples of product-based triggers, we’ll have a look at one of my clients, Loft Boarding Scotland, with whom I’ve worked for many years now. A few of their customer triggers are:

They have a problem

Using a loft for storage without boarding it first – or boarding it wrong – can lead to dampness and mould. As far as customer triggers go, this is a strong one!

If someone has found their possessions damaged by mould or dampness, it’s exactly the time they will begin looking into their options. Being available to them then is so important – and knowing to focus on that in our marketing has been crucial.

They have something new

When people are buying a house, they are looking for a property that will serve them well for years to come. And that includes a lot of storage. So, this is a time they often start looking at their options for increasing the available storage space in their new home.

That’s where loft boarding comes in! Getting in front of these people at the time they are looking at houses means that they know this is a great option for their new property.

They are growing

When starting a family – or growing your family, for that matter – storage suddenly becomes more important than ever! Again, this is a time when people have to make space. Not everyone has the budget to simply buy a bigger house, so a properly fitted loft is a cheaper and more convenient option.

Through social media content, ad campaigns, blog posts and SEO work, we can get loft boarding in front of them, giving them a whole new option to consider.

How to use these triggers in your marketing

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Once you have identified these customer triggers they can inform your marketing strategy in many different ways.

Depending on your business and products or services, triggers can:

  • Be a great starting point to create new content, for example for your blog and social media
  • Help you plan your marketing over the year, especially if the triggers are seasonal or more likely to happen at a certain time of the year
  • Create new marketing opportunities like collaborating with businesses involved in your customer trigger (e.g. estate agent for new homeowners)

Whatever you do, it comes back to targeting your ideal customers at every stage of their customer journey. I’ve written a whole post on this, which you should check out next, for more inspiration!

Next: How to make them choose you

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Now that you know what triggers them in the first place, the question is – how to make them pick you? How to stand out from the other options?

I have several posts that deal with figuring out your unique selling proposition (USP) and establishing how you can stand out from your competitors.

When you have a solid grasp of your USP, you can use this paired with your customer triggers to develop your marketing strategy. By understanding what triggers someone in the first place, you can work towards getting in front of them before they even consider your competition.


If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
Ideal Clients: How to Define & Attract them to Your Small Business
How to Identify a Target Market for your Small Business
How I Found My Ideal Client & What I Learned Along the Way
Why Business is Quiet and How to Turn Things Around

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.