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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Burda

Marketing Psychology: Why People Buy... And Why They Won't.

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

What makes people buy? Or not buy? What will make someone choose you over another business? It might surprise you how simple it really is.

It all comes down to behavioral economics, or marketing psychology, which is the understanding of human behavior, and for us small business owners, as it applies to digital marketing. Because at the end of the day our businesses are all about the people we help and understanding how they think. But how do you apply this exactly?

Marketing Psychology why people buy and why they wont a Burda Marketing blog by Lindsey Burda

Well, your online presence actually goes much deeper than a website and social media posts. It goes deep into the human psyche and it’s actually the little things that can end up affecting your business in a big way.

I recently sat down with my friend Andy Shaw, mentor, chief strategist and senior enthusiast at Writ Group, who also has a passion for behavioral economics and human centered design, and we shared some helpful real-life small business stories, and personal experiences, that you’ll want to hear! (Listen to the podcast)

In this blog I’m sharing some of those highlights that explain how you can apply these real-life examples to your own small business to create an effective connection online with your potential customer and clients.

Humans are Irrational

First, let’s talk about the fact that humans are irrational creatures. We have hunches, we make assumptions and we judge a book by it’s cover, even if we say we don’t. This is one of the reason why we choose certain products and services over others. It all comes down to trust. But what is it that communicates that trust online?

For me, when I find a business online, I have one of two reactions; I either trust them almost immediately and feel comfortable making a purchase online or filling out a contact form. However, I sometimes feel the complete opposite. Something may seem sketchy, I don’t trust the website or they just don’t seem authentic. But what exactly is it that makes this distinction? Why are we so quick to judge a business when knowing nothing about them? Millions of consumers are making these snap decisions online as to whether they should hire you or buy something. So how do we stand out as the trustworthy choice?

In order to understand this, we need to unpack what makes humans make these snap judgements. My guest Andy Shaw who joined me on the podcast stated it perfectly, “Humans are irrational, we don’t always do the logical thing. If that were the case, we would always buy the cheaper thing, always. But we don’t.”

It’s because there is so much more to it than that. There are things that reduce the trustworthiness and perceived professionalism and value of your business that has nothing to do with your actual business or your prices. This is what the public is judging you on in mere seconds, sometimes less than a second, in fact, is all it takes. With all that said, the solution to getting people to see you as trustworthy and to do business with you, is a combination of a many little things that you can start changing today!

Ease of Use:

No matter where you are introduced to your audience online the ease of learning about you and your services or products, contacting you, finding information about your business - like store hours - should be easy. Navigating your site should be easy. The moment it becomes difficult the trust level drops, the perceived professionalism and value of your business drops because your potential consumer is feeling negative feelings of frustration, confusion, or annoyance. Learn more about creating a trust worthy brand.

To avoid this, be sure that you look at you online presence objectively. Do they know who you are, what you offer, who you serve? Can they easily find your office hours, a phone number, a contact form? If they fill out a contact form does someone respond right away? If they don’t, do you have an automated message that goes out saying “thank you for contacting us. Our team will reach out shortly.” This small adjustment in particular, can verify for potential customers that their message has been received - that they have been heard!


Aesthetics are important. We judge a book by it’s cover and we judge businesses in the same way. And this judgement transcends borders, languages and cultures, let me explain.


I had a friend staying with me, she was visiting from France. We were going to NYC and we had picked out a hotel a few week prior to booking. When we went to book the hotel, we couldn’t remember the website; we did a quick search but found two hotels in NYC with that same name. Which one was it?

One website was beautiful, modern, inviting. The imagery was professional, the website was sleek and easy to navigate. The other website, however, looked like it had been one of the first websites ever built, no joke. And it was like it had never been updated since. It was not pleasing to the eye, not a place you’d want to stay and not a lot of information was available, quite unprofessional.

As we are looking at both of these sites, not knowing which one was the right hotel, my friend immediately, without hesitation, says, “Oh it has to be that one!” She was pointing to the beautiful, modern website.

She was wrong. After digging a little deeper we confirmed that it was in fact the old ugly website.

But as you can see, my friend, without hesitation, would have chosen the other hotel based on nothing other than it “looked good.”

Now, we still ended up staying at that ugly website hotel, but we ended up booking through a third-party site after we say more updated pictures including reviews of the hotel. We were not comfortable booking through their own website.

Design matters.


Being consistent to stay top of mind and keeping your image and message prevalent across your online presence helps people notice you, remember you, and recognize you again and again. Why is this important?

Remember not everyone is ready to buy at every single moment. They are at different stages. Perhaps someone is aware of your business but just not ready to buy. So by staying consistent you stay top of mind. And when they are in a place when they need you, you are the first one they think of.

From that first touch point to when they walk in the door, or sign on as a client, everything should be consistent throughout that journey. This builds trust because you stay true to who you are and they can get familiar with you. I mean, just imagine if you met someone and they were really outgoing. Then you ran into them again and they were standoffish and shy. Then you saw them again and they introduced themselves by a completely different name. Would you trust them?

Same applies with your business. Your image, your messaging, your personality, from that first Google search, to your emails, social media, and more, everything should be consistent.


We often have irrational assessments of value. If something is priced too low, we assume it is cheap or the service is not good. If something is priced high but the image your conveying online doesn’t reflect that level of service and professionalism, it will appear over priced.

When all of these little things I’ve mentioned are not given proper planning and attention, like a website that is not easy to navigate or appears low quality, a brand image and message that’s inconsistent, or not-so-great customer service, your preceived value will be lowered. However, if you have a professional, well-designed, easy-to-navigate website, informative marketing materials, automatic replies for your contact forms, great customer service, a brand that is welcoming, professional, an consistent, your perceived value will increase substantially. You can increase your prices and people will likely buy without question.

Is your business translating well online?

So, is your business translating well online? Your business needs to translate it’s customer experience into the digital world - that’s their first impression of you. You digital presence has to convey a lot of intangible things like trust and positivity to get people to buy. Think of it as separate from your actually business and look at it objectively because your actual business may be stellar but your online presence may come of as not trustworthy.

These are just a few points from the podcast, which is jam packed with value you don’t want to miss. So be sure to give it a listen to hear all the stories and learn actionable tips you can apply to your own business.

If you feel overwhelmed, you don’t have to! No need to tackle everything right away. Choose one thing at a time and perfect it. If you simple don’t have the time, there are professionals like me who are here and happy to help.

If you find it difficult to identify these areas within your own business then consider working with someone to create a solid plan and strategy for your business.


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