How Developmental Psychology Can Make Your Business Attract Customers

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Peter Shallard
CEO | Commit Action |

In my article last week we talked about magnetically attracting hordes of customers to your business with the powers of evolutionary psychology.

When you put marketing together with psychology, customer-acquisition magic happens.

This doesn’t work with the pop-psychology or the latest bestselling self-help book. It works with the good stuff.

Your marketing will only get rocket fuel poured on it – and ignited – when you understand the most powerful of mental levers. The real, evidence-based psychology that explains what makes humans tick.

Luckily for you, I’ve spent a decade researching. So you don’t have to.

That’s why this article will break down the “80/20” of Developmental Psychology.

This piece explains exactly why the study of individual human growth can reveal a unique competitive advantage in your business that you’d otherwise never spot.

Uncovering this kind of Unique-Selling-Proposition electrifies your niche and skyrockets the organic growth of any business.

Here’s the first mind-blowing insight that developmental psych offers entrepreneurs:

Your customers are constantly evolving at a psychological level… and your product is a TOOL to facilitate their evolution


Right now, the practical down-to-earth business owners reading this are thinking:

“Uh… is Peter crazy? Surely this only applies to life coaches. Not REAL businesses like mine!”

It literally does not matter what you sell. Could be lawn care. Cleaning products. Architectural design.

You could be a restauranteur. You could be an accountant. Web designer.

It doesn’t matter.

If you are a business owner, you are in the business of facilitating individual psychological evolution.

Here’s the key to developmental psychology you need to understand:

1. People carry around an aspirational image of themselves in their head

Buried deep in the privacy of your imagination, you have a secret idea of who you want to be.

I know this, because I do too. Everyone does.

This imagined idea – this vision-for-the-self – is a little different to who we actually are.

There is a gap between how we imagine ourselves and who we really are… and we buy products and services to close that gap.

Day to day, we are all swirling cocktails of conflicting, complex identity. We related to the world in dozens of different roles, switching “hats” constantly.

Personally I take the roles of husband, entrepreneur, friend, son and advisor… just to name a few.

On top of different hats, I can be excited and optimistic about life. Or, I can be crushed with despair. I can be angry, happy or sad. Competitive. Hungry.

In other words, I can be a lot of things. But I only have ONE vision of who I really want to be.

You can think about every aspect of your behavior – everything you wake up and DO each day – as a quest to move yourself closer to who you think you should be.

If you’re reading articles on this site, you probably have a vision for yourself as more successful than you currently are. You probably see yourself as building something bigger than yourself, as create impact (and wealth)… that self-vision is the identity of an entrepreneur.

Here’s the second key:

2. Everything people buy, they buy to use as a “tool” to become who they want to be.

The only exception to this rule is totally subsistence non-differentiated goods. You don’t make a conscious choice to buy electricity from the power grid to become the kind of person you want to be….

Unless, of course, you’ve opted to pay extra to have your electricity come from renewable sources.

When someone makes the decision to pay extra for renewable energy – just for example – they understand it as making a moral choice that aligns with their values.

Marketers would say that they are telling a story about themselves, via the purchase decision.

Developmental psychologists would say that the purchasing decision brings their identity closer to their imagined self.

The customer has an idea of who they want to be. Their purchasing behavior in every area of their lives reflects that.

3. As a business owner, it is utterly crucial to know who your customers are trying to become.

Starbucks didn’t succeed because they fixed America’s “coffee problem”. There was plenty of coffee.

Starbucks succeeded because they tapped a huge market of middle-class people who wanted to become sophisticated connoisseurs.

Starbucks succeeded not by selling coffee. They succeeded by selling complexity… to a demographic of people who wanted to show themselves (and others) that they had an appreciation of such things.

That’s why the cliched line:

“Oh I just can’t live without my <insert whatever complex coffee cocktail> from Starbucks!”

… is so real.

Your business becomes irresistible to customers when you figure out (and communicate) what transformation you are selling.

People will line up, pay extra, tell their friends and come back for more.

The secret is finding a group of people who carry around a similar aspirational image of themselves in their heads. This is what marketers call a psychographic/demographic target.

Then, craft a tool – the very core your product or service – that those people can use to become the self they want to be.

This all only works if you know who your people are trying to become.

You have to have the psychological insight to know that this isn’t just about selling fashion to millennials.

Even blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth retiree grandfathers have an aspirational self image they will spend money to maintain. It’s why they only buy American-made, it’s why they purposely choose products that offer hard-lasting, rugged, gets-better-with-age (like they do) features.

It doesn’t even matter if you’re selling something like software to other businesses. The decision makers at the companies you’re targeting all have a vision of how they see themselves. They aspire to be recognized, to be seen as smart (by themselves and others) and more.

The point is, you can bet your bottom-line (literally) on how massively that imagined identity will influence their procurement decisions.

It doesn’t matter what you sell, there is no industry this does not apply to: Your customers only want to transform themselves. You’ll achieve massive success when you sell them what they want. Or rather, you’ll succeed massively when you sell them the method to become who they want to be.

Read also: Feeling stuck with your promotional efforts? Learn to identify and overcome marketing sabotage with our expert insights and strategies.

Want to go deeper? Join the Marketing Psychology Summer Camp

This summer – June, July and August – I’ll be publishing a series of six in-depth workshops on Marketing Psychology, plus three live Q&A and case-study lectures.

We call this bonanza of digital tutorials the “Marketing Psychology Summer Camp” and it’s free for all active Commit Action members over the summer.

This article is a preview of the high level ideas that we share in the Summer Camp program. Only we go further, breaking down everything into practical tactics and exercises.

If you’re an entrepreneurs trying to build:

  • An online brand for a product company

  • A platform for yourself as a thought leader

  • An old fashioned (unsexy) business that deserves new (sexy!) results

  • Any business-to-business products or services company

  • Really, any venture that exchanges customer’s money for goods or services!

This series of workshops will show you how to extract high level concepts from your psychology, so that you have the insights and ingredients that readily, easily and even automatically assemble themselves into ultra effective customer acquisition strategies.

In other words, the Marketing Psychology Summer Camp will show you precisely how to apply powerful psychology to your marketing, to make new business flow.

This is not a traditional marketing training:

You won’t be learning about PPC tactics, or social media hacks. You’ll be exploring your own psychology, getting to know yourself in a deeper and more powerful way than you ever had. And most importantly, you’ll be exploring your ideal customer’s psychology in ways you never had before.

We call it a Summer Camp because:

The workshop requires deep thought. The kind of gazing at the ocean, or into a camp fire deep thinking that unlocks revolutions within your business. That’s why the perfect place to participate in this workshop is from a shady garden chair. Or by the pool. Or at your cool, quiet kitchen table while the kids play outside.

The entire training is free. But not to the public. Here’s how to get it:

This is an exclusive bonus for active Commit Action members.

(Learn more about the membership here, or go straight to the sign up page here.)

Last summer we reached capacity in early June and a lot of people missed out. Since we’re a human powered services company, we do have a hard limit on new member growth. Join now to ensure you get your spot in both CA and the Summer Camp.

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