Every organization wants or needs somebody to do something, and this something is that organization’s desired reaction.

Desired reactions can vary dramatically from organization to organization, and from tactic to tactic within that organization.

Sometimes, the desired reaction is for more people to walk into a store, go to a museum, or visit a website. Other times, the desired reaction is for potential customers to call an 800 number or simply be more receptive to the calls of salespeople. For some organizations, the desired reaction might be to have more people donate to a specific cause, or possibly to have current donors give larger amounts. And sometimes, the desired reaction is simply “think of us when the time arises.”

In most cases, there is the ultimate desired reaction (often, “buy more of our stuff”) and several cumulative desired reactions that have to happen along the sales process. These cumulative desired reactions lead potential customers to the ultimate desired reaction.

For example…
  • The desired reaction of a TV commercial might be “visit our store” or “visit our website.”
  • The desired reaction of the website might be “order our product” or “visit our store.”
  • The desired reaction of your store design might be “buy our product,” “pick up our product and touch it,” or “engage a salesperson in a conversation.”
  • The desired reaction of the sales materials that the salesperson uses might be “buy our product” or “come back to the store.”

The point I’ve probably beaten into the ground here is that different marketing tactics sit at different points in the sales process, and therefore, they often have different desired reactions. It’s important to make sure that everyone involved with creating or approving any marketing communication tactic is in agreement with the desired reaction(s) of that piece. Otherwise, you could end up with a tactic that creates no reaction at all.

In addition to knowing what the different cumulative desired reactions are for each individual tactic, it’s equally important to know which desired reaction is most desired. For example, in the scenario described above, the website has three different desired reactions: 1) order our product, 2) request a brochure, and 3) visit our store.

Before anyone starts writing or designing this website, or even starts to develop the information architecture, it’s crucial that everyone knows the preferred hierarchy of these possible reactions. In most cases, it would be safe to assume that “order our product” is the most desired reaction. However, maybe we’d rather have the potential customers “visit our store” because they’ll be more likely to buy a larger number of items or upgrade if they talk face-to-face with a salesperson. Or maybe your website is informational only, and offers no e-commerce functionality.

But let’s step back and talk about the ultimate desired reaction for a moment. As I mentioned earlier, the most common desired reactions is “buy our product,” followed closely by “buy our service.” However, there are a large number of organizations out there that don’t sell a product or service. Maybe these organizations are trying to raise money, fight for a cause, discourage an unhealthy behavior, attract subscribers, recruit members, or influence voters.

Although “donate money” may seem very different from “buy our product,” both desired reactions involve influencing people to react a certain way. Audience members hear messages about social service organizations with the same ears as they hear messages that are selling toothpaste. They see marketing materials for charities with the same eyes with which they see advertisements for beer and wine. Potential donors use a similar value system and decision making process when choosing what non-profit group to support as when selecting which car to buy.

No matter what your desired reaction is, by paying close attention to the audience members’ needs and wants, and always maintaining a focus on the properly defined desired reactions, almost any reaction can be created.