05/08/2013 10:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Influence: Appealing to the 4 Human Drives

The overarching theme of this section is "influence." If you recall from my introductory post, I told you that influence was about convincing the market it needed to buy your offer from you. Now I don't know about you, but on first glance I would think this might involve some bold gestures that paraded the value of your offer around in a way that people couldn't help but flock to you. As we have been unpacking strategies, though, we have quickly discovered that the process is much more subtle than that. It has involved embedding proper emotion, storytelling, and rational stitching, all in the name of appealing to the customer. But what if we could go even deeper, and appeal to something innate to all people.

About a decade ago, Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria of Harvard University published what could only be defined as a unified theory for human behavior. Pulling together the best insights from evolutionary economics, biology, and a multitude of other disciplines, the two researchers distilled 4 active motivators that exist in all of us, all the time. They are as follows:

  1. Drive to Acquire. This includes material goods as well as immaterial items like status and power.
  2. Drive to Bond. We are social creatures, and thus yearn to form interact with one another and form relationships.
  3. Drive to Comprehend. This is quite simply the need for meaning and for learning.
  4. Drive to Defend. To protect what we have acquired, those we have bonded with, and the learning and meaning we have incurred.

Nohria and Lawrence provided us the blue print to incite behavior and action. They have, in essence, handed us the key to unlock buyer motivation.

To truly understand the power of appealing to these drives, consider a company that has been able to build an entire program around all four.

Deloitte's Best Managed Program

Originally established in 1993, this program has transformed into one of the premier business awards programs in Canada, with additional adoption over the past decade in the Netherlands, Ireland, and Mexico. It focuses on driving awareness and celebrating the bedrock of the economy - small to mid-sized private businesses. With hundreds of companies competing for the designation every year, Deloitte and their program partners put the applicants through a rigorous and independent process to evaluate the caliber of their management abilities and practices specifically in strategy, capability, and commitment. The Best Managed designation symbolizes the epitome of business success: "companies focused on their core vision, creating stakeholder value and excelling in the global economy."

The program aligns perfectly with the 4 human drives. Let's dive a little deeper:

Drive to Acquire. This one should be pretty obvious, as it is in actual awards program. Not only do those who earn the designation get some serious bragging rights based on their performance, but this can translate into new business opportunities as people wish to work with a winning brand. The sense of pride and prestige filters all the way down the company, increasing employee morale as well. Take note that the first driver - to acquire status - is enough to compel companies to go through the exceptionally rigorous application process.

Drive to Bond. Although one benefit of the designation is that it gives companies a proud talking point to land and connect with prospective customers, the real value in bonding comes through the networking opportunities. The Best Managed program hosts a Gala celebration, a Symposium, and access to the peer group of exceptional business leaders to exchange views, insights, and potentially engage in business partnerships. It is not only an opportunity to bond, but a chance to bond with the best.

Drive to Comprehend. Beyond the learning opportunities facilitated through networking, the application process itself provides a valuable chance for companies to explore the details of their business and refine their processes, strategies, operational issues, and approaches to management. As the program background puts it, "You don't just apply, you take steps toward a goal that you will achieve," with coaches providing professional advice and counsel along the way. The program is as much about the education - comprehending how to continually get better - as it is awarding merit.

Drive to Defend. The awards are granted on four levels: 1) Best Managed winner; 2) Requalified members (repeat winners); 3) Gold standard members with 4 years of consecutive Best Managed status; and 4) Platinum Club members (those who maintain the status for 7 consecutive years). So three of the four levels are designed around recognizing those who defend their status based on their consistent results and outcomes. The best part of this is that it keeps the best companies out there from getting complacent, always striving to be better.

The Power of the Four

Deloitte has used the four human drives to build a rewards program that serves to continually improve the caliber of businesses in the respective program markets, the access they have to the best and brightest minds, and the quality they consistently deliver - talk about leveraging your influence for a greater good!

Now I want you to systematically detail a strategy to incite EACH of the 4 drives when talking to and influencing your buyers. Look at what you can say, do, how you present yourself and how others brand you. Leave no stone unturned in your pursuit of effective ways to tap unto these drives and to align with the buyer's inherent needs.

If you can illicit 3 of the 4 human drives you are almost guaranteed success. Watch the video below, then go do the work!

Influence - The 4 Drivers of Change from Peter Sheahan on Vimeo.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Peter Sheahan on the topic of Making It Happen in Small Business, focused on turning those with the ideas into those with the influence. To see all of the posts in the series, click here.