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  • Writer's pictureDiane Pierson

Buying Triggers: Your Secret to Successful Demand Generation

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Wouldn't it be great to know when your market will buy your product for the first time? If you did, you could focus your targeting activities, create more compelling messaging and drive higher close rates with less marketing effort. The good news is, the answer is almost always available if you go looking for it. Discovering your market's buying triggers is the secret.

What is a "Buying Trigger?"

A buying trigger is pretty much what it sounds like: an event, milestone or roadblock that compels someone to find a solution. There are several types of triggers, including:

Universal trigger date. Everyone hits the trigger at the same time, like Earth Day or September back-to-school season.

Milestone triggers. A trigger that occurs in the market, but at different times for everyone. For example: a company gets big enough that they need collaboration software.

Product triggers. We bought a new furnace from a company that sent us multiple offers one year. So did our neighbors, whose houses (and furnaces) were the same age as ours.

demand-generation, innovate on purpose, buying triggers

How Can You Discover Buying Triggers?

Asking "why now?" of every new buyer could indicate a trigger pattern you can leverage.

Years ago, when I was building software and services for lawyers, we discovered that the magic number for law firms was "five." When a firm had five attorneys - not employees, but attorneys - they started buying marketing and workflow-enablement products. Before that? Not so much. When we focused our marketing on growing firms versus any firm, we got much better results.

Finding Triggers the Buyers Don't See

Ah, but that example above? It's not necessarily something a buyer would think to tell you, is it? "Once we hired Sankara, our fifth attorney, we started looking for stuff to buy" isn't the likely response you'll get if you ask about triggers. How can you find buying triggers if the market doesn't know what they are?

Data analysis: that's how we found the "five attorney threshold." We looked the common characteristics of first-time buyers, and it was a big standout.

Fiscal year commonality. Businesses buy when they have budget. Typical fiscal-year end for most businesses is December 31st, but many industries close March 31st or September 30th.

Dig into the hints. Law firms never told us specifically "at five attorneys, we start buying software," but they did say things like, "we're getting big enough now to consider marketing." If you get a trigger hint, ask pointed follow-up questions.

New business is tough. For a product marketer, a buying trigger is the most reliable source of new-business revenue. It's the motivation to buy that enables you to innovate on purpose.

About the Author

Diane Pierson is the Founder and Principal Market Strategist of Innovate on Purpose, a consultancy enabling successful product innovation for tech companies through strategic focus and powerful go-to-market strategies. Diane is also a visiting instructor at Pragmatic Institute. Contact Diane at


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