Influencing Investment Decisions

Brand building is tough work. One of the biggest challenges is to translate your branding strategy into desired customer/consumer behavior. For consumers you want them to try, use and ultimately adopt your product or service as their preferred choice. In economic development, the desired behavior you want is for CEOs to decide to stay, expand or make an initial capital investment in your community.

Important to creating the desired behavior is to start seeing things from the customer/consumer point of view. Only that way do you have a realistic change of impacting the choices they make. But, how do you do that? A key is to begin focusing on understanding the barriers to buying into your brand promise so you can break down those barriers and influence the final decision.

Benefit barriers are thoughts about your brand promise that are in the minds of a significant subset of your strategic target and stand in the way between what they currently do and what you want them to do. These barriers can exist anywhere in the capital investment (or purchase) decision.

A helpful analogy is to think of a benefit barrier as a closed door, understanding the benefit barrier is the key that opens the door. Insight (knowing why the existing belief exists) is used to overcome the benefit barrier.

Benefit Barrier Model

Sometimes it helps to have a model (or template) that organizes information in a way that let’s you wrap your mind around it. Here is a simple tool you can use to uncover benefit barriers to your brand promise.

Customers/Consumers currently do            _____________________________

Because they currently think                          _____________________________

If I can make them think                                  _____________________________

Then they will do                                               _____________________________

Here is a hypothetical example of what a competed Benefit Barrier Model might look like for a community.

Capital Investors currently – Overlook my community as a location option because our state is not a right to work state.

Because they currently think – In order to hire a qualified work force they will have to negotiate with organized labor unions.

If I can make them think – The risk of unionization in my state is actually lower than right to work states.

Then they will – Consider including my community on the short list of locations to take into due diligence.

This benefit barrier statement would lead to gathering comparative statistics on the actual rate of new unionization in your state versus comparative right to work states, and then sharing it with potential capital investors to help change their paradigm.

Categories of Benefit Barriers

There are three different general categories of benefit barriers to be aware of. Each creates a different set of conditions and represents a unique closed door. It is important you identify insights that will help you with the specific closed door in the customer/consumer’s mind. Using the wrong key in the door’s lock will not open it.

First type – The decision maker doesn’t want your benefit. He/she might be thinking “it is no big deal, or it’s not worth the price”. In the case of economic development, the CEO might be thinking “it is not worth relocating my company”. The right key to unlock this closed door is an insight that makes the benefit more desirable or important.

Second type – The decision maker doesn’t believe the promise can be realized. For example, a CEO doesn’t believe the promise of a significantly lower cost of doing business will be achieved. The right key to unlock this closed door is an insight that builds credibility that the promise will actually be delivered.

Third type – The decision maker believes he/she already has the benefit you are promising. For example, a CEO might feel the list of locations they are currently considering are adequate. The right key to open this closed door is an insight that creates a realization on when the current solution falls short on delivering the desired benefit.

Questions to Ask For Generating Insights

  • What is the standard of excellence in the category?
  • When do most solution options fail?
  • Is my brand promise different than what customers/consumers think?
  • How can my brand improve things?
  • What is the most important thing my brand can deliver?
  • Is the benefit of my brand promise noticeable?
  • Is there anybody that can believably endorse my brand promise?


Identifying and addressing the barriers to your benefit can be a powerful approach to helping you build a stronger brand. Once you have identified both the barriers and keys, then it is important you translate the knowledge into action through your sales and marketing efforts. This work is not done at the expense of communicating your primary benefit. It is done to open the customer/consumer mind to hear your benefit message.

The model is deceptively simple to understand and challenging to implement well. Often market research is required to get at the more emotional insights associated with an important investment or purchase.

Your Thoughts?

Have you ever thought about the barriers to your benefit? What are some examples you have experienced, and did you find insights that served as the key to opening the closed door? Share your experience and thoughts on this subject so we can have a robust conversation and learn from each other.


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