The 3 types of buyers - and how to deal with them

Posted by Moira McCormick on May 16, 2016
Moira McCormick


It's pretty obvious that the great British public spend their money in different ways - some people will throw their money around without a care and others save their money like Scrooge. The majority of us come somewhere in the middle. There may well be dozens of different types of buyers depending on how you look at things, but most people whittle them down to just 3.

One thing is for certain though – the spending habits of your customers have a big impact on the success (or otherwise) of your business. Every person who visits your website, picks up the 'phone to your sales department or enters your shop is going to have a certain amount of money to spend and a certain perspective on that money. You can influence their spending behaviour, but only if you cater to their spending predispositions – and knowing who's who will help you better market your products or service.


What are the Characteristics of the 3 Types of Buyers?

1. Tightwads (24% of the population)

Tightwads love saving and they hate spending. They will hold on to their money as long as they can. These are the people that spend less and save more than the average, and respond less favourably to advertisements and commercials. They love their money, as long as it’s sitting safely in the safest, highest interest-earning account they can find. Tightwads are controlled by the amount that they think a product should cost. The attitude of a tightwad towards expenditure depends upon how much he or she thinks it should cost. However, this amount is usually skewed low in keeping with the budget-sensitive nature of the tightwad.

Tightwads are unable to “indulge.” Economic research has shown that those who fall into the tightwad category refuse to indulge themselves in luxuries or expenditures. Tightwads are planners and budgeters. Planners are people who can not only anticipate outcomes, but also have the foresight to prepare for them.


2. Spendthrifts (15% of the population)

Are these your dream customers? Well, they certainly love spending money.

Spendthrifts are why credit card companies make money. These people will spend until they max out that credit card, then reach for the next credit card and keep going. This is the proverbial “impulse buyer”. They need little convincing to make a purchase – just a "for sale" sign.

Spendthrifts experience no buyer’s remorse. In fact, they actually get their good feelings from being able to spend money. The more money they spend, the better they feel.

Spendthrifts do not anticipate spending pain – they don’t experience buyer’s remorse so they don’t anticipate the remorse, either. Their brain operates in such a way that the idea of spending money gives them pleasure. Spendthrifts are not regulated by a premeditated budget or spending plan. In fact very few controlling factors influence the spendthrift spending patterns. The only “controls” are those that create positive feelings.

More often than not, spendthrifts disregard the price tag and they don’t suffer from “sticker shock.” Instead, they focus on the appeal of having the product or service. They are driven by emotions.

In some cases, spendthrifts equate a higher price point with a better product or service. Rather than analyze the benefits or features of the product or service, they consider the purchase purely from the perspective of a "prestigious" higher price.


3. Average Spenders (61% of the population)

This describes most of us. We spend what we think is appropriate. We think about purchases. We weigh options, take time to decide, and, generally, try to make smart moves and save a little money. Average spenders have a rough idea of their budget. With these rough figures in mind, the average spender knows if they can afford something, and acts accordingly.

Average spenders occasionally impulse buy or overbuy. Few people can completely control their spending in every single scenario. All of us have our weaknesses, and that’s why even “average spenders” have the occasional behavioural outburst of a spendthrift of a tightwad.

Average spenders carefully consider value propositions, benefits, and features. In other words, average spenders are able to look at a purchase rationally. They read through the bullet points of “benefits.” They study the comparison charts comparing your services with competitors. Average spenders are influenced by facts and data, even if they aren’t completely controlled by this information.

They are also influenced by messaging. Both emotional and analytical messaging should be present in order to fully persuade the average spender.

Average spenders think about their decision for a while. Most of them don’t make a purchase on their first visit to a shop or website. Instead, they come back after they’ve thought about it, looked at comparable products, or searched for discount codes.


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How to sell to the 3 types of buyers?

1. Selling to a Tightwad

As a large percentage of your potential customer base, you need to spend some time trying to sell to this segment – and it's certainly your hardest challenge!

  • A tightwad probably won’t spend money on something unless it is within his or her budget. So, sell using negative emotional signals, not positive or indulgent ones. In other words, don’t use messaging like “you deserve” or “this is the best for you.” Instead, use messaging like “losing money hurts” or “save your money and secure the best future for your family.”

  • They will respond also to value propositions more than they will respond to clever emotional tricks, slogans, or appeals.

  • Use numbers, data, charts, statistics and studies. The decision-making process of a tightwad is analytical, precise, and straightforward. To truly persuade, you’re going to have to address this analytical style of thinking with honest claims, detailed numbers, and well-researched information. Numbers don’t lie, and many tightwads are numbers-driven.

  • Emphasise the pleasure of saving. If you can show how much money the tightwad will save, this counteracts the pain of the purchase. If the pleasure of saving can overcome the pain of spending, then you have a buyer.

  • Show them the function. Tightwads are willing to buy for utilitarian purposes. Show that your product or service fills a need, and show how that need is filled.


2. Selling to a Spendthrift

Spendthrifts don’t require much convincing if they are in your target market. Nonetheless, here’s what works best:

  • They will respond to emotional advertising. The spendthrift dispenses with analytic processing, and acts from the heart. They will respond to pictures. In keeping with the emotional power of spendthrifts, keep your visual marketing high.

  • They will respond to colours. Colour psychology plays an important role in the behaviour of spendthrifts if used strategically.

  • Focus on the pleasure. Spendthrifts are more likely to buy for pleasure. This “hedonistic motivation” means that they have an intense interest in things that will provide them with adventure, gratification, status, or some other perceived emotional need.Your goal is to dish up the greatest amount of pleasure, making it easier for them to focus on this when they consider a purchase.

  • Make the price higher. A spendthrift is not necessarily blind to price but they think about this only insofar as it affects their perception of the product’s pleasure-giving ability.

  • If the price is higher, they may consider the product to be more valuable or more enjoyable. For example, if the standard rate of a hotel room is £99 per night, then a room that costs £297 per night will be at least three times as enjoyable in their estimation. A higher price will not drive away spendthrifts. Instead, it may actually attract them.

  • Add on fees. Spendthrifts are more likely to pay extra fees. Shipping costs or handling fees may drive away some buyers but it won’t have a negative impact on the purchase of a spendthrift.


3. Selling to Average Buyers

As the largest number of potential customers, you need to focus the majority of your marketing on this slice of the population. Average buyers are smart, but they share, in moderation, some of the characteristics of the previous two groups:

  • They respond to a mix of emotion-driven and metric-driven marketing messages. True to their nature as between the two extremes your average customer is going to respond to some of the numbers in your marketing, and some of the emotional appeal in your marketing. Use both.

  • They like guarantees, returns, warranties, and free shipping. Most average people are just looking for a good deal. All the extra stuff could tip them in favour of a purchase.

  • They are most likely to respond to persuasive techniques. You get to make up their mind based on the power of your persuasion and data. Conduct conversion optimization and improve your advertising to make it more persuasive.


How to Figure out What Type of Buyers You Have

It can be challenging to try to figure out which types of your buyers are spendthrifts, which are average, and which are the tightwads. If you want to streamline your marketing efforts and pitch a product more directly to buyer type, here are a few tips that may help figure out who’s who:

  • Connect customer intent to buyer type. Remember the importance of "every query is driven by intent", and that intent will have an impact on what the user sees and how that user converts. Some queries will have an obvious spendthrift intent, whereas others will be more tightwad focused. For example, “most powerful outboard motor” will impress a spendthrift, whilst “low cost outboard motor" will appeal to the tightwad.

  • Identify demographic differences among buyers. For example, spendthrifts are usually younger, tightwads are older, etc.

  • Determine what buyer type is most likely to purchase your product. Is your product or service something a spendthrift is more likely to buy than a tightwad? If your product is for pleasure, then you may want to tilt your marketing to cater to spendthrifts. If your product is for something functional and utilitarian, then focus on marketing to tightwads.

  • Pay attention to statistics. Most buyers are “average”, i.e. neither spendthrifts nor tightwads. If you prefer to keep things simple, just focus on the 61%, and let the spendthrifts and tightwads do what they wish.


Some Caveats

  • Some people can be both spendthrift and tightwads, just in different areas of spending.

  • The three types of buyers aren’t usually quite this distinct. Most consumer researchers see a scale or continuum between the two extremes.

  • Buyer behaviour can change based on demographic features such as age, income, occupation, and other factors.



If you want to improve not just your conversions but your revenue, it's imperative that you give some serious consideration to the types of buyers who are purchasing from you. A few simple tactics could improve your revenue dramatically; you could raise prices for your spendthrift audience or increase the persuasion tactics for your tightwad audience, thereby bumping up your total income.

Every buyer who purchases from you falls somewhere on the tightwad-spendthrift spectrum. Once you figure out where that is, you can address and serve them – and you’ll be in a powerful position to create a more profitable business.



Topics: Sales, Persona, Customers

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