Some are completely down to us. Snooze button or get up now? Car or bus? Start that big project or give in to the distraction of email and just one more caffeine break?
Others involve third parties, helping us to make up our minds, through marketing and brands. Buy coke rather than Pepsi. Nike versus Reebok.
Marketing gives products and services an irrational value. It adds personality, helping you to decide that product X will meet your needs better than any available alternative. In the end, you make the choice, but it's heavily influenced by how marketing has shaped your perception along the way and the brand promises i.e. what you've been led to expect from a product/service, that you've bought into.
As you encourage your customers to choose, your marketing should evoke specific reasons to help customers justify their decisions.
1. Why would customers buy your products over the competition?
Its worth revisiting why existing customers made their purchase - ask them, either personally or via a service like surveymonkey http://www.surveymonkey.com/. Try to narrow this down to specific words. Perhaps the great customer service builds trust, or it could be the prestige attached to being able to afford a particular service or be in the same league as others held in esteem.
2. What one attribute could your company/product/service be known for?
Volvo cars are associated with safety. Virgin is a brand that does things differently and is therefore regarded as innovative. An internal poll might give some fascinating insights, but be sure to ask suppliers, distributors and anyone else involved with your company, as well as your customers, for the most balanced view. It's fine to mean different things to different groups, but you should find there's an overarching trait that everyone agrees on.
3. Build your marketing around your findings
Sounds like a no brainer, but so easy to overlook. Since Volvo have established 'safety' in the minds of their buyers, their marketing plays to the FUD principle (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Example http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=8ZDv-hB2NHk. It's important to note that they lead with a solution to customer safety fears rather than building on the fear, which would result in negative connotations for the brand.
Emotional triggers are powerful things so use them wisely.