Motivating Your Audience: Separate Feeling from Emotion

People make decisions based on emotion. This certainly does not seem to be a hidden secret, at least in the world of online content writing. A simple web search will reveal a host of tips and “secrets” in regards to the emotional motivators that get people to fill out that contact form or click on that “buy it now” button.

For the record, most of this advice has some merit. Unfortunately, identifying these emotional motivators does not necessarily mean that your website’s content is going to be effective.  The trick comes not in identifying the emotion, but in separating those emotions from feelings.  The goal of your copy is to make people act, not to feel.

Yes, if your copy provokes strong feelings in a person, you may elicit a reaction. Unfortunately, this is not always the reaction you are looking for. Instead of clicking buy, the reader is more likely to laugh, or cry, or act in some other type of unpredictable manner. The point is that if your copy is only written to reach a person’s feelings, you are not going to get the response you are looking for.

The goal of your copy is to cause a specific reaction, not just stir up feeling. As cited by Steve Stosny from Psychology Today, this means separating the motivation from the feeling.   Stosny identifies three motivators that get people to act.

  • Approach: Approach motivation means that your audience wants to experience more, discover more, learn more, or appreciate more. This basically means that your audience is seeking fulfillment on some level. Possible scenarios are seeking empowerment, getting rich or losing weight.
  • Avoid: Basically, your audience wants to avoid doing a certain action. Example of this include overpaying for car insurance or getting older

  • Attack: Attack goes beyond trying to avoid something. Instead, your audience wants to get rid of it altogether.  An example of this is not just avoiding the aging process; the goal becomes the elimination of wrinkles.

By writing your copy to appeal to the motivators and not the feelings, you can more specifically address the action you want to influence, which in turn will make your online marketing campaign more effective.

About Robert Hosler

Rob is a Senior SEO Strategist at Fathom. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in English from Kent State and with more than seven years of direct SEO experience, Rob prides himself on pairing his knowledge of SEO with creative solutions to help clients always remain one step ahead of the everchanging search engine algorithms. Rob has worked for Fathom since 2011, and over those years he has taken great pride in helping a wide range of client grow their digital footprint. When he’s not heads down in SEO strategy, Rob is an avid reader who enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids.

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  • Matthew says:

    Mr. Hosler –

    Great insights. One issue though, under “Avoid.” Most best practices indicate that reminding customers of their age and mortality as often as possible can encourage more robust spending. Kind of like the “you can’t take it with you” mentality. That’s what I was thinking when I plunged into irreparable debt on the latest emotion-based decision to purchase a mint condition “Star Chief.”

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