Remember those Herbal Essences commercials from back in the day?
The ones where she had “the urge to Herbal?”
The woman wanted that totally organic experience so badly, she couldn’t even wait to get out of the courtroom to get it.
Imagine if you could evoke that sort of reaction in your copy.
If you could make readers feel, get the urge to __________. When you tap into that level of urge, your audience would move mountains just to get what you’re selling.
Well, guess what, friend? You can.
That’s exactly what persuasive copy does.
And it’s done by using one secret ingredient: wants.
The only thing more powerful than a need
An urge stems from a deep, intense want. That woman craved her fingers in her hair, lathering up and releasing the flowery scents that pushed her over the edge.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t get that urge.
(Especially since switching to a fragrance-free brand in my quest to remove chemicals from my home. #dirtyhippie Some things just need that chemical boost.)
I don’t jump in the shower, revved up to wash my hair. I do it because I need to.
And I’ll tell you what — I also skip it whenever I can get away with it. When I’m in the shower and I realize “wait, I work from home…and I don’t have any video calls today,” up goes the messy bun.
Not so with Miss Urge-to-Herbal. She’ll drop whatever she’s doing — even if she’s in the middle of a dang legal case — to get her lather on.
When your reader has an urge like THAT? Nothing’s going to stop them.
Which is more important, wants or needs?
When I work with clients on their launch packages, they’re quick to tell me about what their audience needs. Which makes sense — we love our clients and want the best for them. And as experts, we know what they really need and we want to give it to them.
But here’s the thing: If they don’t know what they need, you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to convince them. People choose wants over needs every time.
That’s because wants actually happen before needs.
We buy based on emotion, first and foremost…and then find the logical reasons to justify it. We make a gut decision based on how we feel, and then we look for evidence for why that decision is valid.
There’s a woman in Bloomingdale’s who locks eyes with a buttery, black leather handbag with rose gold hardware.
First thought? I love that. I want it. Now.
Second thought? Black is such a versatile color, I can wear it with everything.
Third thought? Marc Jacobs makes really good quality bags. It’s gonna last forever, an investment piece.
Fourth thought? I’ve been working really hard lately on my business, I deserve to treat myself.
Fifth thought? It’s 25% off, I’ll never get a better deal than that.
Sixth thought? COME TO MAMA.
There’s a process we go through when we purchase, and it all starts with that want.
When it comes to persuasive copy, start by focusing on wants. Make your audience really hungry for what you’re offering, to crave it.
And then follow that up by giving them the evidence they need to feel good and confident about buying from you.
A simple exercise to tease out your ideal client’s deep, dark wants
For really persuasive copy, it’s not the surface-level wants that make a person act. The deeper, the better.
Here’s an exercise from my Audience + Brand Clarity Workbook. Complete the following sentence, as if you are your ideal client:
I want to _______ in order to _______.
I want to lose 20 pounds in order to feel sexy and desirable again.
I want to make $100K this year in order to send my son to college.
I want to write better copy in order to feel proud to show people my website.
Now let’s go a level deeper.
Take your sentence above and add “so that” to the end of it.
I want to _______ in order to _______, so that _______.
I was working through this with a new client this week and one of his original answers was something like:
I want to increase my sales so I can be recognized as a top earner in my company.
This is good information, but we want to get even juicier. We jammed on it for a few minutes and here’s what we found:
I want to increase my sales so I can be recognized as a top earner in my company so that I feel respected. Significant. Valued. Fulfilled. Validated. Worth something. Good enough.
Those are the emotions that will make someone click “buy” on your website.
They’re wants you can’t even put a price on.
A lot of people say it’s not necessary to go this deep with their copy. But a lot of people also have mediocre copy, don’t they?
Focusing on the deep, dark needs is THE way to persuade readers with your writing. And it’s the only way to give them the urge to purchase.
join the convo
Do you agree that wants are more persuasive than needs? Or do you think people are more objective than that?
Go through the above exercise. What is ONE deep emotional want your ideal client has?
Just for fun — what’s the last thing you bought purely because you wanted it?