We think we’re so intellectual (and we are, sometimes), but get in the way of our core animal desires, and all hell breaks loose.
You know how you get grumpy when you’re tired or hungry? Or how irritated you are when you’re stuck in cold, wet clothes?
It’s your instincts zeroing in on exactly what you need in the moment… and no matter how high your IQ is, you can’t ignore it. (And it’s a secret behind powerful content creation.)
Throughout time, psychologists have been fascinated by this phenomenon of these needs, and some have even gone to the point of naming and categorizing them.
American psychologist Abraham Maslow, for example, lays out a hierarchy of five needs from the most basic, animal urges to intellectual enlightenment. The stage on which you fall in his hierarchy will determine your thoughts, actions, and interactions with others to the point that you’re able to satisfy that need and move up to the next level.
Here’s what they are, paraphrased into my words:
Unlike Maslow’s Hierarchy, these aren’t in any particular order. Instead of climbing from one level to the next, all of these items (you could argue) are purely animal and needed for mere survival.
Here’s the thing that makes knowing these eight needs so effective: Even if you’re in a state where all these needs are met, you know it deep within your bones—without even actively thinking—that these are things that you have to constantly look out for.
In fact, your entire life revolves around making sure these needs are met.
So when you allude to these desires with your content writing—particularly if you’re writing something that’s responsible for conversions—what you say is going to be darn near impossible for your readers to ignore.
After all, if you can’t ignore your rumbling belly when you’re hungry, what makes you think other humans can? If your first desire when you see a guy with a gun is to duck to get yourself out of harm’s way, what makes you think that other humans wouldn’t have the exact same reaction?
“These desires are biologically programmed in each of us,” says Whitman. “They’re part of what makes us human. They’re powerful motivators and smart advertisers can tap into them like pushing a plug into an outlet.”
But easier said than done, I’ll admit.
But once you start at least trying it, I can nearly guarantee you’ll see higher conversion rates for the pieces of content you produce, keeping your business going and your clients happy.
Because as common knowledge as this approach might seem, almost no one does it.
B2B companies in particular prefer to brag about all the features their product has and show off how smart they are rather than talking about the ultimate, end benefit of the customer, which almost always boils down to one of the eight desires mentioned above.
So instead of writing about features, write about how those features provide an end benefit to your customer.
For example, if someone’s considering a report-making software to finally get appreciated for their expertise by their colleagues and their boss, that falls directly in line with #6 and #8.
If you’re selling a business coaching service to help solopreneurs make more money, the “more money” goal really isn’t the goal in and of itself. It’s so they can feed their families, feed themselves, pay their medical bills, and keep their house from getting foreclosed on. Which ties into #1, #2, #5, and #7. Pretty big deal, no?
Here’s how some companies are currently doing it, to give you a better idea:
Small and medium-sized business owners normally don’t have fixed salaries, which means if their business doesn’t succeed, they don’t either. This hook focuses on business growth in relation to money, which for their target audience, directly translates into satisfying core desires #2 (food), #5 (having a warm bed), and #7 (taking care of their kids). Possibly even #6 (being important) and #8 (being accepted).
One of the cool things about knowing your audience is knowing what’s really important to them. Lawyers are busy people, notorious for working long hours.
And lawyer or not, I think we can all agree that being under time-based pressure sucks. Promising to help a lawyer save eight hours per week lets them project their most pressing personal need into that time space: whether it’s making more money to provide for their family, or to have time for themselves to fulfill needs like #8 (having good friends) or #4 (having a fulfilling romantic life).
Typically I use sales software pages as bad examples when it comes to on-page copywriting. (Because what does “All-in-One Sales Intelligence Platform” even mean?)
But this one is actually good. Why? It speaks directly to benefits #6 (respected superiority) and #8 (social approval)—which are both crucial in a high-stress office environment.
Many times, the product or service you sell will naturally speak to one or more of a person’s eight core needs directly. But if not, try figuring out how the features you discuss about your product contribute to the end benefit of your customer, and talk about that in your hook instead.
To receive advice on marketing and content creation that stands out, subscribe to the Content Standard Newsletter.