Monday, September 4, 2017

Creating a Need: The Key to Effective Copywriting

Here in Central Texas, the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey may be most noticeable in the lines of cars waiting patiently (or not-so-patiently) to fill up at the limited number of gas stations currently carrying fuel. It's not actually a lack of gasoline as such; the fuel is out there, but distributors are having trouble getting it to the public, and the small amounts that are making it to the pumps get gobbled up fast. The situation would probably be resolved sooner if people weren't also buying 2.5 times as much gas as they normally purchase. No, they didn't purchase 1.5 more cars when nobody was looking. They're just responding to what they perceive as a strong, immediate need.

Now, you may not sell gas for a living -- but wouldn't it be amazing to see people lined up along the block, either literally or figuratively, to buy what you do sell? It's certainly possible to achieve that result if you convey a strong sense of need to your target market. Let's look at some types of need you can instill in your copywriting.

Practical Urgency

Before the widespread adoption of the automobile in American life, gasoline was nothing more than just another fuel. People lived their entire lives in one town, while kids trudged several miles to school in the snow (or so your great-grandparents claimed) without complaint. But once Henry Ford placed affordable, sturdy, gas-burning Model Ts in everybody's driveway, gasoline quickly turned into a must-have item. Gasoline allows people to work far from home, take kids to and from school, deliver commercial products to warehouses -- in short, it generally keeps everybody moving. As we became dependent on cars, we became equally dependent on gas for those bottom-line benefits. Which bottom-line benefits do your customers not just want but genuinely need? Or if they don't genuinely need it, what can you say to convince them that they do?

Emotional Need

Cars don't just represent utility; they also represent freedom, independence and flexibility. It's emotionally reassuring to know that your car can take you where you need to go at any given moment -- but by the same token, if you've grown accustomed to this feeling, the sudden prospect of not having transportation can be unsettling in the extreme. That's what turns "Oh, the gas supply will be tight for a while" into "OH NO, THERE'S NO MORE GAS IN THE WORLD EVER!" Rationally, we may know better, but emotionally, we're itching to grab our place at the pump. So ask yourself what your target market is used to. What products and services have they grown to love, and how would they feel without those products and services? What negative emotions can you evoke in your content to create a feeling of need -- emotions which are then eased by your solution?

Unique Solutions

To some extent, gas is gas -- a commodity, with one tankful no better or worse than another. The leading brands try to make their products stand out by trumpeting this cleaning agent or that performance additive, but most of us would be willing to take whatever's out there when gas is short. Even so, there are some high-performance vehicles that call for a particular octane, and the owners of these prized possessions will shell out the additional money for that octane. Does your business offer a better solution that the others? Are your services unique or especially well suited for a particular situation? If so, write to that need and you might well corner the market on a niche audience.

Remember, it's all about the perception and feeling of need -- from "I desperately need gas to get to work" to "I desperately need a jelly donut right now" -- and your unique ability to fulfill that need. And if you have a need of your own for some skilled copywriting assistance to help you achieve that effect, let me know!