Copywriting is a hybrid between marketing and writing. It can be as simple as four words on a billboard –– hot coffee, next exit. And, it can be as complicated as a 2,500 word direct sales letter.
I am still relatively new to the craft, but any time I sit down to sling copy, my primary goal is to sell the product or service I am marketing like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.
Sometimes I triumph and help raise $150,000 for a startup luggage company. But, other times, I fail miserably.
Regardless, below you will find a handful of lessons I have learned from these copywriting successes and failures. Here are a few of the many reasons why people buy.
1. People buy to move further away from pain.
Toothaches aren’t fun. They hurt like hell. If you have a toothache for long enough, eventually you’re going to make one of three purchases –– 1. a fifth of whisky, 2. a bottle of Advil or 3. a visit to the dentist. The bottom line, people buy to either prevent or remove life’s toothaches.
2. People buy to move closer to pleasure.
A $60 massage feels good. A $30 steak tastes good. A $25 candle smell good. If a pleasurable experience is pleasurable enough, people are willing to pay for it. People buy to feel something good. People buy to feel pleasure.
*** Before we continue, I want to first state that as long as you deeply understand points #1 and #2, you are already smarter than most internet marketers out there. I would argue that everything else I list below can be categorized in the above two drivers. As you market to your customer, you must constantly be asking yourself –– am I moving my customer further to pain or closer to pleasure? And, what pain or pleasure am I moving them further from or closer to? Anyways, let’s continue.
3. People buy when it is simple to buy.
People don’t like hard, especially when they are handing over their hard earned money. Sites like Basecamp make trying out their product incredibly simple. If you have to physically run one mile to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk, you’re probably going to go without milk for a while. Make the purchase simple for your customer. Use simple easy to understand marketing, language and processes. It may sound rudimentary, but why I think a lot of marketing fails is because the marketers never ask themselves –– does this actually make sense?
4. People buy when they know other people can’t buy it.
In other words, people buy limited editions and quantities. Back in 1980, Kenner Toy’s came out with only 200 Rocket Firing Bobo Fett action figures. Today, the cheap plastic toy is anything but cheap –– reselling for as much as $20,000.
5. People buy when everyday products become scarce.
A 50 oz. tub of Tide liquid laundry detergent sells for roughly $6. If tomorrow, Tide announced they were going out of business and only selling 1,000 more of these tubs, this price may sky rocket 100 fold. Why would someone pay $600 for a 50 oz. tub of Tide laundry detergent when they can just buy another detergent? Partially because it is an everyday product they have used for years that has become scarce… but also because of nostalgia. Which brings us to our next point.
6. People buy because of nostalgia.
Something that is interesting about laundry detergent is that often times, the same brand is used for generations. If suddenly, a particular brand of detergent went away, nostalgia would play a large roll in its increased value. Would you pay $600 to remember the scent of your parents and your grandparents embrace? I would.
7. People buy when they can get it NOW.
I spend double and sometimes triple the money buying books from Barnes & Noble versus Amazon. Is this rational? Absolutely not. But, I do it because I know I can walk into the Barnes & Noble in my city and in 10 minutes purchase and read a particular book I have been dying to read. I am willing to pay more when I can have something NOW versus tomorrow or sometime next week.
8. People buy to prevent what they fear.
It is said that Listerine invented Halitosis or chronic bad breath. When you create a fear and then market a product that prevents said fear, you can sell a lot of product. I don’t find this to be the most ethical way of marketing, but it is certainly effective. I would argue a better way to go about using fear to your advantage is finding actual problems that are hurting your target market’s lives and then making them aware of it.
9. People buy when they think time is running out.
Have you ever heard something along the lines of, “Hurry up! Move quick. We only have [fill in the blank] number of turbo carpet cleaners left in stock…”?Sometimes, people need a push. And, a good way to provide this push is by instilling in your prospect a sense of urgency. Let them know in a nice way, “Look, we love you but we aren’t going to wait around forever…”
10. People buy because of curiosity.
This buying behavior is extremely effective to think about in direct mailing. But, it can also be applied to social media and E-Commerce. Back in the day, when it was the golden age of direct mail… good marketers and copywriters had to pull on people’s curiosity to get them to buy. Take a moment and think about how damn good these marketers had to be. They would send a sales letter to 10,000+ people and they had to sell them with mostly words and a few pictures on a product that the prospect couldn’t touch. In order to do this effectively, they had to pull on human curiosity. They had to get the prospect thinking… I wonder what it tastes like… I wonder what it feels like… I wonder what it smells like… I wonder if it actually works…
Keep the conversation going…
I am by no means an expert when it comes to marketing and copywriting and am always looking to learn more about these two crafts. If you have any insight you would like to add to this list, please do so in the comments below. Also, I want to write several other posts like this in the future highlighting other powerful reasons why people buy. So, if you liked this post, I will let you know when I write the next one.
By Cole Schafer.
Cole is the copy chief at Honey Copy, where he helps startups make more money through emails and landing pages that read like poetry and sell like Ogilvy. When he isn’t slinging copy, he is right here on Medium sharing ideas about life, business and marketing. Or riding alpacas.