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How to motivate anyone

Writers are motivators. Whatever you write, the chances are that you are trying to motivate someone either to do something – or not do something.

A headline motivates someone to read the first sentence of an advert, a blog post, a newspaper article.

The first sentence motivates them to read the second.

The opening sentence of a novel persuades someone to read the first page. The first page motivates them to buy the book.

A business report motivates someone to allocate funding to a project. A website motivates someone to email you, or call, or subscribe, or buy.

A love letter is a motivation tool, an instrument of persuasion. Same goes for a facebook profile, or the ‘about’ page of a blog.

People are motivated by two fundamental factors: pain and pleasure.

So how do you motivate and persuade people?

There are two powerful factors at play. People are motivated by two fundamental factors: pain and pleasure.

Look at any advert. It will either sell by focussing on the pain felt when you don’t have product X. Or it will focus on the pleasure you get from product X. The really clever ads include both.

The carrot and the stick. They are the fundamentals of human psychology.

Just about everything you do in life is motivated by these two factors. You don’t do the things you know you should, because you associate them with pain. You indulge the things you shouldn’t because of the pleasure.

You don’t exercise because you’re focused on the effort involved. You eat chocolate instead because it brings pleasure.

If you’re writing to persuade someone to take an action, you need to remember these two core motivating factors, and use them.

The carrot and the stick. They are the fundamentals of human psychology.

If you’re promoting a product, you start with the stick. Show how not having the product will bring pain for the reader.

Not having this fancy car in your life will make you feel inadequate.

Then you use the carrot. Show how having the product will bring pleasure and joy.

Cut to close up of the reader at the wheel of said car, with a beaming smile on his face. (Really… who smiles like that when they’re driving? Those ads look freaky).

You might, for good measure, want to add a beautiful girl into that picture, perhaps in the passenger seat, just to complete the pleasure principle.

If you’re writing adverts, marketing or any other form of persuasive writing, these are the two fundamental motivators you need to keep in mind.

And when you are on the receiving end of advertising and marketing, being aware of how they are tugging at your basic psychology might help you to avoid being swayed.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lyndon at seo packages March 13, 2010, 5:26 pm

    The same with criminals although here in the UK we have embarked many years ago on abandoning the stick and waving carrots at everybody!

  • Simon March 13, 2010, 5:46 pm

    It works with dogs too: mine chases sticks and eats carrots.

  • Lovebirds for Sale Melbourne February 3, 2012, 3:08 am

    Thanks Simon, that’s a great insights. I’ve about to write my first sales letter next week and looking around to find some ideas to help. This certainly makes sense.

    Off to buys some carrots and look for sticks!!

  • Sam Tornatore November 19, 2012, 5:15 am

    it always boils done to these 2 principles. People are usually thinking”whats in it for me”
    well said