Copywriter | Morning person


[Copy Tip] How To Understand Your Reader's Motivations

Trust is a hard thing to come by these days, especially in the internet age. It seems that trust has declined over the last few decades, and increasingly people are wary of what they see on the internet.

Overall, I think this is a good thing for society. As humans we can't go around blindly trusting everything that's told to us, and I think it's a plus that we are thinking critically about what is being advertised to us on the internet. 

However, it also makes writing for the web somewhat more difficult. As an inherently "anonymous" medium (in that you often purchase things without speaking to a salesperson directly), your web writing has to get it right the first go around. If it's not well done or looks sloppy, your prospects will turn away for good.

Frankly, that's why I think good copywriters have only become more valuable in the age of the internet. The good ones will do a fair amount of digging to make sure that they get it right. 

Photo by  Adnanta Raharja  on  Unsplash

Trust is something that is inherently difficult to come by. However, the way to gain it is to show your reader that you understand them and are just like them. Once you've convinced them that you're an honest person with a solution to the problem they have, they'll be way more likely to listen to what you have to say. 

Understanding motivations

Bob Bly, one of the copywriting greats,  has given several different "motivations" as to why someone would buy a product. A few of them include: 

  • To be liked
  • To be sexy
  • To feel appreciated
  • For convenience
  • To have fun
  • To be happy
  • To be comfortable

The list doesn't end there, but you catch my drift. 

In short, people buy things for a reason. At first glance, that reason can seem very basic. For example, someone will buy a house to put a roof over their head or a car to get them from point A to point B. 

The beauty of writing copy though is figuring out why someone wants to buy this house or that car. If you can do that, then you've done a good chunk of the hard work. 

Here's an example. You're given two coworkers that do the exact same job and earn the exact same salary. Each wants to buy a car. 

Jeff (we'll call him Jeff), ultimately goes with a sleek BMW. Tonya goes with a sensible Toyota Corolla.


Understanding the motivations behind these two people will help you better market the cars to them. Jeff bought the BMW because he wanted everything that comes with that logo: sex appeal, a feeling of importance, and a bit of fun. That's just who he is as a person.

Tonya, on the other hand, is more careful with her money. Her main motivation behind buying the Corolla over the expensive BMW even though she could afford it was to save cash. She'd rather use that money to go on a vacation or invest it in future wealth growth. 

See what I mean? We're talking about two totally different people here, and each car company's writing will need to reflect that to attract the right buyers. 

How to Understand Your Reader's Motivations

Understanding your readers means that you need to do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to market research. However, the rewards of this brunt work will do wonders for your business. 

Get out and talk to people.

The best way to know what motivates your potential customers to buy something is to simply ask them. Read blog posts, hold informational interviews, go out and talk to people on the streets. Listen to the people who might be your potential customer and understand why they would want to buy your product. 

Build a profile.

After talking to people, start building a profile of your ideal customer. You should have answers to these questions at the very least:

  • What is their number one priority in life?
  • What threatens this priority?
  • What scares them?
  • What makes them happy?
  • What do they value most? Is it dinners with the family or nights out on the town?
  • What frustrates them?

Figuring out the answers to these questions will help fill in what their motivations are. If you get enough data from enough people, you'll be able to have a pretty clear understanding of how you can fit yourself into their life. 

I'll give you an example of this. I recently wrote a review of two different lawnmowers that have the ability to fold up and store away. In writing about these mowers, I thought of my own experiences of opening a car door up to hit a clunky and awkwardly-shaped mower that didn't seem to fit anywhere in the garage. I knew that this was an experience that almost everybody out there could relate to, and by writing about it I was able to present the products as solutions to this annoying problem. 


Understanding your reader's motivations is the first step to gaining their trust. If you can empathize with them and understand their pain points, you'll come off less sales-y and more like a human. 


Copy TipGrace Baldwin