3 Simple Steps for Driving Your
Audience to Action


As mentioned recently here on Copyblogger, Narcissus is alive and well, even as his marketing campaigns die of thirst. It’s too common a problem.

One of my all-time favorite quotes came from Dennis Miller: “You see… I run everything through this narcissistic little prism and ask ‘how does this affect ME?’” While this approach is self-satisfying, it tends to leave your audience less than fulfilled.

Such a centrist view of one’s place in the universe is perhaps the greatest downfall of any marketer or writer. It leads to an abject failure to connect with your audience and, more importantly, ensures you completely miss any chance you had of driving them to action.

The paradox here lies in the fact that, as Hobbes posited, man is inherently selfish. That selfishness is the strongest tool available to a marketer yet it is also the greatest source of failure. People care about what they get out of something (marketers included) yet writing with that selfish lens on can prevent you from giving them exactly that. Taking the three following steps will deepen your connection with your audience and lead them to the purchasing decisions you desire.

1. WIFM is Dead. Long Live WIFY!

We’re taught early on to be clear on the WIFM. That approach is self-defeating from the outset. It puts you in a frame of mind of starting with yourself and moving from that position toward connecting with your audience. Instead, start with WIFY (what’s in it for YOU, the audience) and move backward. As difficult as it might be, set your interests and goals aside for a moment and BE your audience. What do THEY want? Why are THEY reading? What are THEY trying to accomplish?

The first two steps of the Consumer Purchase Decision Process are Problem Recognition and Information Search. WIFY enables you to recognize and articulate the problem from the audience’s perspective which, in turn, leads them to seek more information about a solution (note: I said “a solution” – not “your solution”).

Allow me to illustrate. I worked with a company that markets to the under-banked African-American market. Our goal was to sell financial services. THE AUDIENCE’S goal was to find solutions to their financial challenges and achieve financial freedom. Once we moved away from explaining how compelling the features of the product were and instead spoke to the financial challenges the audience faced, we connected with them. By articulating THEIR challenges, we moved them to say “I want to learn more about this product because this organization understands ME.”

2. Present ALL Possible Solutions (And A Way To Think About Them)

Now that you have connected with your audience’s problem, the marketer’s urge to promote their product kicks in. Resist it. Instead, present possible criteria by which to evaluate all products (of course, using criteria that favor yours). People want to retain control of their decision making and be self-deterministic. Understanding step three of the Purchase Decision Process, Evaluation of Alternatives, helps you avoid the pitfall of “push” selling versus “pull” selling.

You’ve demonstrated you understand the audience’s desires in step one above. If your writing comes across as objective and fair in the presentation of alternatives, you eliminate negative biases that can develop in their minds. Pushing your solution can feel manipulative because your audience feels like you’re removing their control over the decision making process. This leads them to resist your Jedi mind tricks and instead choose another solution.

Look how well Progressive Insurance has executed this strategy. They enable their audience to evaluate all competitive offerings via a clear and simple interface. That evaluation ability sets them apart from competition and builds trust with their audience, translating to sales and loyalty to Progressive’s brand.

If you have a great solution, it will win in the end. Simply be sure the audience knows on what basis they should be evaluating their choices. Help them understand how to think about what the right answer is and they’ll arrive (on their own) at the right answer (which is, incidentally, YOUR answer).

3. Pushing The Button – Give Them What THEY Want

The almighty Purchase Decision (step four of the Purchase Decision Process) hinges on the results of your audience’s evaluation of its alternatives. If your writing begins with their problem and ends with the value your product conveys and how it solves their challenges, it’s a done deal.

To do so, articulate the problem, explain the features of your product and, most importantly, make the linkage between those features and how they solve the problem. People want solutions. They want their problems to go away. While it may be obvious to you how the feature solves the problem, it might not be so apparent to the audience.

Lastly, reaffirm that solving their problem creates value for them and helps them achieve their goals (their “button”). Push the button by translating why the problem goes away when they choose your solution and how much more successful they’ll be without that problem in their lives.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Warning: the above statement IS NOT the preferred manner for breaking up with a significant other. It is, however, a great way to connect with your audience. It demonstrates you understand their wants and needs. It shows you care about solving their problems. And yes, it helps you drive them to making decisions that are in YOUR best interests.

About the Author: Mike Figliuolo is the Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC. He writes regularly on a range of business topics on the thoughtLEADERS Blog. For a quick (and free!) subscription to the informatively entertaining articles there, get thoughtLEADERS updates via email or grab the thoughtLEADERS RSS Feed.

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Reader Comments (19)

  1. says

    One of the best examples of how NOT to do this was a student of mine who gave a talk to his classmates about why they should visit a particular seaside resort.

    His first (and second and third) point was

    “This resort is full of hot Russian chicks!”

    Unfortunately, his classmates were all girls.


  2. says

    The post and ensuing discussion on narcissistic marketing was very valuable, but I’m doubly glad to see such a cogent set of ideas that any copywriter can implement right away in their copy.

    Starting with the WIFY and working back from that is the big takeaway for me from this.

    Thanks, Mike!

  3. says

    I tend to agree with Hobbes on this one, and I’m a big fan of Ayn Rand. I think on some level we all operate for self serving reasons, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. (Did I say that out loud?)

    The trick is balance. While we want our readers to do something that will benefit us, what we want our readers to do should also benefit them. Unfortunately, I think a lot of marketers have lost this balance.

  4. says

    Love it, Mike.

    When developing customer relationships with young people (what I do), you have to focus on what they want more than anything else. Hence why I said ‘developing customer relationships’.

    But I agree with Edward… Don’t get too focused on WIFY that you forget you actually are selling something.

    Thanks, Mike!

  5. says

    Very helpful process, Mike. The only thing I was wondering about was WIFM/WIFY. As a copywriter, I always thought of WIFM, “What’s In It for Me?,” to be the questions our readers, our audience, is asking as they read our sales copy. In that sense, I am getting into my prospect’s skin and asking that question as I write. I’m empathetic by personality so that’s never been a hard thing for me to do. It is interesting how you turned that around.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  6. says

    Happy to help Judy. If you’re tackling WIFM through that lens, I’d submit you’re doing it correctly. Thing is, psychologically, when the word “ME” is inserted in any thought, the brain plays those nasty tricks and it’s easy to revert to thinking of yourself first – it’s human nature. Changing it to WIFY simply eliminates the possibility of that brain chicanery and forces a writer into their audience’s shoes. Glad you found it interesting.

  7. says

    Funny paragraph at the end of the post. I can see where it could cross over to that subject but keeping it on the intended topic I would say you lightly touched on some great things to keep in mind. Love the overall feel of your site by the way, it really comes off clean and professional.

  8. says

    This is great information, even for seasoned copywriters. I think that sometimes we get so worried about keywords and such that we forget our overall purpose is to “sell”. We need to learn how to speak to our potential customers’ wants rather than waste our time celebrating the fact that we drew them to our site in the first place.

  9. says

    Well explained, Mike. It’s a good break down of showing how to lead your customers down a path – tell a story, so to speak.

    Question, though: Did you leave any room to ever “toot your own horn?”

  10. says

    Response to John Hoff:
    Re “tooting my own horn” – if you’ve done this process well enough, your solution becomes self evident and the client toots the horn for you. At most, your recommendation of your product/service is an understated commentary on how your solution maps to their problem and maybe cover a few case examples of where your solution has delivered value in the past. I’m not a big fan of the hard sell. See my post on “Consultative Selling: Solve MY problem, not yours” at http://thoughtleadersllc.blogspot.com/2008/03/consultative-selling-solve-my-problem.html for more detail on that point.

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