Emotionally Speaking

People often ask me what I mean when I say it's important to appeal to the emotional needs of the folks who come to your Web site. Like, is it really about writing extravagantly, in a fashion that suggests the emotions of the copy's author are stirred up and yours are about to be next? Should we be in search of flamboyant prose?

It's then I realize people don't really have a handle on what it means to appeal to emotion. I mean, if you're looking to acquire an excavator, how meaningful or appropriate is effusive, flowery language? Think it will stir you up or send you running?

And yet, however much they may rationalize the result, every single person who sets out to acquire an excavator will base his or her decision on emotions.

We've talked about this before, but it bears talking about again. Studies have demonstrated that when a person can't connect emotionally with whatever task he is undertaking - even if it is something as simple as scheduling a doctor's appointment - he will not be able to make a decision.

Take scheduling that doctor's appointment. You'll only schedule that appointment when it feels right, when you know the value of getting a checkup, when you have been able to imagine the benefits you will enjoy, when you can actually see yourself doing it; or when you are afraid that not doing it would be worse. You put yourself in the picture and weigh the emotional options.

When you appeal to those options, you help your visitors make their decisions. How?

Benefits and Features

The easiest path to making an emotional connection is by focusing on the benefits, not the features, of your product or service.

Certainly features imply benefits. But if you only list features - if you don't spell out the benefits for your visitors - then you are hoping they'll take the time to translate each of your specified features. And that means they have to think on the fly. And if you make them have to think, you might as well wave goodbye.

I'm looking at the packaging for a Korg Orchestral Tuner. It lists about six features, one of which is:

  • Built-in microphone

Sure enough, if I go looking on the Web, I can find any number of sites that include this feature as part of the product description. But nobody tells me the benefit of this feature. A built-in microphone is not a benefit. But it sure is beneficial to have one, because that means the tuner can hear your instrument, and you haven't got to mess with long cords that always get tangled and a separate microphone that you have to carry around and fidget with. A built-in microphone makes you very portable. It's a pick-up-and-go sort of thing.

Now I'm starting to get to some of the benefits of a tuner with a built-in microphone: I can easily take it anywhere; it's much easier to figure out how to use it; it streamlines my equipment needs; it can tell me if my instrument is in tune (so I haven't got to guess if I tend to hear things a bit on the sharp side).

If it's a feature, there's a benefit. And when you sell the benefits, you appeal to the emotions. Which means you stand a much better chance of persuading your visitor. So take all those feature lists and start translating them into benefits. Then get that benefit-focused copy up on your Web site.

Should you ignore the specifications? I wouldn't ... but you don't need them to be occupying primo screen real estate. The sorts of people who emotionally need to see those specs are going to find them.

Dominant Personalities

Which brings me to the other aspect of this emotional stuff. Emotional needs. No they are not needs for stuff that makes you cry or stuff that makes you giggle. These are the emotional needs that are characteristic of different dominant personality types.

Take a Methodical individual. She values order, neatness, facts, attention to detail, accuracy in reporting, credibility, data, truth. She'll be interested in comparisons with similar products or services. She'll appreciate seeing all the tables and product specs, but she'll skip over the testimonials because she doesn't really trust somebody else's opinion.

This person truly doesn't need flowery, evocative language to appeal to her emotions - in fact, that sort of language would incline her to write you off. She needs to feel that you have understood and met each of the qualities she values: facts, order, analysis, information, detail, truth. She likes this stuff - it's what helps her feel the cosmos is in balance.

For the other three dominant personality types, I've assembled a list of qualities that suggest the emotional needs that define their cosmos.

Humanistic: belonging, cooperation, giving, caring, service to others, creative, entertaining, acceptance, freedom, big picture

Competitive: competence, understanding, control, curious, appreciate challenge, goal-oriented, motivated, success-oriented, accomplishment, future success, direct, to-the-point

Spontaneous: enjoyment, adventure, authentic, internal integrity, honesty, values, opinions, big picture, personal detail

Unless you know for a fact that your customers slurp up syrupy emotive stuff, it's best to steer clear. Instead, communicate the benefits of your product or service and meet the emotional needs your visitors - that's the best way to create a human-centric persuasive process that speaks to emotion.

Volume 87: 2/1/2004


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