Getting to the Core of the Matter

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

“That is one of the most inconsiderate, rude, disrespectful young men I have ever met,” she told an associate of mine.

The comment shocked me, because I thought my meeting with Mary had gone great. She was the director of the Main Street Association, and owner of more than five businesses in our lovely northwestern town. I owned a software company that had created an Internet community designed to connect local consumers with local businesses – which, back then in 1999, was a revolutionary idea.

I understand, now, why Mary was so frustrated with me that day. As we sat down in the small downtown diner that she owned, I opened up my laptop and turned it to face her. For the next 30 minutes, I sat behind the computer, clicking the spacebar and rolling through a stunning PowerPoint presentation. I told her all about how the site was designed, how the links worked, how consumers found the site, what the ads would look like, how cleverly the code was written, etc, etc, etc. I was very proud of the whole thing.

But there were three major problems with my approach. First, Mary, a lady in her late 50s, was a people person and hated “those fancy computer things.” Second, I had practically killed her with technical data, leaving out all that “fluffy” stuff about benefits. Third, and most important, I completely ignored what marketers call Mary’s “core buying emotion” (CBE) – the emotional trigger that would make her want to buy the service I was selling.

In Mary’s case, the CBE was vanity, maybe mixed with a bit of insecurity. (That’s the reason she had all those businesses.) Instead of tapping into those emotions to try to make my sale, I had droned on about technology and our marvelous programming skills. It had the unhappy effect of making her feel stupid and unimportant all at the same time. No wonder she hated me. And no wonder she not only never signed up for my service but made darn sure no one else in town did either.

I was speaking… but not communicating. I was persuading… but not getting the desired results.

Core buying emotions are the powerhouse of our purchasing mechanism. They crank us up and move us to action. They are the reason we buy, and they vary from person to person.

In your role as a marketing or business professional, you have the enormous task of discovering your prospect’s core buying emotion. If you fail to uncover this prime motivator – or ignore it – it is likely your sales efforts will be about as effective as my presentation to Mary.

So, what are the core buying emotions? And how do you capitalize on them?

The best material I have ever found on this topic is in AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. While reading it a few years ago, I discovered over 35 core buying emotions that I could arm myself with when communicating with clients and prospects.

Here, according to AWAI, is a list of the five most powerful and common CBEs:

  1. Curiosity. For some reason, we just can’t stand to turn aside from new, fascinating information. This is why the “news” industry is a multi-billion-dollar business.
  2. Vanity. Most people have a strong, almost uncontrollable, desire to be better than everyone else in some way – physically, socially, mentally, spiritually, etc. And not just to be better, but to make sure everyone knows it.
  3. Fear. Decades before I was concerned about things that really pose a threat to health and security, I worried about what was hiding in the pitch-black abyss under my bed. Fear makes us feel that danger is imminent, and we will do almost anything to avoid it.
  4. Benevolence. The negative emotion of fear is countered by a drive for the positive emotion of happiness, even euphoria. And the quickest way to achieve that feeling is by doing good for someone else.
  5. Insecurity. Are you good enough to be a top-notch wage earner? Parent? Lover? I bet you’ve wondered. (We all have.)

By understanding these and other core buying emotions, you command the power to help other people understand your sales message at a “gut” level. They won’t just read or listen to it – they’ll feel it.

If I had only known in 1999 what I know now! I would have set the laptop and the technical jargon aside. Looking into Mary’s eyes, I would have said, “Do you realize that our service will put your name, picture, and accomplishments in front of every homeowner in this town 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? It’s exposure like you’ve never imagined.”

We would have munched on some of those dainty pastries she sold in her diner, and I’d have listened to her tell me all about her success.

I could have made $50,000 or more on that one deal if only I had understood core buying emotions.

So before you create your next sales campaign, learn all you can about core buying emotions and how to implement them. Ask yourself, “What is my prospect’s core buying emotion?” When you have the answer, use it as the foundation of all your marketing efforts.

[Ed. Note: Joshua Boswell was first introduced to copywriting in April 2005.He is now well into his second year as a $100,000+ freelance copywriter, with clients such as Corel, Sony, Toshiba, Microsoft, and Easter Seals.]