What's My Motivation

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What’s My Motivation?

Acting Vs Copywriting Series

When I was studying acting at drama school, we used to joke about ‘What’s my motivation’... fawning and pretending that we just couldn’t do our role unless we knew what our motivation was.

But it’s no joke.  Character motivation was the key to getting under the skin of the roles we played so that we could embody the character to perfection.  

It’s how we brought our roles to life, how we moved the audience to tears or laughter. And it’s how we knew we’d nailed the performance based on truth, because we had created well researched and well rounded characters.

Let’s go on a little diversion shall we and I’ll show you what I mean...


Scene from Suits (S.7 Ep.13)

Donna: I’m here to discuss a business opportunity.

Stu: Then I’m all ears because last time you came to me with one of them I made a killing.

Donna: Then get ready to make another one by shorting Doyles Shoes.

Stu: Doyles Shoes is about to be sold at an 80% premium.

Donna: Is it?

Stu: Okay what’s going on here Donna, what do you know that I don’t?

Donna: I know that if you short that stock you’ll make a fortune and a good man will get his company back.

Stu: And driving the stock price down to help with a takeover is an SEC violation.

Donna: It’s a risk to make money, it’s what you do.

Stu: Not that kind of risk. Not my license.

Donna: And keeping your license won’t stop you from being dethroned.

Stu: You saying my guys are coming after me?

Donna: Look around.  Every single one of these guys is a young you looking to take you down. Traders are gunslingers, Stu and traders don’t follow people who don’t sling a gun.

Stu: You guarantee I’m gonna make a ton of money on this and not get caught?

Donna: I’m not gonna lie to you, you might lose your license but like I said, you’re not in this for the money. And sooner or later, you stop taking risks you’re not gonna be king any more.

(spoiler: Stu ends up doing what Donna asks)


Another example...

Scene from the movie ‘Bound’ (Dir. Wachowski brothers).

There are two police officer visiting an apartment due to reports of raised voices and possible violence.

The mobster has stashed away a dead body in the bathtub and is trying to act calm and all-kinds-of innocent.

One of the cops seems agitated - he really need to take a piss. He edges towards the bathroom trying to appear to be doing cop stuff, but he just wants a piss.

The mobster starts getting worried thinking the cop has caught a whiff of what’s going on and thinks of ways he can get his gun before the cops shoot him.

Just then, the other cop receives a message on his radio… ‘gun shots fired, officer down’.

The two cops leave in a hurry, and the mobster breathes a sigh of relief.


What has this got to do with marketing?

In the scene from Suits, Donna know what motivates Stu.  It’s not the desire for more money (which of course he does love making), but his desire to stay top-dog is greater which means he would be willing to risk his license to satisfy his need ego and stay ahead of the pack.

And the cop who needs a piss? His motivation is, well, he needs a piss, nothing else.  His actions are dictated by that need. He wasn’t trying to solve a crime, he just REALLY needed to use the bathroom and every step or choice he made was to satisfy that need. It adds to the tension of the scene, but his motivations are completely different to what the mobster thinks.

When we understand what motivates someone in a particular situation or circumstance we can use this to the advantage of helping them achieve their goals and provide solutions to their problems.

In the ‘Bound’ example, the ‘officer down’ call was more important than his motivation to go take a piss, so the mobster gets away with murder, literally!

Often people are stuck, not knowing how to navigate a problem or how to achieve their goal.  It is your duty to use what motivates them to get them to take the next step (if your services truly can help them in the pursuit of that goal).

Knowing how to motivate someone - to get them off the fence of indecision, or even to desire something they never really knew they needed - is not manipulation.  It’s tapping into their deeper desires and making them aware of the subconscious reasons why they need to take action.


Let’s look at another example.  

Say hello to, Abbie.  She’s a chainsawing-tree-surgeon.

She goes around her neighbourhood looking for trees that are past their prime and potentially dangerous with the risk of falling branches.

She finds one in the yard of Mr Hill’s house.  

She offers to cut his tree down for a fair price.

He say no, it’s been fine all this time, no need.

He’s not particularly motivated to have that tree cut down.

However, Abbie knows from her expertise that this tree’s is in serious danger of dropping a branch - and she also knows Mr Howser has grandchildren that play in his yard when they visit at weekends.

She mentions the fact about how dangerous it is and that he wouldn’t want it falling on one of his grandchildren.

He is now motivated to have that tree cut down.

It’s not manipulation - it’s using the truth and emotional triggers to create the desire for Abbie’s services.


Here are some questions to ask yourself about positioning your services...

What does your prospect really want or need?

Why do they really want or need it?

What is getting in their way?

What deeper psychological ‘schemas’ (the stories or frameworks that create their worldview) have either prevented them from getting it before or what’s stopping them now?

What is the cost to them of not making the decision?

These questions are easy to answer if you know your target market really well.  

However, if you get stuck, you will need to go do some research.  

Take some time to hang out in the same places as your target audience - virtually or in the real world!

Talk to them, spy on them and stalk them (legally of course) so that you can understand their motivations and emotional triggers.

This will not only enable you to speak their language but you can use these motivators and triggers to help coach your potentials clients and customers through the decision to work with you.

If you’d like to know how I can help you use your potential clients motivators and core emotions to take action to say yes to working with you, see how I can help here.


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