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How to Make People Care (About Your Non-profit, Business, Or Anything Else)

Remember Abraham Maslow from your college psychology class? The guy with the pyramid and the “hierarchy of needs?” Although science has since come to understand that his list of needs isn’t a true hierarchy-people often pursue these needs simultaneously-one thing Maslow did have right is that people do have these basic desires. And people are very much emotionally connected to these desires.

Here’s the list, from top to bottom as Maslow presented them:

Transcendence-helping others to realize their potential
Self-actualization-realizing our own potential and fulfillment
Aesthetic-achieving symmetry, order, beauty, and balance
Learning-growing in knowledge, understanding, and mental stimulation
Esteem-achieving, being competent, gaining the approval of others, having status
Belonging-having love, family, friends, and affection
Security-having protection, safety, and stability
Physical-having food, shelter, clothing, and bodily needs met

As a business owner or marketer, you can motivate people to buy your products or services by appealing to one or more of these needs and helping them to visualize themselves enjoying the benefits of your product or service.

As the director or team member of a non-profit, you can motivate people to give of their time or resources by showing them exactly how they are making a difference in the life of someone else.

The marketing principle of concreteness goes hand-in-hand with the principle of emotion. People must be able to visualize what they will be experiencing. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” If you present your case in terms of generalities, people will glaze over and the facts will not compute. On the other hand, if you present your case in terms of something they can easily picture or imagine, people can connect emotionally and will be stirred to act.

Take, for example, a study done by psychologists in 1982, reported by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers arranged for a group of student volunteers to visit a group of homeowners in Tempe, Arizona and ask them to fill out surveys for a class project.

Cable TV had just arrived and was unfamiliar to most people. The researchers wanted to know which of two approaches was most effective in getting the homeowners to understand the benefits of cable TV.
One group of homeowners was presented with the following advertising copy:

CATV will provide a broader entertainment and informational service to its
subscribers. Used properly, a person can plan in advance to enjoy events offered.
Instead of spending money on the babysitter and gas, and putting up with the hassles of going out, more time can be spent at home with family, alone, or with friends.

The second group was presenting with a different version of ad copy:

Take a moment and image how CATV will provide you with a broader
entertainment and informational service. When you use it properly, you will be
able to plan in advance which of the events offered you wish to enjoy. Take a moment and thinking of how, instead of spending money on the babysitter and gas, and then having to put up with the hassles of going out, you will be able to spend your time at home, with your family, alone, or with your friends.

The first presentation is general: “a person can. . . .” The second presentation is specific and personal: “imagine how CATV will provide you with . . . .” Guess which appeal led to more people subscribing to cable TV service?

The homeowners who received the first appeal subscribed at a rate of 20 percent-about average for the people in the neighborhood who hadn’t received any appeal at all. The homeowners who received the second appeal, however, subscribed at a rate of 47 percent-over twice that of the rest. The people who imagined themselves enjoying the benefits of cable TV could visualize the benefits, and their desires were stirred by the activity.

Two key action points to take away from this department of psychology:

1) Craft your messages so that you are appealing directly to an emotional need.
2) Craft you messages so that people can easily visualize themselves enjoying the benefits of what your product or service provides.

About the Author
Laura MacPherson (laura@northstarcreative.net) is the creative director at Northstar Creative, a website design studio located in Greenville, SC. She has an educational background in writing and psychology as well as experience in graphic and web design.
Her professional passion is design. At Northstar Creative, she’s most happy when working with and collaborating on design projects. Whether its print or web, its always a challenge to be able to perceive the essence of a client’s business and craft a website or print piece to mirror that. This work fuels her creativity and makes her work at Northstar rewarding.
Out of the office, Laura loves the arts, from painting to acoustic guitar. She is a huge fan of Northern California, particularly the coast and Yosemite. When not fortunate enough to be in California, she can frequently be found on the hiking trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Her company, Northstar Creative Web Design, approaches website development differently than many web companies. Northstar Creative combines the use of marketing psychology with top-notch web development to create truly exceptional custom sites for its clients.

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