A research-backed way to make everything you write more persuasive

Blame Maslow.

You’ve probably seen his “hierarchy of needs”. It’s become a bit of a staple in marketing circles. The problem is, it’s not based on any actual research. Maslow just kinda made it up based on what he thought.

Fine. That’s how lots of theories begin, but eventually they need tested. Maslow’s have been and the results have been mixed at best.

Maslow's Theory Is Unscientific

That’s why psychologists like Henry Murray and David McClelland kept advancing Maslow’s original ideas.

McClelland, in particular, conducted numerous studies using the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The TAT isn’t a perfect test, but as ScienceDirect puts it, it “is useful in revealing a patient’s dominant motivations, emotions, and core personality conflicts”.

McClelland used it to refine Maslow’s needs theory.

What did he find?

That, in reality, it’s really only three needs that dominate human behavior. Three needs that animate 90% of how and why we act the way we do. Useful for those (like you and I) attempting to motivate others into action?

Uh, yeah.

So, what are these “three needs”?

  1. The Need for Power
  2. The Need for Achievement
  3. The Need for Affiliation

McClelland found that of all the different needs identified my Maslow and Murray, 86% of people were dominant in one or more of these three needs. Evidence,  data, something you can trust.

Quickly, what exactly are each of these needs?

The Need for Power

When people hear “power”, they automatically think of control and evil despots like Stalin and Hitler. That can be part of it, but it’s more about impact. It’s the ability to influence the world around you — people, objects, etc. Imagine a baby who throws a ball and then giggles uncontrollably. It’s her ability to control something outside of herself that makes her light up. That’s the Need for Power.

Phrases you might use in your messaging to appeal to this need are things like:

  • “more control…”
  • “change the world…”
  • “have tremendous impact…”
  • “dominate…”
  • “greater influence…”

You speak to their need to impact and influence the world around them because, for people high in the Need for Power, that’s what motivates them.

The Need for Achievement

This need is more like it sounds — the desire to achieve things. Set a goal, work toward it, and ultimately achieve it. People high in the Need for Achievement want to engage in that simple process over and over again.

A little nuance, though. If a goal is too easy, it won’t bring the satisfaction they’re after and it won’t motivate them. If a goal is too hard, they’ll assume they can’t achieve it and, again, it won’t motivate them.

So, the goal has to be “just right” in order to motivate people high in this need. But, put challenging but achievable goals in front of them and they’ll grind them out one after the other like a machine.

Phrase you might use in your messaging for this need are things like:

  • “mastery”
  • “achieve your goals”
  • “challenge yourself”
  • “show what your made of”
  • “be all you can be”

The final need, then, is…

The Need for Affiliation

As McClelland says, this is “The need to feel a sense of involvement and belonging within a social group.” This one’s more well-known. Social networks have illustrated people’s need for connection and belonging.

Today, many products and services include communities, Facebook groups, live events, virtual events, and so on.

Still, it’s important to include in your messaging. Phrases you might use include:

  • “join a group of like-minded”
  • “connect with other”
  • “we’re one of you”
  • “welcome to the family”

And, so on. And, of course, including community-type elements in your products and services when and where appropriate.

So, how do you use all this?

Well, consider that virtually all (good) copywriting is “reason-why” based. You’re giving people reasons why they should take the action you’re asking them to (subscribe to your mailing list, buy your product, join your community, etc).

So, any basic argument can be broken down into two parts:

  1. Take this action
  2. Because reason why

The three needs tell you what those “reasons why” should be. They should speak to the three needs because that’s what motivates people to act. That’s what will make your writing, speaking, whatever kind of messaging you’re doing… more persuasive.

Yes, you still have to prove these kinds of claims, provide evidence, get attention and all that… but getting the appeal right in the first place is critical. Otherwise, people just shrug and say, “Eh, who cares?” It doesn’t animate them.

So, the next time you’re sitting down to write some copy or whip up a video script, forget Maslow and remember McClelland. Your copy will thank you for it.

That said, this is just one of the many marketing secrets we’ve learned working with over 100,000 other online business owners like you.

Want to know the five most impactful secrets we’ve learned? To ramp up your marketing, blow through your income goals and creating a thriving membership community of people you love working with?

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