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Why Do People Buy?

copywriting blog

I don’t care who you are. 

I don’t care if you’re an artist that paints paintings of vintage cars, a poet that writes poems about love and heartbreak or an entrepreneur that sells the world’s comfiest socks. 

If you don’t know why people buy, you aren’t going to make it very far. 

Some of you might cringe after reading that last line, thinking to yourself –– selling your art is selling out

To which I would argue the difference between selling your art and not selling your art is the difference between you being a professional versus a hobbyist. 

There is nothing wrong with being a hobbyist. I have many hobbies, one of which is the Ukulele. But, I would never count on my Ukulele to put bread on the table.

Anyways, you get the point and if you’re still reading this, you understand that you can pursue something you’re passionate about and make a pretty penny while doing so –– you just need to know why people buy.

Why People Buy?

Generally speaking, why people buy can be broken down into one of two reasons––

Reason #1: To move further away from pain.

Reason #2: To mover closer to pleasure. 

If you think about everything you bought over the course of the past year, 90% of your purchases can be categorized as Reason #1 or Reason #2.

$5 Carmel Frappe from Starbucks –– Reason #2.

$10 Bottle of Advil from CVS –– Reason #1.

$75 Pair of Nike Sneaker from Zappos –– Reason #2.

$50 worth of Frozen Margaritas from Juan’s Cantina –– Reason #1 & #2.

It’s a fairly commonsensical concept, but here is the kicker –– one person’s pain might be another person’s pleasure and vice-versa. 

For example, some people might find skydiving extremely pleasurable, doing it so often that they become semi-professional divers –– while other people wouldn’t jump out of a plane if you paid them $1,000,000 to do so. 

But guess who is keeping the skydiving instructors in business? The small group of crazy sociopaths that find jumping from thousands of feet in the air pleasurable.

Fortunately, you probably aren’t in the skydiving business. So, getting people to buy shouldn’t be nearly as hard –– or at least not as hard as getting someone to jump from 15,000 feet in the air. 

How to Get People to Buy?

In order to get people to buy whatever it is you are selling, you need to first determine what it is you are selling. In other words, is it a Reason #1 or a Reason #2? 

Are people buying your product or service to move further away from pain? Or, are they buying your product or service to move closer to pleasure? 

How to Get People to Buy (Reasons #1):

If you offer a product or service that moves your customers further away from pain, you need to remind them of what it feels like to experience that pain (without actually inflicting it). 

There is a reason Advil’s commercials depict a bunch of people cringing with hurt looks on their faces as they grab at parts of their body that are causing them pain. It's so that the viewer can remember what it feels like to have a headache, a toothache, a backache, a [fill in the blank] ache. When the viewer remembers this pain, they buy the product to move further away from said pain. 

How to Get People to Buy (Reason #2):

The contrary can be said for McDonald’s commercials, which depict skinny beautiful people happily eating burgers and fries in hopes to induce a sense of pleasure in the viewer. And when the viewer feels this pleasure, they are more likely to move closer to it. 

***I would argue that this is manipulation considering that overconsumption of McDonald's can lead to diabetes and heart disease, but that’s a conversation for another day. 

In Closing –– 

Once you have discovered whether your customer purchases your product or service to move further away from pain or closer to pleasure, you will know exactly why people buy... and better yet, why people buy what you are selling.

By Cole Schafer


You've gotta check this out–– Sticky Notes is my email list reserved strictly for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.


Cole Schafer