It is surprising how often sales copywriting misses the mark when it comes to delivering the right message to potential new customers. We know that we need to appeal to a very defined need when we set about creating sales copy, but sometimes, it really is difficult to nail down what need it is that you are meeting.

Copywriting and meeting needs

Most products and services do meet a need for someone. But it can be a real headache defining it, because it isn’t always what you think it might be. There is a really old saying that is always wheeled out to copywriters. It is something that is usually mumbled about drills and quarter inch holes. And how we need the holes, and not the drill, or the drill bit. But I was thinking about this need for quarter inch holes and I realised that I have never, ever needed them. Ever.

My only foray into drill bit buying (I am married now so someone else deals with the quarter inch holes), was when I was a single lady with lots of cosmetics and no shelf to put them on. I needed a shelf hanging. So I went about buying a drill to do it. My need was a shelf on the wall. Not a hole.

And so you see that even the old ways aren’t necessarily the best. At the end of the day, I was going to buy whatever I could find in whichever shop I was in. But as a copywriting message, this is pretty important stuff. We may be missing the mark way more often than we realise because we are talking to the wrong need.

Sales copy must have emotional appeal

Sometimes the real need is emotional, even if the product is entirely functional. There is plenty of brain science behind this but I won’t bore you with the details today. Cosmetic brands seem to understand this better than any other industry. Women don’t want an easy to absorb, oil free moisturiser that won’t break the bank. They want to look 25 years old with just three applications. And perfume buyers. They don’t want to smell nice; they want to feel like Coco Chanel. They want to turn heads and be noticed. I wouldn’t be surprised if women would wear skunk pheromones if it made others stop in the street and say ‘wow, you smell amazing’.

I was wondering about this principle with a service that is more functional. How on earth do you appeal to an emotional need when you are selling, say, website hosting. Low downtime, low monthly cost, unlimited space blah blah blah. But how does any of that appeal to the emotions of the person buying?

If you are selling hosting to me, you need all of those things. But it also has to be really, really easy to use and cause me no headaches. I am so busy, I really can’t be doing with problematic technology and so if you offer me hosting with the promise that in one click my site is ready to go, you have appealed directly to my emotional need to be uninvolved in the process as much as possible and for you to take care of it without charging earth. The other benefits are great, and I won’t buy without them, but I do need that reassurance that I won’t be sucked into hosting hell for hours trying to upload and download and whatever else.

So as you can see, obvious benefits are prerequisites. But if you want to nail that sale, you need to really think out of the box and tune into the emotions. You can’t appeal to all the people all the time, but you can hone in on a clearly defined target with some creative (and emotional) thinking.