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What do people want?

Last week, I talked about the surprising results from a survey I gave my friends around storytelling and statistics. Their feedback led me to come up with ten questions I want answered to reach a better conclusion on how you can create memorable and persuasive speeches that create long-term behaviour change.

The first question, which I’ll be exploring this week, is: What do people want?

POV: You're talking to someone you want to persuade

But first, you need to understand how people are

We are all different. Before getting into the meat of this article (or the tofu if you’re vegetarian, or the prawns if your pescitarian or the mango if you’re raw vegan, you get the point) to understand what people want, you need to understand how people are different, and how those differences should underpin your approach.

They say personalisation is a new market trend, but I’d argue it’s only a trend for the end product. Personalising persuasive efforts has been done by good leaders since the idea crossed the first set of lips.

Every person reading this will have different likes, dislikes, talents and understandings. That doesn’t mean there aren’t common themes, but it does mean that a one sized all solution will probably disappoint you- especially long term. If you want to persuade the most people, don’t assume they all want the same things or combination of things as you or anyone else.

What most people want

Most people want to be happy, and but there are different ways on how they think they can get there. People’s imaginations build on memories, which is why understanding what they want and why they want it is so important. If you can understand what someone wants, you can create memories and let their imagination fill in the rest.

We are unique in our ability to imagine. We are the only species that does it. Our visions of ourselves are powerful to the point where if we think about our future selves we get the same feeling we get when thinking about somebody famous.

Society has filled in our blanks on what creates happiness, although this looks different for each person. Filling in gaps in people’s imagination is a hallmark of effective persuasion, because in order to get someone to do what you want, you need your solution to fit their idea of who they want to be.

How they think they can get what they want (thanks to civilised society)

In our quest to be happy, there are five main factors for how most of us believe we can get there. These factors are: status, safety, progress, connection and curiosity. We feel rewarded when we get positive incentives (social, economic or moral), and our behaviour is driven by their frequency and/or perceived value.

Good marketing says, this could be you if you buy xyz

Like I’ve said, we are different, but we do have a lot in common. We want to be in control of our happiness, and most of us believe we are special, or at the very least unique. This drives many of us to compare ourselves to others, which is part of the power of stories and statistics we can compare ourselves to.

This comparison drives our decision making, and in looking to achieve what we want, most of us want to get there in the easiest a quickest way possible. This doesn’t mean solutions actually have to be easy or quick, but it does mean the most optimal solutions will be the ones people actually want, that is- if you can get them to try it (more info on that next week).

A summary

  • A personalised approach to what people want is best because people are different

  • Most people want to be happy.

  • Most people believe they will get there through a combination of status, safety, progress, connection and curiosity

  • People compare themselves and want to acheive happiness as easy and as fast as possible.

Closing remarks and an insight into the psychology of persuasion

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope you found it useful. There’s a lot more that goes into what changes our mind than pure desire. Would you like to know what persuades people? Then make sure to follow me on Linkedin for next week’s blog post because that’s where I’ll post it.



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