Image of field with hay stacks

How to get attention when there is none

It’s said that without desire, nothing happens. So where does it come from and how do we increase it enough to get attention?

It’s likely that the paragraph above achieved some (or even all) of what it promised, after all, it is a big promise (if things only happen with desire, then discovering where it comes from, increasing it, and how to use it to get what you want is just about the biggest promise anyone could make in business – right?).

On the other hand, if you read it and got zero reaction, then you were not sold on the importance of desire in the first place – and why should you be anyway? Desire is just a label used by psychologists, dictionary compilers, and copywriters to explain why some things sell, and some things don’t. No big deal eh…

Speaking of which (dictionary wise), here’s the definition: “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen” (all good investigations start with current thinking – this is all part of a first principles philosophy).

What can induce “a strong feeling of wanting”? Going back to my first memories, toys were top of my list. Not just any old toys, but specific toys (and like most kids, my toy choices changed over time).

One year it was Brittains. the British manufacturer of farm toys (I never lived on a farm, so the desire did not come from there).

But I did play a lot in the fields where I grew up. In particular, we used to pretend that the bales of hay were machines, fortresses, or houses (and any number of other things). It’s also worth knowing that those days were amongst the happiest of my childhood.

Where did the DESIRE to play come from? If you look at other young animals, they pretty much all play, so it’s easy to argue that it’s inherent in the animal kingdom.

It’s also true that most animals mimic or copy what their elders (as well as peers) do. The trouble is, when you’re a kid, you can’t actually do what those in authority do, so you pretend instead. That’s play for you.

It’s also therefore easy to make the case that we’re all brainwashed into certain patterns of behaviour from the day we were born, and all the desires we later have are inherited from those early days (ie. our earliest experiences).

If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s true that where there is no desire, none can ever be created.

That’s where we’ll go next. Maybe there’s more to desire than meets the eye.

If you can’t sell anything where there’s no desire, how do you go about creating it? The simple answer is you don’t. The complicated answer is you can’t.

Let’s take an extreme. If you have no desire to go big game hunting, then nothing on this planet will convert you (but if you do, this competition may be of interest https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/04/donald-trump-jr-trophy-hunting-auction-nevada-aoe).

Here’s another example: Become a shepherd. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had any interest in farming apart from playing around as a kid in a field. But weirdly, the thought of roaming the hills all day with a dog sounds appealing – I don’t need the sheep, I’m sure they can look after themselves, after all, they were around (and survived quite happily) a long time before we appeared on the planet.

In other words, somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a spark of desire with something connected with dogs, walking, and the countryside (but not necessarily shepherding or farmwork – you see how the right words matter?).

The most romantic film I watched whilst growing up was ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. It just so happens that the hero is a shepherd. It was also around that time I fell in love with my wife.

Things connect in life. Associations with one thing lead to another. We build networks and internal webs of desire. All it takes is one little connection to start the ball rolling.

The reason marketers talk about ‘touch points’ has more to do with making connections than familiarity of some particular brand name. Remember this the next time you talk with a prospect (increasing desire is what we do, and what we sell for, and on behalf of, our clients).

It all starts with knowledge of our audience, and better still, knowledge of each individual within it, but it takes experimentation and time.

How do you do that?

What’s the difference between desire and passion (and why does it matter)?

We know we can’t sell anything unless there is at least a spark of desire from our audience (or client, or customer, or prospect etc.). Why?

But what about passion? Here’s Google’s definition: “strong and barely controllable emotion”. That sounds like desire on steroids to me.

Imagine having a prospect so fired up they can barely control their emotions. Assuming they were of the passionate kind, I think a sale would be forthcoming pretty quickly, right.

And is that not what we’re all looking for from our copy – passion? If so, then we need to grab that spark of desire and amplify it until the reader can barely control their emotion.

You couldn’t get a clearer piece of advice. But what happens when we try? Melodrama. Getting anyone into that state requires an extraordinary degree of control and personal knowledge about them.

There are two sides to this story though. Passion isn’t always positive. When we get angry we see the opposite side – it’s still passionate, but passionate about hate or injustice or something that so breaks our own code of ethics or integrity we can’t stand it any more – and so we take action.

You can see this everyday in politics. The politics of hate is strong right now. And by manipulating it, people can take control of entire countries.

That’s selling carried to its extreme, and what is also interesting is that it’s being done by video, radio, and the written word – each one polished for its particular audience.

But there’s more to this desire/passion thing.

So far we’ve looked at desire from the prospect’s point of view. But what is it about desire that makes people want to buy things?

Passion is the answer – an extreme form of desire. If we move people into a passionate state of emotion, then we have a better chance of achieving success.

But what about us – the copywriters? How do we get into that state so we too can achieve our dreams?

I’ve looked at this before, but let’s touch on it again, what is your passion? Any idea? If you answer yes, “it’s writing” (or copywriting or something similar), great, you’re good to go, but if not, then you’re in the vast majority – most of us have no idea what our passion is.

If we’re going to associate passion with success, then we’re going to need some to get what we want (note – it’s always been this way, it’s just hard for most of us to realise it).

My own journey in this industry has been tediously slow. My original desire was the same as most people – a desire not to work for someone else. The more jobs I had (and quit), the stronger the desire – it took me 7 years (from 16 to 23) to make the break and quit my last job (that break lasted 43 years).

Back then I had no idea what a copywriter was (let alone did), all I knew was, unless I got the message out about my brand new courier business, there would be no business. So I started writing flyers.

There was no theory other than pure logic – why would they want my service? How would they contact me? What were my rates?

What I didn’t realise back then was that I was asking the right questions. I was already ‘customer centric’. Perhaps that was why it took off (after a year of slog).

Anyway, 4 years later I sold the business and started a whole stream of others. None of them had anything to do with copywriting, but they all NEEDED copywriting.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s I had any idea that copywriting was not just an aspect of marketing I needed to know more about, but that it was the ONLY aspect of marketing I needed to know more about.

From that realisation, everything else (slowly) came together until my desire to be a copywriter became so overwhelming, something had to happen.

Everything you’re reading in this group is a part of it. My tiny little desire to become independent grew into a passion for writing, and in particular copywriting, and from there, it grew into the Science of Copywriting and discovery about our human nature (good and bad).

How does any of this help you if you’ve been struggling? Through hope. If I can do this, so can you. I’m not a genius. I left school at 16 with practically nothing (English and Maths was it – but that was because at that time, my mum and dad were teachers and used to force feed spelling and maths tests on the way to school).

I had no ideas about originality (in fact I used to worry a lot about why other people seemed able to think up amazing ideas and I couldn’t).

And I had very little idea about business. But it didn’t matter. The taste of freedom I got was more powerful than any drug.

In fact, the vision that came from the passion to be free drove a bulldozer through all obstacles that came my way, and once the engine had fired up within me, it continued (and continues) to run despite every setback (and there have been many including the death of an employee on my watch).

Every business needs a copywriter, but not every business knows it. The louder we shout our message to the world, the more business we get. If you’re new, stick with it, if you’ve been doing this for years and are struggling, get passionate again and ramp up your efforts.

PS. When you’re starting out, always focus on the people most likely to buy. Focusing on anyone else will wear you out.


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