Tips for Analyzing Audiences and Their Motivations

By John Verrico, featured on PR News

When developing strategic messaging, you need to analyze your target audiences. You must ask the following question: What would motivate them to take the desired action?

However, this isn’t always an easy question to answer. In fact, understanding motivation is the eternally elusive golden fleece of corporate executives, advertisers, political leaders, front-line supervisors, and parents of teenagers. How do you motivate people to work, buy, vote or clean up their room? If you try to generalize, you are doomed to fail.

First, you must understand the three principles of motivation:

1. You cannot force people to be motivated >> motivation comes from within.
2. All people are motivated >> we all have reasons for what we do (or don’t do).
3. People do things for their own reasons >> not yours.

It may seem as if there isn’t much hope for success, but knowing these facts from the start can steer you in the right direction when analyzing your audience.

Here are some tips for developing your strategy:

Put yourself in their shoes.

If you were your audience, why would you want to listen? Why would you be interested in reading what you put out? Why would you be motivated to take the action you ask? To analyze motivation properly, you must:

✓ Separate yourself from your message, product, company, organization, and even your own social standing.
✓ Forget your goals and whatever benefits that you will ultimately reap if your message has the effect you are hoping for.
✓ Ask others. Ask your mother. Better yet, ask people from your target audience.

Ask “why” five times.

In problem analysis, many industries recommend the practice of asking why five times. Toyota uses this method to analyze mechanical failures or manufacturing flaws. High-tech companies use it to understand how a virus infects a computer. Each why leads you closer to the root of the issue.

Here’s an example:

Why do you work so much overtime?
I need money.

Why do you need so much money?
Alimony is expensive.

Why do you have so much alimony?
I have three ex-wives.

Why do you have three ex-wives?
We couldn’t get along.

Why not?
They didn’t understand how much I had to work.

Make it their choice.

You cannot motivate someone else to do something they don’t want to do. But what you can do is create an environment that encourages ownership of the idea, which will in turn inspire people to motivate themselves.

✓ Create choice wherever possible so people feel they have more control over the decision.
✓ Make it personal whenever possible.
✓ Respect people—nothing motivates a person more than when they feel respected.

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