Gasp. Your new columnist comes out of the gate writing as frisky as all get-out. Bear with me. We’ll keep our hands to ourselves. I simply want us all to commune on the idea behind The Touch Factor. When we write copy or create content of any kind with the intention of getting people to act, we’re only going to succeed when we make them feel something.

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor explains, “We live in a world where we are taught from the start that we are thinking creatures that feel. The truth is we are feeling creatures that think.” Negotiation expert Jim Camp writes, “Even with what we believe are logical decisions, the very point of choice is arguably always based on emotion.”

As subjects go, few are more complex (or mysterious) than the human psyche. However, the point I’m making couldn’t be any simpler. Emotion is what moves you. The words “motivation” and “emotion” come from a common Latin word, movere, which means “to move.”

Your customer has dreams. Perhaps what’s even more important to the marketer is he or she has nightmares. What troubles your customers when they toss and turn in the wee hours? Knowing the answer is the critical first step in creating effective content.

No doubt, you’ve read marketing lessons focused on the creation of buyer personas. The gist is you create a fictional archetype of a buyer to represent a segment of your clientele. Personas can be amazingly useful or a waste of energy. The essential components of your persona must be the buyer’s motivations and goals.  

See, no one’s up at night thinking about dog obedience training, tax preparation, or analytics software. But you better believe plenty of people are flipping the sweaty side of the pillow down, worrying about their anxious puppy thrashing the furniture, getting audited by the IRS, or operating websites with a 95% bounce rate.

It spooks me just to toss these nightmares out there. But on the other side lies pacification, peace, pleasure, profit, productivity, and paradise. On the other side is a piece of content with incomparable pulling power because it promises to tell me what I need to do to sleep as soundly as a baby.

It’s also important to understand that research and writing are bedfellows-and scraping the surface won’t do. Great writing can’t be skin deep. You need to find a way to explore deeper into the hearts and minds of your customers. Let’s take a look at the fundamental audience research techniques you can use.

  • Talk to customers-The best research methodology is talking to customers. Yes, it requires the most time and effort, but it’s a must.
  • Talk to the people who talk to the customers-The customer-facing people on your team-particularly in sales and support-should be tuned into the customer’s most common pain points.
  • Conduct surveys-A highly efficient way to conduct customer research is through surveys, questionnaires, and feedback forms.
  • Host focus groups-Online or off, gather a group of people with something in common and ask them questions. Offer an incentive for participating.
  • Listen via social media-Social media empowers you to observe (read/listen/watch) how people behave in the wild. In addition to popular social channels, gather insights from forums and sites that capture customer reviews.
  • Examine your analytics-Your website analytics are a rich source of answers to questions about your customers’ needs and behaviors.
  • Experiment and test-Want to find out what really works? Form a basic hypothesis and test variations of anything you produce or publish.

Most brands struggle to differentiate their products. A great opportunity to forge relationships with buyers is to push their emotional buttons. The process begins by understanding precisely what they dream and worry about: their hopes and fears. To make a connection with your customers, cozy up with them after dark.