“Wanting” is a funny thing. It’s important because it’s easy to say “yes” to things we want — and too easy to say “no” to things we don’t. That’s why “wanting” is necessary in your message, because if people don’t hear something, early, that they want or want to know more about… they’ll tune out, and all your hard work leads to nothing.
Yeah. Let’s avoid that.
So, how do you give the people what they want?
Well, that’s where the funny part comes in, because there’s more than one kind of want.
First, there are “new” wants and “old” wants. Let’s think of new wants as wants people don’t know they have. I see these pop up a lot in (bad) marketing and sales messaging, where we’re trying to convince someone they should want something they don’t currently:
“Try this new widget!”
“Buy this new thing!”
“The old way is wrong!”
New wants tend to be a much weaker anchor for your message as they’re new to your audience. Your audience isn’t attached to them in any way.
Old wants, on the other hand, are wants that have been around for a while. They are those tenacious, enduring goals (and Goals-with-a-capital-G if you’re following the Red Thread® method) someone wants to achieve, needs they want to meet, or problems they want to solve. These are the juicy ones, and the wants people are more likely to listen to you about, because they’ve so far gone unmet:
“How can we differentiate ourselves in the market?”
“How can we best communicate our values?
“How can we stop competing on price?”
Actually, let’s talk about that last one, because that brings up the second funny thing about wanting: there are also “negative” wants and “positive” wants — and one of those is MUCH more powerful than the other.
I had the great pleasure of being on Dr. Greg Wells’s podcast recently, and right at the end of our chat, we started digging into this.
Negative wants are goals–or Goals-with-a-captial-G if you’re following the Red Thread® method–framed in negative language. They’re usually about stopping something, like a belief or behavior. For instance, that one above, “How can we stop competing on price?”
Positive wants, on the other hand, are often the same goals, but framed in positive language. You can get to them by trying to express the same concept without “not,” “stop,” “quit,” “without,” etc. We could reframe that price one this way:
“How can we get customers to see the long-term value of what we do?”
Ah! Did you feel that? Something magical just happened. Suddenly where the sky was dark, a light showed up ahead….
Here’s why: A negative want tells you what to stop doing, but it doesn’t give you (and more importantly, your audiences and customers) any indication of where to go next. Or of what to actually do.
But here’s the thing: change is, by definition, doing something differently. There’s no such thing as doing “nothing” when it comes to change. “Nothing” is just doing what you’ve already been doing. It’s the status quo. Change is always, and only, a path forward from where you already are, no matter the direction you’re traveling.
Which means if you want people to change, you need to show them the path to change — and you can only do that with a positive want.
When you put yourself through the exercise, the discipline, of reframing negative wants, it forces you (and thus your customers or audiences) to think about what you’re really offering instead. If someone doesn’t want to compete on price… what DO they really want?
How you answer that question helps you clarify your offering, and that leads to helping you differentiate (bonus!).
Your brain, and your audiences’ brains WILL fill that gap. Nature abhors a vacuum, and all.
That’s also why, once you’ve established a positive want, the brain naturally moves next to ask, “What needs to happen to get there?” Since you have that answer (in the form of your Red Thread® Change — or your process, product, or service), your audience is now much more primed to say “yes” to it.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever frame a want in the negative. After all, that’s likely how your customers and audiences are thinking right now. Using their language (or their “lingo” as my friend and client Jeffrey Shaw so beautifully teaches) helps them feel seen and heard, and see YOU as an ally and partner.
So when it makes sense to, start with the negative and then recast it in the positive. E.g., “A lot of folks want to know how they can stop competing on price. They want to know how they can get their customers to start seeing the long-term value of what they do….”
See how that works?
In fact, by framing the want (the Goal) positively, you actually solve TWO problems with your Change or idea: the old, negative one AND the positive one. In our example, you not only show them how to stop competing on price, you’re also giving them the tools to start demonstrating long-term value.
It’s like you just gave them (my favorite Seth Godin concept:) a free prize inside! And who doesn’t love free prizes?
When you turn an old, negative want into a positive want, you’ll give the people what they want… and you’ll give the people what they need.
How do you give the people what they want? Well, that's where the funny part comes in, because there's more than one kind of want. Click To Tweet If you want people to change, you need to show them the path to change — and you can only do that with a positive want. Click To Tweet When you turn an old, negative want into a positive want, you’ll give the people what they want... and you’ll give the people what they need. Click To Tweet