How to motivate your readers to trust and listen to you

If you’re an online writer or entrepreneur, you’re trying to get and keep an audience. You want gain your readers’ trust so they’ll listen to you. If you sell services or products, ultimately you want your readers to buy from you.

But people don’t just listen to you or buy from you automatically. You have to motivate them to do so. We’ve talked before about how to get your readers to buy your products and the factors that influence buyers’ decisions. This post addresses some of your audience’s motivations, and how you can use these to gain your readers’ trust.

First, before your readers will buy from you, you have to get them to listen to you. How can you show them you know what you’re talking about?

You have to establish a motive for your audience to listen. They’re not just sitting around, refreshing your website until you post something. You need to take advantage of built-in audience motivations, and tell them how the information is relevant to them. Your approach should be, “This information will help you do better or know more about such-and-such.”

Get to know your readers, and present information that relates to them. Adapting your message to the people in your audience will help you stay audience-centered. You can also use the unexpected and surprise people with something unpredictable.

Stories are a great way to get your audience to listen to you. Use conflict to pit one side against the other, or highlight opposing forces. Action sets the stage, moves to the conclusion and ties up the ending. Suspense keeps your audience guessing, and humor when appropriate can keep their interest.

Stories can be from your own experience and can use one of two strategies. They can be about someone who used the information you’re giving and the results they got. They can also be about someone who didn’t use the information and the negative consequences they suffered.

The first strategy is one of positive motivation, or telling your audience that good things will happen if they follow your advice. To use this technique, determine what your audience values most, then tailor your message to offer that to them. For example, if you’re an online businessperson and you want readers to enroll in your course, tell them the positive benefits of enrollment. If you’re selling products, tell readers why they should want your product and why it’s useful.

The second strategy is negative motivation. It’s the opposite approach. You tell your audience what bad things will happen if they don’t listen to your advice. This approach uses fear appeals to threaten your audience with negative consequences if they don’t use your information. Fear appeals are more successful if you can convince readers that the threat is real and will probably occur unless they take action. This is where building trust comes in: The more competent, trustworthy, or respected you are, the more successful an appeal to fear will be.

Now that you have your audience listening to you, you can appeal to what motivates them to buy. According to William J. McGuire, who was a professor of psychology at Yale University, there are psychological motives that affect consumers.


If you’re an online entrepreneur, you can use various motives to get your readers to become buyers. Once you establish trust with your readers, they’re more likely to become buyers.

I tried to do some further research on McGuire, and I found this site that says there are 16 psychological motives. But then I found this marketing teacher site that says there are 12 motives. So while I’m pretty sure McGuire named 16, I’m not completely sure. In any case, we’ll just look at six of them here:

  1. Self-Expression: Letting others know by our actions, including the things we buy and display, what and who we are. This means we often buy and use services and products to maintain a desired self-concept. In advertising, there must be a relationship between self-concept and product image for it to be relevant to an audience.
  2. Novelty: The need for variety, for something new and different. This happens when consumers switch brands or impulse buy. People in stable situations become restless and may want change. The old saying, “Variety is the spice of life” applies here.
  3. Reinforcement: Buying products that give you reinforcement or compliments from others that you’ve made a good choice. This includes products such as cars, clothing, purses and bags. The reinforcement relates to the person’s need to enhance their self-image.
  4. Affiliation: The need to share and be accepted by others. This might include products aimed at mothers looking after the health of their families, or beer commercials that suggest a sense of enjoyment and belonging.
  5. Modeling: The need to model other people and base our behavior on that of others. People who desire to maintain conformity with reference groups show modeling behavior. Advertisers hit this motive by showing desirable individuals using their brands, the message being that if you use this product, you’ll be desirable, too.
  6. Ego defense: The need to defend our egos and identities, and to protect our self-concepts when our identities are threatened. This means consumers may rely on well-known brands to avoid making a socially incorrect purchase. Have you ever thought about buying something, then thought to yourself, “No, if I buy that, my friends will think I’m crazy”? Then you buy the more familiar brand or product? That’s ego defense.

If you can find out which of these motives (and it may be more than one) encourages your audience, you can design a sales appeal that speaks to that motive. That should increase your chances of getting your readers to become buyers.

These techniques and strategies should help you get your readers to first listen to you and trust you, then motivate them to buy products and services from you. Advertisers and marketers use these same techniques to get people, including you, to buy things. As long as you’re selling an authentic product or service that will genuinely help your audience, there’s nothing wrong with using a few time-honored marketing techniques to increase your chances of converting them into customers.

Readers, what techniques do you use to sell products to your customers? Do you have anything specific that has worked? Or not worked? Let us know in the comments!

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