How to Read Your Audience's Mind

How to Read Your Audience’s Mind

Relevance is a measure of how well your brand, messaging, and content connect with and speak to the top-of-mind pains and problems of your intended audience. This is vital if you are to gain their attention, earn their trust, and motivate them to take action and support your show.

Your content is operating in an attention economy where attention is the most valuable resource because it is the most difficult one to attain. Your intended audience only has so much attention to lend at any given time. Only a small fraction of what they are exposed to will even make it past the “spam filter” of their mind.

Primary Motivating Needs (Why People Will Really Pay Attention to and Support Your Work)

Because their time and attention are so limited, people won’t be interested in hearing your message until it clearly appeals to their self-interest. But what does that mean? How can we identify and describe your customer’s self-interest in a way that is more specific and meaningful when it comes to making strategic decisions for your business?

We’ve all heard about how important it is to emphasize benefits over features. But even benefits often fail to go deep enough.

What really motivates humans to take action is a desire to fulfill their most important needs. We all share common human needs that drive our daily behaviors.

For example, an iPhone has a long list of amazing features and benefits. But if you dig beneath the layers to understand the primary reasons a consumer chooses to buy an iPhone over other options available to them, it’s because they they see the iPhone as the best option for fulfilling specific needs such as belonging (because of the identity that is associated with being an Apple user) or connection (because of the myriad unique ways an iPhone empowers and enhances the user’s ability to stay connected to other people and the world). These are only two of the needs that potentially motivate an iPhone buyer.

The following is a list of the primary human needs that motivate our behavior. When you understand which of these needs are most important to your ideal audience, you can more effectively communicate how your content will help them meet those needs.










Peace and hope

Meaning and purpose

Mastery and growth

Shelter and sustenance

Fun and entertainment

Save time

Save money

Make more money

Reduce effort

Reduce stress, anxiety or hassle

Improve physical or mental state

Self-transcendence (contribution)


When producing content, focus on the needs that are most important to your ideal audience as it relates to your topic and message. This is something you’ll have to infer from conversations and interviews with the kind of people that make up your ideal audience. They won’t be able to explicitly tell you what needs motivate them most because they likely don’t think about their decisions in those terms.

Once you know what the primary motivating needs of your audience are, you can speak to those needs in your content. This will allow you to tap into the emotional core of your audience’s motivations.

There are two ways you can use the list of needs above. First, identify the top 3-5 most important needs that motivate your audience. These are the ones you want to speak to and emphasize most. Then go through the entire list of needs one by one and think about how your message and content can help your ideal audience to meet those needs in their life.

An Important Note About Needs and Manipulation

The concept of identifying, speaking to, and meeting needs with your business and brand is incredibly powerful. Developing your ability to do this is one of the most potent ways to elevate your ability to lead, influence, create value, and impact others.

It’s also very easy to communicate, market, and sell in a way that manipulates people’s desire to meet their needs. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this.

Whenever you choose strategies for marketing and selling, it’s important to ask yourself whether you are manipulating someone’s needs or fulfilling them in a healthy, life-promoting, and lasting way.

For example, I’ve seen sales campaigns for events or programs where there’s a strong messaging based on “not missing out” (FOMO) and “in crowd, out crowd” dynamics. This appeals to the need for belonging. It might motivate someone to buy and even give them a feeling of satisfying that need, for a time.

If the fulfillment of the need for belonging doesn’t last long past the action of buying, then the appeal to that need was in fact a manipulation. The the ends don’t justify the means.

Further Reading on Needs

When you are ready to go deeper into the topic of human needs and how they motivate consumer and listener behavior, I highly recommend this excellent article from Harvard Business Review, The 30 Elements of Value.

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