Picture this: It’s midnight. Your stomach starts growling. You want a snack. No, you need a snack – a specific snack, but you know you don’t have it. Now you want it even more. In this moment, how much is the snack worth? Beyond monetary value, how much does the snack matter? What are you going to do about it?
This is the skeleton of a simple process we see everywhere: scarcity creates tension, tension creates value, value causes action.
These three steps drive everything we are motivated to do. It can help to look for them in their respective pairs to apply them professionally. When we’re not sure what we’re doing or how to accomplish the action we want people to take, we can solve the puzzle in reverse order.
What is the action we want someone to take? Why is that action valuable to them? Why would they want to do it? What are their motivations to actually act?
When does the realization of tension occur? Where is the dissonance before the decision? Is it an “I wake up thinking about this and don’t know” long-term tension or an “I want this right now” impulsive tension? How valuable, monetarily and emotionally, is resolution? Remember, tension wants to be resolved, and resolution is where the value, satisfaction, and relief is.
Who realizes some good, service, or piece of information is scarce and missing from their immediate life? What makes them specifically wake up to this specific realization? How does being awakened to it trigger tension about what to do next with this realization?
These three steps are like a sliding board. If we know what gets a person to realize they’ve climbed the ladder and are at the top, what gets them to slide down? The answer is not naturally magnetic products and services. The answer is not generic statements about “best-in-class” and “white glove.” The world actually has plenty of those. The answer doesn’t come from us, it comes from them.
We find the answer by understanding what our audience senses as scarce. We find our answer where they realize they don’t have an answer. If we get good at understanding how scarcity creates tension, tension creates value, and value causes action we will find ourselves with plenty of work to be done.
*h/t to Seth Godin. Too many pieces to reference, but he’s helped organized my thinking on this greatly over the years.