Dials to switch from negative mode to positive mode

Do you occasionally worry that your “negative” marketing messages will reflect badly on your business?

I have a friend who asked me to fix a marketing flyer that, she thought, was too “negative.”

“I don’t want to be a fear-monger,” she said.

The flyer said her recruiting business “takes the headache out of finding the perfect hire.”

She wished her message could be more positive.

I asked her, “What happens when a business tries to find the perfect hire without your help?”

She listed several bad outcomes: The process takes much longer. Business leaders spend time sorting through resumes and interviewing prospects. They hire imperfect people who don’t last. They have to re-do the process when it fails.

“Sounds like a headache,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said.

“So why are you afraid to say that you cure headaches?” I asked.

I’ve had similar conversations countless times as I help businesses tune-up their marketing stories.

Your story should reflect your customers’ aspirations AND fears. Your products and services will fulfill those aspirations (deliver desired outcomes) and address those fears (avoid dreaded outcomes).

Both sides of that coin matter and should be part of your marketing mix. Many psychologists say that fear motivates buyers more than aspiration.

Take heart marketers. You’re not a bad person if you identify a prospect’s fear and describe how you will address it. You’re not a fear-monger. You’re a life-saver -- or at least a headache reliever. What’s wrong with relieving headaches?

Marketers go wrong when they overstate and sensationalize problems. Don’t mislead. Don’t exploit a problem that your products and services can’t honestly address.

My friend accurately described what can (and often does) happen if businesses act without her. Calling it a “headache” is fair and accurate. Prospects can relate.

Her service truly delivers on the promise: She helps you avoid those headaches.

That’s why her flyer will continue to say so.


This post first appeared in St. Louis Small Business Monthly for which Tom Ruwitch writes a regular marketing column. 


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