Why You Need To Hit Your Prospects Where It Hurts Right Now

The other night an entrepreneurial friend was drunkenly extolling the virtues of his latest scheme. A kind of mini-survival kit with several unique twists. This product would potentially help hundreds of stranded drivers every year. His problem was while most people saw the sense of it, nobody was interested in developing it with him. He couldn’t get his business idea off the ground.

We all know that feeling. Lots of nods and general agreement but no action.

Your reader really should read your advice but many won’t. Some products fail even though millions of people need them right now. There are services that are essential and executed brilliantly but nobody signs up.

Most people would agree a pension is a good idea, and the earlier you sign up the more beneficial it will work out. So why am I sitting here, knowing this, in my thirties, with no pension plan?

Any computer technician could tell you of a time they have deleted important data only to find they lacked a sufficient disaster recovery plan. On the other hand, any computer technician could advise you on your own disaster recovery plan.

What is at work here?

I will give you a clue. I’m in my thirties, not my sixties. The people my friend spoke to are sitting in cozy offices, not freezing in their broken-down cars on a sub-zero highway. Our technical friends will get around to bringing the backup procedures up to date … eventually.

It all adds up to prospect procrastination.

The “yes, yes, but not now” factor. Retail salespeople recognize this; “we’ll think about it”.

Don’t be misled though; the problem is not with your prospect but with your copy. Your offer is not compelling enough because it is not hitting the right spot. Where it hurts. Most. Right now.

So, what is the solution?

You have two choices:

  1. Address a more pressing need – by far the easiest choice but not one that is always available to you. Where are they hurting right now, what is their pressing need? Rather than target computer technicians who have no backup solution you could aim your article at people dissatisfied with their existing solution by emphasizing how your advice saves time and effort by automating laborious manual tasks.
  2. Try to bring their potential future pain into the here and now – harder than it sounds but doable with some creativity. The usual tactic with insurance and pensions is to shift the benefit to your spouse and offspring. Picturing your loved-ones suffering causes far more emotional motivation than when aimed at yourself.

There is no avoiding this psychological issue. It is no use keeping your strategy and throwing more time, money and effort at it. You can’t change peoples priorities.

Rather than try ever more forcefully to push what you have to offer you have to truly address the wants, needs and desires of your target audience. The only alternative is failure.

Read more from Chris Garrett at his blog chrisg.com.

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Reader Comments (12)

  1. says

    Excellent analysis that kicks my butt into thinking of this issue as an “in a nutshell” one. Maybe my potential customers need a way to fulfill an immediate need to see something beautiful – hopefully a piece of my art – in front of them.
    Should I highlight that I put art on mousepads as well as frame it for walls? I’m not sure but I’ll sure be thinking about it.

  2. says

    I agree with the post, but I would add a couple things.

    When I launched my first business, a contractor research company, at a local trade show- I was shocked byt the responses I got.

    Most people couldn’t see the need for a service like that- after all, they could do it themselves, they wanted to save a buck on the lowest, unlicensed bid, etc.

    The people who did get my business were those who had horror stories to tell. They had hired someone who ripped them off, did a terrible job, etc.

    These people who had suffered became my evangelists. One happened to be a local celebrity (whose mom had been scammed by contractors). She became my tipping point, having us on the radio and writing a couple articles about us in the AZ Republic.

    I orginally had not wanted to use horror stories to sell my service, because I thought logic was enough- I was wrong.

    Use your evangelists and if necessary, use horror stories to reach your audience!

  3. says

    Spot on prlinkbiz, if people aren’t feeling the lack of your service you need to paint a picture. If that picture isn’t enough then you need to rethink your strategy :)

  4. says

    People buy things for emotional reasons much of the time not logical reasons. Sometimes, the more expensive the product the less logic has to do with the decision.

  5. AK says

    Procrastination, yes.

    However, I think the bigger issue with the examples you cited is trying to sell prevention. I’ve found this to be one of the hardest things to do in sales/marketing.

    Yes, people are concerned about losing data on their computer. But it’s difficult to get someone to pay to prevent data loss from occurring if they’ve never had a problem before.

    However, once they’ve personally experienced the horrors of losing years of work, financial statements, etc. – they’ll be the first in line for your data backup service/disaster recovery plan.

    I think there are two keys here.

    One, is effectively targeting your audience. You’ll have much greater success targeting computer users who have lost data than computer users in general.

    Two, if you are targeting a more general audience, you have to write compelling copy that makes them envision, feel, taste what it’s like to lose that data, be stuck in that car, etc.

    Do that well, and you can prevent yourself (or your clients) from missing out on lots of sales!

  6. says

    Very True.

    Logic is far on our list of triggers, emotion much higher. Copy must strive to sharpen that emotion and go in for the close in one swift movement, while the iron is hot, as they say.

  7. says

    I’m in the advertising business and I am oh so weary of all of this… Everyone’s looking for the edge; that little something extra that forces people to act. It’s all kinda gross really. Believe it or not, there’s more to life than selling, people.

  8. says

    Karen, you’re absolutely right. There’s a lot more to life than selling… a whole lot more.

    But on this particular blog, we discuss selling and other distasteful topics related to marketing and business. Which leaves me wondering, if we’re all so gross, why bother reading, much less wasting your precious time commenting?

  9. says

    The relief of pain – physical, emotional, psychic or spiritual – is a far stronger driver than the pursuit of pleasure. B2B, B2C, it simply doesn’t matter. In the push-pull of pleasure vs pain, the pain driver almost always wins. (Hugh Hefner, his empire and numerous girlfriends notwithstanding :=)

    As far as how and why people buy anything? Across markets and demographics, people buy with emotion and then justify the purchase with logic. The rest, to paraphrase the philosopher, Hiller, is commentary.

    Nice to see you back, Brian!

  10. says

    I think this topic is quite challenging because recently I was discussing with my wife the issue of environmental pollution. The same force of procrastination prevents people from taking a proactive initiative and gradually our planet is warming up. Of course with environment you can really paint the dooms-day picture and scare the shit out of people (I wonder why it is not done).

    From marketing angle people might feel offended if you scare them. I think the best option is to create an air of awareness, and then develop a community around that awareness. Rather than directly selling the product, tell stories about how the product helped the others, how responsible they were for buying the product, or how their quality of life tremendously improved by buying the product. We feel more motivated when we hear or read about the others.

  11. says

    OMG ! More to life than selling ?!

    Say it isn’t so.

    Why tell me now, after I devoted my life to it ?

    Why ? Why ?

    O’ selling, I feel thy pain. Selling is such sweet sorrow.

  12. Roshan says

    You hit the right button mate! I’ve been following this painful approach (painful when it’s difficult to sell, you don’t know where to sell etc …..).

    You know once a prospect told me, during our discussions, that he was spending more than 16 hours managin things about his business that he spent lesser time with his family.

    While presenting my proposal I sold him the idea of how the solution will benefit him personally apart from the other stuff he’s going to get. The sale didn’t go through but I was able to hit many points like these and he came back after many days and bought a different service.

    Even though you got to hit them where it hurts most, it’s a selling metaphor I guess.

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