Why Fear Sells

by 19 comments


In the hands of a skilled copywriter, fear sells. It motivates, urges and moves people to take action like very few other emotions can.

Why? Because it has been proven time and time again that our desire to avoid pain is greater than our desire to gain pleasure.

But fear needs to be used well. The fear that you are playing on in your sales letter must tie in with the product you are selling. For example, if you were selling bicycle helmets to parents of young children, you wouldn’t appeal to the parents fear of germs, now would you? You would appeal to the parent’s innate fear that some harm might befall their precious little one if they rode their bicycles without your helmet.

In addition to that your product needs to offer an appropriate solution to the fear that you are tapping into. Fear works best as an incentive to take action when the fear you are tapping into is specific and widely recognized.

There are several common fears that serve as powerful motivators and encourage prospects to take action:-

1. Fear of Loss - This is a HUGE fear and encompasses various other fears, such as loss of life, youth, health, love and so forth.

2. Fear of failure.

3. Fear of Success

Other fears tie into these three primary fears.

Use fear correctly and it can be a potent selling tool. Use it incorrectly and you can actually paralyze the prospect into inaction, almost like a deer frozen in the headlights of an approaching vehicle.

Do you use fear in your promotions? Have you found it to be an effective motivator?
#copy writing #copywriting #fear #sells
  • Profile picture of the author Steve The Copywriter
    Yes - fear is a brilliant emotional trigger.

    And can sell by the truckload.

    Dan Kennedy says if you use it - really pile it on.

    Others say don't overdo it.

    I've done both on various pieces with great results.

    Testing is the best bet - as always the market tells you when you've got it just right.


    Steve
  • Profile picture of the author SBCopywritingGuy
    I think fear is a great emotion that helps draws the prospect into the copy. Like Steve mentioned, if you're gonna use it, PILE IT ON.

    I think fear is one of those emotions that works great as far as health copy goes. I personally haven't used it in a lot of my promotions, but depending on the market and what's being offered, I think it would work well.
    • Profile picture of the author Steve The Copywriter
      Hi SB,

      I had a closer look at the stats on the stuff I've written with Fear as the motivator.

      And yes the results when I did "pile it on" were better.


      Steve
  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Fear of near-future loss. That's the specific quadrant that bites the most. We use this in consultative selling all the time.
  • Profile picture of the author ZumbaKassel
    Fear is hard to overcome! Everything what I write pver Fear has a high conversion rate!!
  • Profile picture of the author abugah
    Any examples of copy with proven results that primarily uses fear?

    Perhaps a link or even a mention.

    Originally Posted by SpeedCopy View Post


    In the hands of a skilled copywriter, fear sells. It motivates, urges and moves people to take action like very few other emotions can.

    Why? Because it has been proven time and time again that our desire to avoid pain is greater than our desire to gain pleasure.

    But fear needs to be used well. The fear that you are playing on in your sales letter must tie in with the product you are selling. For example, if you were selling bicycle helmets to parents of young children, you wouldn’t appeal to the parents fear of germs, now would you? You would appeal to the parent’s innate fear that some harm might befall their precious little one if they rode their bicycles without your helmet.

    In addition to that your product needs to offer an appropriate solution to the fear that you are tapping into. Fear works best as an incentive to take action when the fear you are tapping into is specific and widely recognized.

    There are several common fears that serve as powerful motivators and encourage prospects to take action:-

    1. Fear of Loss - This is a HUGE fear and encompasses various other fears, such as loss of life, youth, health, love and so forth.

    2. Fear of failure.

    3. Fear of Success

    Other fears tie into these three primary fears.

    Use fear correctly and it can be a potent selling tool. Use it incorrectly and you can actually paralyze the prospect into inaction, almost like a deer frozen in the headlights of an approaching vehicle.

    Do you use fear in your promotions? Have you found it to be an effective motivator?
  • Profile picture of the author flavius
    Originally Posted by Andrew Gould View Post

    Have a look at these three posts from Lawrence Bernstein's excellent blog:
    I can show you 50 more and actually if you really see what is being said here you know what everything that is done in marketing is fear ---

    Fear of having too much, fear of having too little, fear of not having, fear for others - great example of this is Sarah McLachlan SPCA Commercials. Fear for the lives of those dogs people or they will die.
  • Profile picture of the author MikeLeckie
    Fear is associated with our self preservation instinct which gets and keeps the attention of the reader which goes a long way in selling the product.
  • Profile picture of the author Jennie Heckel
    Fear SELLS.... when your product RELIEVES the FEAR you just provoked!

    Just be sure the product does do the job of relieving the emotional stress you created. (I hate reading fear laden doomsday copy -- with NO salvation... at the end!)

    If there are any holes in your product mention them and why they are not important or minimize them or you lose the sale...
    • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
      Originally Posted by Jennie Heckel View Post

      Fear SELLS.... when your product RELIEVES the FEAR you just provoked!

      Just be sure the product does do the job of relieving the emotional stress you created. (I hate reading fear laden doomsday copy -- with NO salvation... at the end!)

      If there are any holes in your product mention them and why they are not important or minimize them or you lose the sale...
      YES!

      Jennie is spot on.

      The only point in knocking prospects off their equilibrium is to give them a place to discover salvation.

      Of course, this only works when you're selling something that's a genuine SOLUTION.

      But the point is...

      MOST people will AVOID what they FEAR like the plague!

      Here's the thing:

      You have to highlight people's fear in a graceful way.

      If you just try to appeal to people's fears in an incessantly low-vibration way (you know, make them feel like sh!t,) they'll just want to get away from your website ASAP!

      Look at it like this:

      Imagine your copy is a river.

      And you and your prospects are in a raft flowing downstream.

      As you're heading towards your destination, there will be HUGE boulders in your way that you have to AVOID.

      Those MASSIVE rocks are your prospect's fears.

      And all your doing is pointing them out, while continuing to guide them downstream.

      You're not going to scream, "OH MY GOD! A BOULDER! IF WE HIT IT, WE'LL ALL DIE!"

      That kind of copy turns people off and makes them search for the REAL LEADER in the marketplace.

      My point is...

      You're not dwelling on stimulating people's fear in your copy.

      You're just pointing out their fears with a well-appointed statement or two, then LEADING the reader to the solution in the flowing river of your copy.

      From a psychological standpoint...

      ...The more subtle you can keep your fear-boulders in the river of your copy, the more they'll actually stick in your prospect's minds.

      Then when you animate the possibilities your SOLUTION creates, the readers will FEEL an incredible REPRIEVE that makes buying your product or service the natural next step.

      Don't be a fear monger.

      It ain't sexy!

      Mark
  • Profile picture of the author kaidaiah
    Totally agree that fear is a driving factor of many decisions. Defense mechanisms always will kick in whenever we sense any kind of danger even if that danger is manufactured in the form of a sales page.

    Notice how all those Post-Panda Google Products are all easy to convert since everyone wants to relieve their fear of what Panda really is?
  • Profile picture of the author YasirYar
    Fear is a part of the negative or reverse psychology which works well, but has a few cons as well. If you try to scare your clients too much and don't tell them that it may not be that bad in every case then you might get marked as a negative seller and lose clients. The best way is to mix the fear factor in bits and pieces with positive notes.
  • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
    Fear is great, especially when tempered with brutal honest and ended on hope...hope that will soon die if you don't buy the product lol
  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    Does fear really sell or motivates the sale?

    It's like saying that headaches sell. They
    don't, but help the sale of Advil.

    It may be straining at a gnat but if it's like
    saying "sex sells", "fear sells" can't be a parallel
    statement. One is desired and the other isn't.

    -Ray Edwards
  • Profile picture of the author tomokun
    Fear isn't a miracle cure all for you copy.

    It's emotion that you need to make your readers feel, same as with any good writing.

    As copywriters we need to emotionally connect with our readers in a believable way, and then tie that emotion to a specific action that we want them to take.

    Fear is a great emotion, but so is greed.

    So is love.

    So is hate.

    Emotion is what rules people, and the second you stop thinking about what tips and tricks you can use to make your copy convert, and START thinking about WHO you are trying to connect with through your copy, you'll be that much farther along.
  • Profile picture of the author monkeytrousers
    I think it really matters how people deal with their own motivations. The reason fear works so well is that most people's motivations push them away from things they don't want instead of towards what they do want.

    I guess this is why it's called the Warrior Forum and not the Peasant Forum...

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