Are You Comfortable Using FEAR to Sell Your SOLUTION?

38 replies
I work with a lot of spiritually minded entrepreneurs...

...people who get at a deep level that success is way more than just money.

But when you're faced with deciding what emotions you want to target in your copy, and HOW, you can (and will) likely experience a lot of issues of conscience.

In fact...

I'm working with quite a few people right now who seem to have the same marketing conflict:

Should I use FEAR to sell my product or service?

Now, everyone has their own morals, values and beliefs.

However...

There are times when using FEAR is productive, especially if your SOLUTION can profoundly change people's lives in spectacular ways.

Whenever I target FEAR, I always get back to the positive aspects about how my SOLUTION can eliminate the discomfort each prospect is experiencing ASAP.

That being said...

I've seen a lot of copywriters and marketers in general go way too far in their attempt to target FEAR.

It ends up turning prospects off, rather than pushing the buttons that drive POSITIVE action.

So if you're thinking about going after the FEAR your prospects are likely feeling in your copy, make sure you use it sparingly...

...and get to the light at the end of the tunnel ASAP!

Mark Pescetti

P.S. A lot of new age type people are trying to cash in on the whole 2012 thing. I've seen a lot of them target FEAR in ways that make it abundantly obvious that their supposed SOLUTION is a farce. Sometimes all FEAR does is make people search for the REAL AUTHORITY in your market.

P.P.S. Whenever you're thinking about targeting FEAR, ask yourself how you can alternatively focus on a more-minded positive tone first. People respond to HOPE as much as FEAR.

P.P.P.S. I noticed over the years that marketers who immediately gravitate towards exploiting FEAR are very often broke. Go figure. The FEARFUL leading the afraid?
#comfortable #fear #sell #solution
  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    Whenever I target FEAR, I always get back to the positive aspects about how my SOLUTION can eliminate the discomfort each prospect is experiencing ASAP.
    Mark,

    I believe you may be confusing fear with pain. They are not the same.

    Fear has to do with an imagined, dreaded outcome. Pain has to do with an actually experienced problem.

    Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    That's a really good point of distinction, Marcia.

    Let me offer a real-world example:

    PROSPECT: Independent Inventor

    FEAR: "They're going to steal my idea!"

    COPY APPEAL: Greed - "Are you going to let someone else cash in on YOUR great idea?"

    PAIN: "I'm confused and scared - I can't do this on my own"

    COPY APPEAL: Support - "We specialize in working with independent inventors who don't have the experience or the resources to bring a product to market themselves"

    When dealing with the fear, USE IT. Don't trivialize it away or try to SOLVE it. USE it. It's real for them and the better you can identify and articulate it, the more they'll believe everything else you say.

    When dealing with the pain, DO solve it. Make sure they understand that yours is the fastest path to relief.

    Anyway, that's my take on it.

    Best,

    Brian
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    • Profile picture of the author videolover7
      I don't see any problem agitating existing fear. Especially if you're selling a solution that truly helps the prospect.

      Creating fear, however, is another matter. Various doom-and-gloomers throw people into fear just so they can make a sale.

      VL
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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    That's a very useful distinction, Marcia. And those are great examples, Brian.

    In thinking about it, I use fear and pain liberally to make my point.

    - Rick Duris
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    • Profile picture of the author JakeDaly
      Man, I'm bookmarking this thread. Ya'll are trippin' me out with this much knowledge.
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      • Profile picture of the author JoeMartin
        I agree that we need to recognize the difference between fear and pain. Fear is a basic motivator for humans. I think we would be wasting an amazing edge we might have if we do not use fear.

        VL has a point. We do not need to create fear. If we work off of preexisting fear, the groundwork is set. We simply mention the fear, remind them of why they are afraid, then offer the "light at the end of the tunnel".

        Some of the easiest people to sell to are emotional people. Fear is, no doubt, one of the strongest emotions. Evoke it, use it.
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    • Profile picture of the author ejunkie
      Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

      That's a very useful distinction, Marcia. And those are great examples, Brian.

      In thinking about it, I use fear and pain liberally to make my point.

      - Rick Duris
      I would agree with you all.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    Fear creates the imagined pain.

    When I use fear tactics in my copy, my purpose is to knock people off their axis.

    I want the reader to feel irrational.

    I want to stir up the fears that already exist within them by simply acknowleding i KNOW their imagined pain. (e.g. The potential circumstances that may arise... If...)

    Then,

    I want my prospects to experience the massive relief, reprieve, upliftment and even excitement of knowing they discovered the solution.

    And i might revisit the fear factor towards the end, maybe even in a p.s...

    ...just so my audience knows they can't leave without my solution.

    However...

    That only works IF they really harbor the fear of pain, loss or consequence that I'm targeting.

    If I'm off base and don't successfully put myself in the reader's shoes, my copy comes across as being cheesy...

    ...and all my credibility is lost.

    I do agree with Marcia in the sense that fear in the primal emotion.

    You have to successful know WHAT your prospects fear to agitate the emotion and knock them off their equilibrium.

    Mark Pescetti

    P.S. Our country is still in disarray in large part of how successfully George W. used fear to promote his propaganda. He made every day Americans fear a faceless enemy (not counting Bin Laden)... He also triggered collective PRIDE... But that's for another thread.

    P.P.S. I love throwing in my little political potshots.
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    • Profile picture of the author videolover7
      Originally Posted by Reflection Marketing View Post


      P.P.S. I love throwing in my little political potshots.
      That's nice.

      Except they don't belong in this sub-forum...

      This section is for the discussion of Copywriting - the most vital skill you can learn. Arm yourself with the power to move people with words and you'll need little else to make money any time and anywhere you choose.
      Try the "Off Topic" forum.

      VL
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      • Profile picture of the author OliviaHoang
        Originally Posted by videolover7 View Post

        That's nice.

        Except they don't belong in this sub-forum...

        Try the "Off Topic" forum.

        VL
        LOL...you guys are so funny.

        As for the original question, yes, I feel comfortable using fear to sell.

        Basically, it comes down to what's going on inside their heads. And in order to get into the conversation in their heads, fear is always going to be a factor.

        It's part of establishing rapport and trust to expose that fear so they feel that you "get" them, and therefore, the solution you are providing may be right for them.
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Warriors
    I'm comfortable using fear to sell something if it's appropriate for the reader to be afraid.

    That probably sounds strange, but allow me to explain.

    Let's say you're selling a "stop smoking" solution, an e-book that has been proven to help many of its readers to stop smoking.

    Would it be acceptable to to use fear to get people to buy that product?

    Well, if you actually BELIEVE in what the product has to teach, I would say YES, because the effects of smoking are something that anybody should be scared of.

    I ultimately managed to quit smoking by listening to an audio course called "The Easy Way To Quit Smoking." It was FEAR that got me to buy that CD, and I'm glad that it did, because I might have cancer now if it didn't!
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  • Profile picture of the author apim
    at the end of the day it's all about the results we get with our copy, if fear gets results then we would be doing a dis-service to our clients and our products if we don't use it.

    The agora financial end of america campaign worked well selling on fear, the whole survival niche is using fear and lately a lot of forex campaigns are doing the same.

    It's a great motivator.
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    • Profile picture of the author arfasaira
      Fear can be irrational or based on painful experiences.

      One thing I use a lot of in my copy when I write for the health niche is forwarding statements to provide hope:

      eg: As you'll see in a moment, there's a seriously EASY alternative to dieting that will get you the results you so desperately want without feeling deprived or hungry ever again!

      So here, I keep it positive by promising a solution to the pain of deprivation if the reader keeps reading.

      It helps move the prospect forward and gives them hope.

      I use fear to paint a picture of what life would be like if the prospect DIDN'T take the solution being offered. I use this towards the end of my copy when I've built a strong case for the product in question.

      I've found that this usually helps to solidify the reasons why a prospect would want to buy the product, and often, it can be this that will compel a prospect who is 'just thinking about it' to hitting that 'buy' button.
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      • Profile picture of the author Raydal
        Of course fear doesn't have to be the primary emotion your
        copy appeals to but at some level fear is a part of selling
        anything. You tell the client what would happen to him
        if the doesn't get your product so a "fear of loss" appeal
        is a common closer.

        -Ray Edwards
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        • Profile picture of the author SMSWriter
          Speaking as a reader (of a multitude of sales copy), I find fear to be a powerful motivator to push that Buy Now button. If a writer doesn't expose my fear or soothe my pain (as mentioned above), the only button I'm hitting is the Back button.

          I do understand, though, that when faced with the knowledge that their copy has the power to make people feel strong emotions and take certain actions, it can cause some copywriters to become afraid of manipulating the prospect for financial gain. To that I say this, regarding any emotion...fear, pain, excitement, euphoria, whatever...

          If you believe in the product and genuinely feel that it will benefit the prospect, then you are simply persuading them of its value. On the other hand, if you perceive the product has no real value, and yet you are still trying to convince them to buy, you are manipulating them.

          Great post, Mark.

          Shanen
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        • Profile picture of the author Bill Jeffels
          Actually I was talking to Bond about this the other day.

          In 2009 I wrote a letter for a company offering a service of providing elderly people home care instead of going into a retirement home.

          The letter was written as a fear based letter but also provided a solution.

          To some the fear of loss is greater than the motivation of gain.




          Bill Jeffels

          .
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          • Profile picture of the author arfasaira
            Originally Posted by Bill Jeffels View Post


            To some the fear of loss is greater than the motivation of gain.

            Bill Jeffels

            .
            Great point - one thing to note here is that people will do anything to avoid pain and sometimes the motivation of gain isn't enough...

            Take the weight loss market for example - to say you're going to look brilliant in a bikini and ooze confidence, be healthy or get the hottest girls isn't enough to motivate people to take action - why? Because we ALL know it - if that was the only reason to lose weight, we would all look awesome...

            However, turn the pleasure of looking good now on its head - what's the fear if you carry on as you are?

            Now you'll spend your life hiding behind baggy, shapeless clothes, you'll lose out on promotions and opportunities because you'll lack the confidence and you'll be so shy you'll never have the courage to get a date because you have little self-esteem...and you'll get sick and die early from being overweight

            Now all of a sudden, THAT will get your audience's attention...

            Nobody wants to be a loner or watch life pass them by and live a life of 'if only'

            So fear for what could happen in the future is a powerful motivator in copy because you're projecting how their life will pan out if they carry on as they are...

            powerful stuff, but as I mentioned in my earlier post, always balance with hope and the possibility for change and really make your prospect feel they CAN do it...too much negativity can make them feel hopeless!
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      • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
        Originally Posted by arfasaira View Post

        Fear can be irrational or based on painful experiences.

        One thing I use a lot of in my copy when I write for the health niche is forwarding statements to provide hope:

        eg: As you'll see in a moment, there's a seriously EASY alternative to dieting that will get you the results you so desperately want without feeling deprived or hungry ever again!

        So here, I keep it positive by promising a solution to the pain of deprivation if the reader keeps reading.

        It helps move the prospect forward and gives them hope.

        I use fear to paint a picture of what life would be like if the prospect DIDN'T take the solution being offered. I use this towards the end of my copy when I've built a strong case for the product in question.

        I've found that this usually helps to solidify the reasons why a prospect would want to buy the product, and often, it can be this that will compel a prospect who is 'just thinking about it' to hitting that 'buy' button.
        Fear is so prevelant.

        Look at religion...

        ...most big time faith-based belief structures leverage fear to keep its followers in line.

        From a copy perspective, it's way too easy to constantly fall back on fear.

        I'll be totally honest, I use the fear factor a little too much when I'm feeling lazy.

        But as Arfa so fantastically communicated, hope can be just as, if not more powerful than fear-inducing copy.

        You can tap into people's fear by focusing on what they REALLY want...

        ...instead of belaboring the issue and often times hitting below the belt just to keep their attention.

        Ironically, if you're successful is persuading your reader to form an attachment to what you're describing in your copy (e.g. the answer to their prayers), you'll automatically trigger the fear of loss....

        ...because they want what you're anitmating for them so bad they can taste it.

        Mark Pescetti
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      • Profile picture of the author Raydal
        Of course fear doesn't have to be the primary emotion your
        copy appeals to but at some level fear is a part of selling
        anything. You tell the client what would happen to him
        if the doesn't get your product so a "fear of loss" appeal
        is a common closer.

        -Ray Edwards
        Signature
        The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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  • Profile picture of the author Ken Hoffman
    Interesting distinctions but I'm not sure that the original question was answered. You were asking, "is it ethical to use a lot of fear?" Yes, as long as long as you are offering a high-value product that has their best interests at heart.

    Fear is ONE of many core emotions you can target. Pain AND pleasure are the two, more general, human motivators. Most people focus on moving toward pleasure, and moving away from pain. That's why they are so effective in marketing.

    As far as going too far with it? I don't think you can, as long as you do it correctly. There is an issue with being too direct, and hitting a nerve that's a bit too close to home.

    If you are writing for the spiritual market I'd suggest picking up the AWAI course on self-help. There are specific distinctions about how the spiritual market differs from the inspirational, and the self-help markets.
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  • Profile picture of the author specialized
    Originally Posted by Ken_Caudill View Post

    It boils down to fear or greed.
    Why does it have to boil down to fear? I don't think it does. It doesn't for me, anyway. I'm rational.

    Why not focus the copy on what good things will happen if the prospect uses the product, rather than what bad things will happen if they don't?

    I don't believe that people are really this black-and-white simple. My reason for that? I'm not that simple, so I suspect that lots of others also aren't. I doubt that I'm that unusual.

    I've unsubscribed from a lot of marketers' lists and bailed out of countless sales pages for the exact reason that they played that fear card and it just repelled me instantly.

    I think there is a gross overemphasis on this fear/scarcity/insecurity/poverty angle, and people are getting numb to it. I know I sure have. It insults my intelligence.

    How's that for a different take? Sorry, no sheep here.
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  • Profile picture of the author The Marketeer

    Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is widely studied taught on business and marketing courses in colleges and unversities as a model of understanding societies' basic needs and motivators. According to the theory, all our needs fall into certain categories and each one has priority over the other. He stated that unless our base needs at the bottom of the pyramid are met, we would find it difficult to fulfil our other needs which are higher up the pyramid.

    International business

    Understanding the strengths and weakness of Maslow's hierarchy of needs is important in the field of international business. Evaluating the different needs, values, drives and priorities of people from different countries - individualistic or collectivist - is incredibly valuable in cross-cultural communications, and especially within the workplace. It also illustrates how differences in values can greatly affect work atmosphere and work ethic between cultures: "For example, societal cultures in many individualistic countries, such as the United States, may lead to an advantage in technological research and development. Many collectivistic societal cultures, such as that in Japan, may result in an advantage in workforce organization, quality control of products and service, and establishment of good relationships among contractees, suppliers and customers"

    Wikipedia
    It's an interesting way to analyze buyer behaviour as well as from a copywriting perspective.

    Depending on the type of product or service being sold, understanding these triggers is beneficial important to some extent.

    However, it's not an all encompassing absolute model. Some theorists criticised some aspects of it for e.g. this model is created from an individualistic and self centred perspective which is why is sex is at the base of the pyramid. Others argued that our base needs are non hierarchical.

    Despite it's criticisms it's still taught in major educational institutes for a reason so it's worth a read.

    For a more in depth read about the theory click here
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  • Profile picture of the author Anna7
    I dont think using fear to sell isn't bad. If the product can address the needs that are needed to help reduce, if not remove, the fear then why not? Using fear-tactics usually seems immoral when it is overpowered by the seller's greed. Using fear to sell isn't any different from using other emotions like pity, guilt, etc.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jonathan 2.0
    Many times (I think) fear already exists in the minds of your prospects. You're just tapping into that fear. (And resolving it.)

    That's a good service, IMO.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
      Originally Posted by Jonathan 2.0 View Post

      Many times (I think) fear already exists in the minds of your prospects. You're just tapping into that fear. (And resolving it.)

      That's a good service, IMO.
      Absolutely Jonathan!

      When you come from that genuine perspective, amazing results manifest.
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  • Profile picture of the author befree22
    The sad truth is that marketers use negative emotions to sell products. Look at the insurance companies selling "peace of mind" and not paying out when disaster hits, just like the church selling salvation in Italy 100's of years ago. Nothing has changed.

    I can understand fulfilling a need and solving problems but people (all of us) have to relearn not to give in to F.E.A.R. or "losing out".
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    The turtle always wins.

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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    I don't always agree with Ken Caudill...

    ...but when I do, it's about fear and greed.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
      Originally Posted by BrianMcLeod View Post

      I don't always agree with Ken Caudill...

      ...but when I do, it's about fear and greed.
      If you're going to trigger a particular emotion, any emotion, you have to provide resolution to the feelings you're dredging up with your solution.

      Honestly...

      I see too many copywriters stimulating emotions that quite frankly have nothing to do with the product (or very little), just to utilize certain techniques.

      When in reality...

      If they exercised just a little more awareness about what their prospects are REALLY feeling underneath the superficial emotions they're targeting, the copy will resonate so much more.

      My point?

      Everyone experiences fear.

      I don't care who you are, you feel fear every day.

      It's an easy emotion to trigger.

      But as Marcia pointed out, you have to understand what FEAR is compelling your prospects to worry about in their imagination.

      For instance...

      About a month ago, I did a project for an author/Relationship Expert who teaches brokenhearted women how to get back together.

      I looked at what everyone else already did in the marketplace... and I felt like all of them failed to get anywhere close to the core emotions.

      Then I asked myself: Why would ANY woman want to get a man back, unless she really felt he was The One?

      So we went with the whole soul-mate angle.

      The fear I triggered was/is... if he really is The One, everything in your life hinges on healing your relationship.

      But most importantly, we solve her fear by helping her get him back... or realize he wasn't her soul-mate.

      The upsell accomplishes the same ideal.

      But the deeper emotions I triggered was the unconscious/conscious attachment women have to their own Happily Ever After, including walking down the isle and having children that will look like him.

      The fear was about acknowledging that intuitive sense that she just walked away from the future she was meant to live.

      So yes...

      Go after the fear, but have the insight to understand what your audience is afraid of.

      Mark Pescetti

      P.S. Ranting is my M.O. But I'm sick as a dog today. So sorry if I'm a little longer winded than usual.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    Oy........
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    • Profile picture of the author Doceye
      I'm afraid I didn't get every single thing I wanted out of this thread.
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      • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
        Originally Posted by Doceye View Post

        I'm afraid I didn't get every single thing I wanted out of this thread.
        Oh yeah?

        So... ah, what do you want?
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        • Profile picture of the author Doceye
          Uh, Mark ...

          We were talking about Fear and Greed, were we not? I thought what I wrote was clever enough. However, not nearly clear enough, it would seem.

          Comedy, she can be quite ugly when she ain't pretty.

          "I'm afraid I didn't get every single thing I wanted out of this thread."
          Fear^ ----------------------------------- Greed^
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  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    Some pitches REQUIRE fear. Try and sell insurance without it.
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  • Profile picture of the author ejunkie
    I don't remember who said it but he was one of those copywriting pioneers.

    He said something along the lines of how fear is one of our most primal instincts. And how if nothing men have always acted based on fear from making war to buying insurance.

    For him as an appeal... fear came next to sex.

    Doing a Google but not able to find that gem of a quote.
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  • Profile picture of the author moneywar
    Men do a lot of things because of fear. Ever since ancient times, the first humans were driven by fear. It is one of the most primal instincts we posses and is by far one of the most common factors that is involved in making decisions. Fear of the course of events, fear of the unknown, fear of the known.. Fear is everywhere in our life, even if we don't acknowledge it.
    Using it as a sales pitch or something like that is a wining strategy due to the fact that fear is encoded deep within ourselves.
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