(A basic marketing rule): The fear of loss is more important than the hope of gain

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Building slantThis is one of the fundamental questions you should always ask (as Matt Handal indicates) in determining “go/no go” decisions and in defining your marketing copy:

“What will the client lose on if they choose someone else?”

This question is powerful for two reasons:

  1. It defines the decision in terms of a loss — something that is far more psychologically powerful than potential gain;
  2.  It defines your business or practice as the only (unique) solution.

Of course, this question, while simple to frame, isn’t so easy to answer. You’ll rarely see situations where things are crystal clear and your real advantage scores with knock-out clout.

Yet, your marketing creativity may allow you to define that question (and answer) effectively in situations you might otherwise have seen as hopeless.

Here’s an example from another field, reported in a posting from Pete Godfrey (discovered  because he achieved first place Google status for the relevant keywords):

Positive and Negative.

Good or Bad.

So Tony’s advertorial headline could easily have focused on the benefits of finding unwanted treasure. Something like:

“I couldn’t believe it when they told me my old vase was worth $2,500, but when he handed me the cheque…”

NOTE: A simple adaptation of Caples’ famous: “They laughed when I sat down at the piano… but when I started to play…”

Now this isn’t a bad headline. But Tony didn’t use this approach. Because he knew in his gut the fear of loss is more powerful than the hope for gain.

This is what his headline was…

“Have You Ever Put a $100 Bill in the Trash?”

Man that hits ya doesn’t it? It’s pure fear of loss!

In his recent SMPS Marketer article, Handal gives the example of a community centre expansion project, where the original designer had created an effective and satisfying result, but lost the job. The challenge: The project owners were concerned that they would have trouble securing funding from the local community. The winner: A local designer — because they could make the case that the local design could sway the city council in favour of it.

These examples also indicate a good reason to include the negative voice in your evaluation/decision-making process.  You know, the person who shoots down even the brightest stars. You may not like the negativity, but, heck, you might have some fun turning the tables on the doomsayers by listening to the “why it shouldn’t happen” observations and then translate them to the project prospect’s fears, and how you might truly have the ideal answer.

Here, thinking negative may, indeed, result in positive benefits.

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