How powerful is fear as an emotion in marketing opportunities? I’d say it is probably the most important silent stalker in the marketing room, because this emotion implicitly helps to explain why it is generally so hard to change behaviors and relationships. “Fear of the unknown” will stop many people from changing course to work with you rather than your competitors.
And fear, it seems, turns out to be the most effective underlying emotion when you want to deal with the underground economy and compete effectively because, on the surface, you will lose every time on price. (If you can actually sell your services for less than the cash operator who doesn’t actually need to deliver services, then you have the right to live on another marketing planet.)
In the last posting, I reported on how the Canadian Home Builders’ Association has started a campaign (with a little more than $700,000 in Canadian government financial support) to encourage consumers to work with legal renovators rather than under-the-table operators. The challenge: Without being offensive, to instil enough fear in the consumers that they will elect to pay more for a properly licensed and tax-paying renovation contractor rather than their friendly neighborhood off-duty fireman.
(Speaker Gary Sharp observed the irony that probably the biggest challenge in the underground economy occurs when off-duty firefighters get involved in underground businesses. They are trustworthy and well-liked, and you certainly want them to arrive quickly when your home is burning down, but they also have plenty of spare time and fully taxed personal incomes — so quite a few tend to start underground side businesses to scoop up some cash.)
Sharp classified four customer types and showed how the strategy needs to differentiate between them:
Young and competitive
These are the toughest to crack. They are male sunder 35, single, no kids, and “he thinks he’s smarter than you, looks at business relationships as contests, sees risk a positive thing, because he thinks he will win.
If you are a legal renovator, how do you get this guy’s business? Probably you don’t unless he has a live-in girlfriend. Then the challenge is to get to the woman in the house, and that will change everything if you are successful, because the female has the most power and makes the final decisions.
“They are time challenged and often overbooked — There’s a husband, wife and kids, both the husband and wife are often working and the kids have hockey, baseball and other activities.”
They are busy, really busy, and really risk averse. Provide data showing the risks of things going wrong underground and how these problems go away when you do things above-board. “They are rational decision-makers who value information.”
“They can be too trusting and loyal,” Sharp said. “These are people who, when the firefighter shows up, respond well. They judge based on personality rather than credentials.
They are very risk averse, however, so again, the key is to let them know the risks. “If they don’t know the risks, they can’t deal with them.”
They are fearful, “afraid of being taken” and “may lack any experience with home repair or renovation,” Sharp said. They value peer references, and are especially receptive to women contractors.
So, he says, the challenge is to craft messages and set the communications to increase the fear level of using underground contractors and reduce them in using your above-board business. This happens with:
- certainty and confidence
- feeling safety and secure
- feeling in control
- feeling respected
- knowing what’s going on
- peace of mind
- avoiding risk
Your challenge, now, is to look at your marketplace, and assess the competition, customer types (and the demographics and characteristics of the people who would most likely become your clients), and craft your marketing to reduce the fear of doing business with you, while increasing it in going elsewhere.
This is a strategic process. It requires some effort and thought. And you won’t achieve much success by throwing a variety of marketing methods at the problem until you really understand your circumstances and your market considerations. However, the advantage is in the scheme of things, the research you do now will save you much time and money later.