Will pain or promises inspire your customers to take action?

In order to get your customers to act, you need to think about what really inspires them.

18, 2021

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For years, the rule of thumb in marketing has been that people need to see their pain before looking for a solution. In other words, before people are going to buy what you are offering, you need to first point out their problem or pain, and then point out how to get rid of that pain or anger. This was of course based on human behavior and buyer psychology in the past.

As an example of this human behavior, marketers would often say something like, “Similarly, people don't go to the doctor until they're already sick.” The question is, is that still true?

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When it comes to health and wellness, a recent McKinsey & Company article found that 79 percent of 7,500 respondents said they care about wellness and prevention. The wellness industry is also growing by 5 to 10 percent annually. It seems that people are no longer waiting to be sick to do something about it. Pain and illness are less of a trigger for action.

In marketing, too, the need to recognize the pain before looking for a solution seems less of a trigger for action. Pointing out their current pain may not be the way to go. Then what is it?

Maybe it's the promise. Promise instead of pain. The promise of who they can be, how they can live, what success they can have, what life is possible or what time they can win back.

Let's look at an example from pop culture. Although lifestyle guru Martha Stewart was still in the public eye today, she was hugely popular in the 1990s. She was known for making home decor and cooking ideas look simple, but she accidentally made most people feel completely inadequate for not being able to do what she was doing. Today, organizational consultant and minimalist lifestyle expert Marie Kondo is all the rage with her “spark joy” process to decide whether to keep it or get rid of it. The difference? Pain or promise. Inadequacy equals pain. A spark of joy is a promise.

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To market your product or service today, you need to think about what really inspires your customers to take action and hire you or buy your product. Is it the pain they want that you have a solution for? Or is it the promise of what is possible for them?

The first step in figuring out whether to market the pain or the promise to your customers is to pay attention to how the example above made you feel. Which example attracted you? We sometimes forget that as consumers we are often not much different from our own customers.

Right now, in this transitional phase of marketing, there may not be a single path. You may need to address the problems your customers have for which you have a solution, and then quickly move on to imagining what is possible for them.

Try using more engaging words and phrases in your website copy, marketing collateral, and content. While bigger brands like Nike have been incorporating ambitious messages and the promise of "all you can be" into their marketing for years, smaller companies and entrepreneurs seem to be following an older mindset and leading the way in pain marketing. Perhaps, as a smaller business, you think that you are not big enough to make a positive move. But you are. Not only may your customers be more drawn to a promise of who they can be with your offering, but you can also just be that breath of fresh air that people need.

While this transition from pain to promise marketing has been in motion for some time, it may have accelerated recently because many people have experienced more than enough pain in the past year or so. Your prospects crave happier times, more hope, opportunity, and promise. By marketing more promising news, you can potentially make potential customers crave for you and your business.

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