Fear marketing - Kara Lambert

The other day I sat down with a group of business owners and a number of them said to me that they had an issue with marketing to their customers’ fears. They said that they had paid for marketing advice and been told to market to their ideal client’s fears. But they didn’t like it and in fact, they no longer used that advice. Sound familiar.

This is what annoys me. There is so much information out there which we throw by the wayside but believe it to be true because everyone says it. It’s like learning lemmings. (My Mum would say, if everyone jumped off a cliff would you too?) Ok, so that’s a little harsh but it seems like a big waste of money to pay for advice and not use it because you’re not comfortable with it.

Let’s consider a couple of scenarios.

My toaster broke and I am looking to replace it. Will fear help me in my decision? Generally not. It would be things around the colour, cost, shape, size, how many slices, and if it will toast the tops of my crumpets without burning the bottom. (Boy did I make a poor choice on my last toaster)

I’m looking for a business coach to grow my business. Will fear help my decision? Maybe. In the main though I want to know if our personalities match, if they have had past success, and if they coach how I like to learn. (I made a good choice here)

My kids need to see a physiotherapist. (True story and we found a great one) Will fear help my decision? As a parent, I have enough guilt and if someone tries to tap into my Mummy guilt I’m thinking it’s a low blow. I want to know that they can & will treat kids, they are the best in the area, that their expertise meets my child’s needs, and that my health fund will come to the party in some way.

It’s like saying the only way to motivate a donkey is with a stick and forgetting all about the carrot.

Where does fear sit in my stories? They don’t. I’m pretty confident that I’m not unique in these (especially the toaster one) reasons for making a particular choice. I have to be honest, even the fear of missing out (FOMO) is having less of an effect on people as it is more widely used and people realise that it’s generally fake.

So why fear? It is primordial. It drives our fight or flight reaction, triggering some strong neurochemicals (love that adrenaline kick). It’s what we’ve always done.

I want to crush this as I am tired of business owners being told that things are just one way (Ask me what I think about client avatars) and realising that it just doesn’t resonate personally, fit or work for their business. People are not two-dimensional. We are not motivated by our fears alone, just as what we are is not the only way to define us.

I believe, and teach, that there are five key motivators of human behaviour (on and off line). One of the motivators is fear. Looking into the research, fear is actually a poor motivator. If you use fear to motivate someone, they will comply and follow, they are not making a choice and they are not using their free will. It is also not the way to build trust or grow a relationship. Fear is not an incentive to take action, it’s an incentive not to. Fear is there to keep us safe.

So what I want, if you’ve been told to use fear in your marketing but just can’t seem to do it – I want to applaud you. You’ve made the right decision, to follow your instincts, to listen to your clients, to stick with your values, and to honour yourself. If you’re not there yet and are trying to make it work because you’ve paid for this advice and damn it you will make it work – I give you permission to stop using fear to motivate your clients. If you believe that fear is a great motivator for your clients, I want you to consider how much they trust you and to think about the carrot.

I teach five key motivators to human behaviour. People are multi-faceted and we need to honour that and to meet our clients where they are and not just beat them into submission. If you’d like to learn more, search ‘psychology’ here on the blog or email me at kara@karalambert.com .

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