The Most Powerful Human Motivator Is Also Your Most Powerful Selling Tool

If you look at the most successful advertisements and marketing campaigns in history, you will see a theme, these marketers have unlocked one of the most primal and possibly biggest motivating human emotion, fear. 

Whether you like it or not, fear sells. It outsells every other emotion and can be used for almost any product or service. But…

Before going further, it needs to be made clear, there is nothing wrong with using fear to sell if what you are selling is a real solution to the problem the reader wants to be solved. 

If you are selling something ethical and you are trying to help people, it’s completely moral to sell something using fear if you know the buyer will benefit. If you aren’t doing the above, don’t even read any further. 

Why is fear so powerful?

This question is more suited for a book than an answer here. I’m not going to go into all the science and psychology behind it, but in simple terms, fear is one of the main things that keep people alive. 

Of course, the main fear is almost universally death. Fear of dying, and being pulled over, keep people from driving 120MPH everywhere they go. Fear of dying is why fire alarms exist, why smoking has decreased, and why the supplement industry is one of the largest industries in the world.

People want to live a long time and live comfortably. If you aren’t targeting that emotion in some form in your marketing and advertising, you’re missing out on a ton of sales.

How Does It Work So Well In Sales Copy?

Two words, loss aversion. People care more about avoiding loss than gaining something. We’d rather not lose, even if that means we don’t win if that makes sense. This affects almost all day-to-day decisions even if we don’t realize it’s happening.

Of course, this is not a new insight, the best copywriters and marketers have been doing this for years, long before the internet. 

One of the best examples out there of this comes from the copywriter and marketing genius Dan Kennedy in his book The Ultimate Sales Letter

Dan says: 

“When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how incredibly powerful this first formula is.

I have used this basic formula to structure super-effective sales presentations for live salespeople in every imaginable business, from security systems to skin-care products. I’ve used it for over 136 different industries, and not only for sales letters but also for salespeople. It may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.” 

He then lays out said formula in three steps.

  1. Problem: Set forth the problem in clear, straightforward terms. You need to say here only enough to elicit agreement.
  1. Agitation: Once the problem is established, clearly and factually, it’s time to inject emotion. … Tap their anger, resentment, guilt, embarrassment, fear—any and every applicable negative emotion. You should have readers mentally wringing their hands, pacing the room, saying, “This has got to stop! I’ve got to do something about this! What can I do about this? If only there were an answer!”
  1. Solution: The third step is to unveil the solution, the answer—your product or services and the accompanying benefits.

What If Fear Just Doesn’t Work With What I’m Selling?

Dan Kennedy himself said he’s used it in 136 different industries, and the thing is, it doesn’t have to be the main selling point, there are also other types of fear that work with ANY product or service. 

People also don’t like to take risks, especially with their money. So use that to your advantage and make all the risk go away, make it clear that they aren’t risking anything by buying what you sell. Remember, people would rather know they aren’t risking than feel like they’re gaining. 

You have to tell them what they are getting obviously, but be clear about the fact that there is nothing to be afraid of with buying your products (this is why money-back guarantees exist).

Another route you can go that works with almost everything is FOMO (fear of missing out). This can be displayed in a way that makes them feel they are losing a joy or experience everyone else is having because of a product or service. FOMO can also be used just by simply putting a time limit on the purchase, limited stock, time is running out, buy before said date, etc. 

Questions To Think About Before Selling Using Fear

First, before thinking about or asking yourself these questions, you have to know your target audience. This is not a post about knowing your audience but if you don’t, that has to be figured out first and needs to be done before you can have any effective marketing. 

Got that figured out? Great. Here are some questions to ask yourself. 

  1. What keeps your audience up at night and what makes them dread getting out of bed in the morning?
  1. What are the main problems your product or service is solving?
  1. What are the things your target customers hate? Could be just in general, or their job, their social life, their appearance, anything. 
  1. What are some daily frustrations your audience experiences?
  1. What has kept these potential customers from becoming customers in the past? 
  1. What are the things keeping your audience from knowing, liking, and trusting your company?

Key Takeaways 

  • Fear sells, only use it if you have something you feel confident will benefit people’s lives.
  • People care more about avoiding loss than gaining something new.
  • Dan Kennedys 3 step method of problem, agitate, and solve is nearly bulletproof, it works for just about anything you want to sell. 
  • If the main fears like fear of death or poor quality of life don’t fit what you offer, use a different method of fear such as fear of taking risks or fear of missing out. 
  • Know your audience and ask yourself the right questions before trying to persuade them using fear. 

Remember, if you are passionate and sure what your company offers is important and could help your target audience, you’d be doing them a disservice by not convincing them to buy it, even if that means using their fears to do so. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know if you use fear as a primary selling tool and why or why not. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *