What matters more? What your target market wants or what you want? Fear-based marketing focuses on what you want. You use a fear-driven narrative to get your “audience” to do what you want. All while pretending that you’re focusing on them and helping them. Maybe someone has used fear-based marketing to convince you that you should do it too – I’ve seen the “fool-proof online marketing courses” that promise to teach me the “secret” strategy to convert followers into customers. Here’s the secret: it’s fear. It’s fear disguised as a fairytale.
Tell a good story. We’ve all read the golden rule of marketing: storytelling. I agree. Stories are at the very core of being human. Narratives help us to convey information and make sense of our worlds. Everyone loves a good story so telling stories instead of just rattling off facts will always connect with people more and help them to buy your shit. That’s what it comes down to right? Selling your services to people who need them. It’s really simple actually.
To sell your services you need to talk about your services.
But now how do you talk about your services in a story? How do you turn brand design or web development into a compelling narrative? It seems entirely impossible. Enter the knight in shining armour to rescue you from your turmoil. A hero emerges to tell you what to do and save you from the scary marketing villain before you. He tells you that stories are super basic and go like this. There is a hero and they are your dream client (waving happy person emoji). They have a problem (frowny face emoji). Oh no, whatever will they do?! Then you come along to guide them on their perilous journey and magically solve their problem with your perfect service (unicorn and fairy emojis). They throw money at your face and you all live happily ever after (smiling sun face and money bag emojis).
A perfect fairytale - how lovely!
This form of storytelling is super simple and while it covers the basics, it’s a bit insulting to your audience and also to you. You know what other forms of marketing use this reductive narrative? Infomercials.
The “classic” before with the black and white picture of the stressed out woman trying to chop onions using a wooden spoon with messy hair, no makeup, bags under her eyes (crudely made up with make up), an untidy house, a screaming snotty ugly toddler on one hip, with a smoking iron in the background burning her fat husband’s cheap work shirt while it’s raining in her shitty kitchen with linoleum floors and countertops made out of swollen, mouldy wood. Then enters your amazing, incredible, better-than-everything-else, miracle services that are a total bargain. And then the after picture in technicolour of the girl-next-door supermodel with perfectly done hair, makeup and nails simultaneously dicing onions with a katana, holding her beautiful sleeping newborn while her shirtless gorgeous husband irons his own shirt in the background whilst serenading her and she is also signing a huge business deal and baking a four tier cake and roast lunch for her perfect extended family in her spectacular farmhouse-chic kitchen with marble countertops.
But wait there's more!
Not only do you show them how shit their lives are now (how very nice of you) and touch on how crappy their experiences have been in the past as well as showing them how amazingly wonderful their lives could be after choosing you and throwing their money at your face, but you also tell them how much worse their lives will be if they don’t choose you.
There is so much out there on the internet to read about how to tell stories in your marketing that focus on the problem. The problem that you and your services will solve. So many of these advice articles or marketing books or whatever literally say you should make your audience fear the consequences of not enlisting your services. They say: “paint a picture of what their life will be like without you solving their problem – it looks so bad and feels so crappy.” This is infomercial level marketing. Sure it works. But it’s yucky and manipulative and shitty.
Focusing on the problem means focusing on the fear.
Getting people to do what you want (choose you for your services instead of someone else) by making them picture their terrible lives without you is focusing on controlling them. And the easiest way to control people is through fear. Ask any dictator.
I don’t want to be that person. I won’t tell those stories and use those emotions to get my dream clients.
Using fear to manipulate others is hella shady. If you don’t think so then good for you and your sociopathic lack of empathy, but using fear as a marketing strategy does not sit well with me at all.
I initially wrote another version of my website copy...
A version that focused on the problem. That used fear of a terrible project without me and instead with one of my competitors. That painted the picture of the crappy life without me. The before infomercial clip. I had read so much stuff about how this is the best strategy to use to sell your services. I had seen so many iterations of this on so many sales pages that seemed almost identical (simply insert business name here). I thought that maybe this was actually the best way to do it.
It’s not the best way to do it though. It’s pretty fucked up actually. So I decided not to focus on the fear. Don’t focus on the problem to which you are the solution. (As an aside this also puts enormous pressure on you to save them and live up to the knight in shining armour image you have portrayed. Or you are rather narcissistic to believe that you actually can solve all their problems.) You can offer a service or product. That you try your best on. That you pour yourself into. That you allow your creativity to flow on. That you hope to be paid for so you can keep doing it and less of the shitty stuff you don’t want to do.
You just need to show up honestly and try your best.
Instead of focusing on how you can solve their problems and how you can save them from their peril. Instead of focusing on how you represent the hero to their damsel. Instead of telling an infomercial level fairytale. Tell a story of humanness. Tell a story of you. As you are. Really.
Don’t focus on their insecurities and troubles in order to get them on your side. Focus on what you have to offer. Who you are and what you do. And if they want that then they can join you. And if they don’t want it then they can keep scrolling. Cos you don’t want a group of people with you only because they are scared.
You want a group of people around you because you make them feel good by being yourself.
You want clients that like you and what you do.
If they don’t like you and what you do then do you really want to use fear to trick them into working with you? Nah.
Imagine being surrounded by your dream clients. Those that see your worth and value your work. They don’t haggle. They don’t get offended when you swear. The way they work perfectly suits the way you work. Your process is music to their ears. Your hatred for your phone is completely understood and they like the same tv shows as you. Ok so I’m describing my dream clients, but you can easily imagine yours right? Hopefully you’re my dream client reading this post right now (winking face emoji).
You don’t make good friends by pretending to be someone else or by making people afraid to NOT be your friend. So why would you do those things to get clients?
I hereby officially unsubscribe from fear-based marketing.
I’m gonna unfollow and mute insta accounts that use this dirty tactic and I promise to try my absolute best to not use the same sneaky tricks in my marketing. I’m going to continue to show up as I am (flaws and all) and do what I consider my best. I’m going to continue to make my own rules and follow my heart. And if you dig it then yay! I can’t wait to work with you. And if you don’t dig it, then please don’t fill out my contact form and ask for a discount or make me communicate with you via whatsapp voicenotes cos then we’re both going to have a bad time.