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June 2005
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August 2005

Fear, Pain and Prosperity

One of the goals of marketing is to get customers to use your product or service.   People tend to act upon feelings then justify it based on reason (think back to the last car you purchased).   In marketing this deals with the question, "So what?"   There are three basic positions which have upsides and downsides depending upon your audience.

Fear is a powerful (and dangerous) motivator.   In a corporate setting, management is concerned about things which will cripple their business or bring down the wrath of regulators or the board.   Employees are concerned about career threatening events.    To play the fear card, the danger must already be understood, present right now, and present in the future.   Outside of viruses and compliance products, this is a difficult at best proposition.    People tend to minimize bad news because it typically reflects poorly on their past decisions.   This is not a good way to base a marketing strategy.

On the other end of the spectrum is prosperity.   Here you talk about happy customers, increased profits, expanding business and the like.   This works fine when you target the senior management of your customers because they think about such things.   It involves the long term view.  For the rank & file, who is usually understaffed as it is, it falls on deaf ears.  They are more concerned how to get their job functions done, today.

Pain, or more specifically, pain relief, has the broadest audience.   Anything you can do to make the day to day business work more smoothly will be quickly understood and implemented.   Answering the question "So what" paints a picture of how much better  day to day life will improve by using your product or service.   This is a powerful motivator.  The trick here is painting that picture which everyone understands and can internalize quickly.

Forward Hindsight

Sounds like another oxymoron doesn't it?  But it can be a very powerful management technique.  No matter how well you have planned and are executing, something comes out of left field to mess it up at the worst possible time.   So meeting are quickly called which typically result in numerous knee jerk reactions and a rousing "blame game" discussion ensues.


This is the time for forward hindsight.  I got this idea years ago (o.k. decades ago)  in an English literature class after reading "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test".  In the book they had a band which wore headphones when they practiced.  There was a several second delay to the headphones.  Which meant everything you heard had already happened and you had to anticipate what was coming next when you played your guitar.   The interesting part was when you took off the headphones you could accurately predict what was happening several seconds in the future.   

Now apply this to business.   When disaster strikes, take the new information and project yourself several weeks or months into the future and see what the world looks like.  Now use hindsight from that future point to look at today to see what decision you wish you had made.  Many times you will clearly see what has to happen now. 

Forward hindsight.   Another technique to use to get the job done.