Selling By Fear or Pursuasion By Pleasure?

When you first learn about creating sales pages you are told that you have to write to appeal to a buyers emotions and that the two strongest emotions are fear and love or avoidance of pain and seeking of pleasure, with the strongest being avoidance of pain. Have you ever stopped to consider the psychological effects your writing might be having on your potential buyer and how that might affect the long term relationship you have with them?

If you continually tell people that they must have your latest product, that they will definitely fail without it and they will spend the rest of their life in abject misery, you may very well make the sale you have been looking for, but chances are, that you will have upset the customer so much that they may never buy from you again. The idea of getting them onto your list is so that you can keep them as buyers, not to frighten the bejesus out of them.

Yes fear – of loss, of failure, is a powerful selling tool, but it should be used in moderation and with your audience in mind.

Better for their long term state of being is to let them know how good they can feel and how much better their life will be if they would just consider making you happy by just trying out this new widget software you just happened to have discovered for their benefit. You could make it sound like you’re doing mutual favours for each other rather than a buyer / seller relationship. There will be less buyer’s remorse and therefore far fewer refunds when you make your customer feel good about their purchase.

As in all things, and not just marketing, there is always a compromise to be struck, but use the fear factor sparingly. If you set a time based deadline that something must be bought by (using fear based motivation) then stick by that deadline so that you keep your credibility. A clock that resets on each visit also resets your reputation a bit lower (bit of fear there to make you see my point of view).

In the long term the pleasant approach will probably help you keep customers for longer and these customers will trust you more than if you had scared them into a quick sale.

Do you have different ideas? Does you list worry about NOT buying from you or are you sweetness and light itself in your dealings?

As always, I’d love to read your comments and I’ll reply to them and keep a debate or discussion going.

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  • Dawn on

    There are many marketers that would do well to take to heart what you say about the fear factor.

    You have to keep in mind that a person would not be on your sales page if they are not looking to solve a problem. And you certainly want to be able to relate to their problem. BUT, telling them if they don’t buy xyz, then they will continue to struggle, is a bit of an exagerration.

    And countdown timers. I am getting where I ignore those too. They are overused; kind of like banner ads… If they are used, you definitely need to stop that sales page when the timer hits zero. And if you want to offer the product at a later date, you really need to state that it may be offered again later (at a higher price or maybe without all the original additional “freebies”).

    Any list you build should be built on trust. Not fear.

  • Hello Dawn,
    I agree that you can get blind to the fear attractants, but not everyone has had our level of exposure.

    Your last comment says it all very nicely.


    Steven Lucas

  • Hi Steven,

    Thank you for this interesting post. I am very familiar with the pain and pleasure effect, and it is genuine.

    I agree that the effect of laying on too much pain to highlight a solution is not a good way of selling. My view is to be honest and offer genuine advice and solutions, this will of course include the pain as we need to explain the issue. But, there is no need to exaggerate or make your client feel disadvantaged, it serves no use.

    If you offer real value the pros and cons of any situation will be apparent.

    Thanks again Steven for this thoughtful post.

    Dave H

    • Hello Dave,
      And thank you for taking the time here.
      Probably too much of either approach is almost equally as bad but in my opinion and it seem sin many others too, that too much of the fear factor is worse than too much of the nice-y approach.
      As you say, the best approach is a balance of the pros and cons, making your sales page seem a bit more honest.

      Steven Lucas

  • Hello Steven,

    A very informative and practical post you have written here. I think everyone should atleast go through it to get a knowledge about public relationship management. I really loved it.

    You are so very correct in saying how few companies use the scarring technique in forceful buying. I believe that this type of measure sure earns revenue but at what cost? As the phrase goes “Caveat emptor”, which translates as “Let the buyers be aware”, was an invisible tagline which use to come along with the price tag. This was quite a tried and tested method which sellers used to resort. But the table is turning as a counter phrase “Caveat venditor” – “Let the sellers be aware” is replacing the former method.

    There actually are certain Companies that follow “Caveat venditor” principle. And that’s what should be the case. Customers are the pillar of Business. However, as you have mentioned Steven that there are also many companies that use fear or regret to prompt their purchase. It does ward off their customers though in the long run.

    Anyways, that was an awesome post. Very informative and vivid. Hope to see more of these stuffs coming up in the near future. Have a great day and Good Luck….


    • Hello Sanjay,
      Many thanks for taking the time to come by and add your thoughts to the discussion.
      I’m glad to hear you are of the opinion that more companies are starting to use the praise approach as opposed to the fear and pain approach. Of course a little bit of fear is good for us, possibly even exciting (witness the number of people who enjoy roller coasters and horror films) but there is no need for it to be the be all and end all of a sales letter.


      Steven Lucas

  • Frasser on

    Hi Steven,

    Great post. I agree that you should use the fear factor sparingly and I agree with Dawn when she mentions that “You have to keep in mind that a person would not be on your sales page if they are not looking to solve a problem.”

    Yes we have had exposure to sales letters etc from the other side but you have to remember that you want people to buy not just one thing, but many and hopefully they will become loyal subscribers to your mailing list.

    Pros and cons of a sales page are very tricky and it seems that more marketers are going away from the traditional sales page and moving more towards video…

    Thanks again. Definitely food for thought

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My name is Steven Lucas and I'm a part time experienced beginner to Internet Marketing. This means I've dabbled a bit now and again, but until recently, didn't put any serious effort into making real money. Now I am doing so and this blog chronicles my adventures, as well as offering advice and reviews.

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