Fears, desires, wants, needs – what does your marketing appeal to?


You need only spend a short time listening to radio or television or viewing Internet retail sites to encounter a whole slew of techniques whose goal is to motivate you to take some particular action. As an entrepreneur, you use some of these techniques all the time, yourself; after all, if you don’t provide some incentive for prospects to become clients, you won’t be in business very long.

But this raises the question: Exactly what does your marketing appeal to?

Depending on who you listen to, you’ll likely hear different recommendations about this. In fact, you’ll hear that your messages can address at least four different types of motivators that can move your prospects into action:

A potential problem I see with considering these different areas is that it’s easy to get stuck in an either/or mindset, which will try to convince you that you have to choose just one of these. I say, Why limit yourself to just one? Why not get a bigger and better ROI by addressing more than one?

Of course, this approach is not without some challenges: If you don’t have a very focused and strategic idea of what motivator you’re appealing to and why, your marketing message will come have all the oomph of a dull flashlight beam, rather than the power and tight focus of a laser.

So the big question becomes this: How do you go about crafting a marketing message that, as communications consultant Carl Frisen puts it, “makes people say, ‘I’ve got to have some of that’”? Here are steps to get you started.

Identify what your ideal client fears.

Fear is the killer of success.The underlying fear that virtually every prospect of virtually every entrepreneur will relate to is the fear of failure. Your job, as a savvy marketer, is to dig deeper and figure out exactly what failure looks like to your ideal client. Is it having his ego devastated if the business flops? Being forced by financial circumstances to get a job in corporate when she really yearns to be self-employed? Being unable to provide for his kids? Something else entirely?  What?

Identify what your ideal client desires.

“A thriving business” sounds good, but that’s not an actionable goal – not for your client as she seeks to build that business, and not for you as you market your services to her. It’s up to you to lay the groundwork for your successful business by doing some more digging to figure out the specifics of what she wants.

In The World According To Kathleen, there’s sometimes a fine line between “avoiding Desires are a powerful motivator.either/or thinking” and “throwing too many options into the mix.” This question of fear versus desire versus needs versus wants is a case in point. In my opinion, four is too many options, and that’s okay: Wants and needs can easily be subsumed under “desires”. Here’s how.

Good ol’ Abraham Maslow was right on target in saying humans deal with a clear hierarchy of needs. If you don’t have food, water, and shelter, then “finding 15 new, ideal clients this year” is not going to register as even a tiny blip on your radar. So part of what your prospect desires will be a way to meet both fundamental needs (e.g., enough money to pay the rent and buy groceries) as well as higher-level needs/wants (e.g., feeling she’s operating in what Gay Hendricks refers to as her Zone of Genius).

With fears and desires clearly in mind, your marketing is far more likely to effectively fulfill its purpose of showing your prospect just what’s possible – with your help, naturally – and getting her excited about it.

Craft a message that seamlessly addresses both fears and desires.

Easy, right?

Well…not necessarily. But it’s not necessarily a struggle through the swamp with alligators on your tail, either.

You might have found it easier to identify your prospect’s fears than her desires, or vice versa. That’s great; it give you a starting point for crafting your message. When you have a clear sense of what your ideal client both fears and craves, you’re in a much better position to clearly and compellingly articulate how your service does away with the fears while simultaneously delivering on the desires.

Think of a piece of dramatic classical music, an adventure movie, or a mystery novel. All these works move through a variety of stages, including the doom-and-gloom stage where things appear to be difficult and the hero’s heart is heavy, through to the riding-triumphantly-through-the-brightly-shining-sun happy ending. That’s the type of story your marketing gets to tell.

The gloom-and-doom portion translates into what your prospect fears, while the riding-off-in-triumph part corresponds to what she desires. Start with the scary stuff: what she stands to lose (or, at the very least, not gain) if things don’t change for her. Then show her what’s revealed by the light at the end of the tunnel: all the delicious outcomes she’s likely to achieve…if only she’s smart enough to hire you.

So it’s really fairly straightforward. Paint a picture of the scary stuff that is so powerful your client can no longer live in denial about what’s not working for her. And then allay her fears by showing her that you know – based on your past success with other clients in similar straits – how to steer her clear of those frightening perils and propel her in the direction of her deepest desires. Here’s a fun case in point.

Benefits and customer satisfaction never go out of style.

Two of my Minnesota friends, Jan Chapman and Deb Maxa, are the founders and owners of Refine Laser and Skin Care. Their primary focus is making both women and men feel more confident and attractive by removing their unwanted hair. (If you’ve ever seen someone who resembles Sasquatch wandering around in a bathing suit, you know how important their services are.)

Since they use both lasers and electrolysis to remove hair from some very delicate body parts, you can imagine how their clients might feel some trepidation about the whole process. At the same time, however, those same clients yearn to feel prettier or more handsome. So Deb and Jan use compassionate humor to acknowledge the fears, then share their client success stories to illustrate how the prospect’s desire for a less-hairy appearance is very do-able.

I love the way they bottom-line their services. Forget about a “sixty-second commercial”; Jan and Deb have successfully created interest – and, ultimately, revenues – with a three-second commercial: “We take the scare out of removing hair.”


What sort of effective ways have you found to address your ideal clients’ fears as well as their desires? Do you find it works better in your business to lead with one or the other?

Or are you still so stuck in trying to dig up the raw data on your prospects that crafting that compelling marketing message lies somewhere in the uncertain future? If that’s the case, I might be able to help.

My specialty is helping stuck entrepreneurs cut through the crap and figure out what needs to happen NOW to get them on track to their big goals. Instead of overwhelm and paralysis, they feel energy and confidence.

Is the process I use right for you? Maybe…or not. One sure way to find out is through a no-risk-to-anybody, first-date phone call. By asking and answering some questions, both of us will come to a mutual decision we’re confident about, whether that decision is to start yesterday, or sometime in the future, or not at all.

So if that sounds worth exploring, just call me at 319-270-1214 or email me with “I’m kind of scared but I also want better results” in the subject line. We’ll set up our get-acquainted call and decide what’s in everyone’s best interests.

(BTW, thanks to Maestro Pastelero for the image of the scared little girl and to Korona Lacasse for her image of the chocolate hearts.  I found both in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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