In business, do “scare tactics” work?


I saw a billboard the other day that said, “After you DIE, you WILL meet God!”

I thought to myself, “I’m on a pretty regular meet-up schedule with God, and she said we’re good. But thanks.”

This billboard got me thinking about fear-mongering and scare tactics—especially in the business world. 

All too often, entrepreneurs are encouraged to identify their customers’ “pain points” and then “agitate” them into purchasing something. In the marketing world, there’s actually a name for this icky technique: “Agitate and solve.” 

You’ve seen how this goes…

First, you “agitate” your customer into a state of anxiety and panic. (“Are you SICK of all that EXCESS FAT around your midsection?”). Then, you offer a shiny product that will supposedly “solve” the problem instantly and with zero effort. (“Call now to get a year’s supply of miracle green tea FAT BLASTING PILLS—just 5 easy payments of $19.99 plus shipping!”).

People have used the “agitate and solve” technique for decades, because it works.

Or… does it? 

I’m not so sure.

I think audiences are becoming more sophisticated, more spiritually awake, and increasingly skeptical about overblown promises and infomercial-style marketing. Scare tactics may have worked in the past, but today? Most of the people that I know are seriously turned off by that type of marketing, because it just feels so slimy and disrespectful. 

As you’re figuring out your marketing plan for 2017, here are some questions to consider:7509df85b712db7570ccf80b8512c2b2

— What are my customers’ greatest sources of pain, anxiety, and stress? 

— How can I show my customers that I see/understand their pain, but without “agitating” them into a state of even greater anxiety?

— How can I show that I really care?

— How can I create hope, energy, and optimism, not more fear?

— How can I show that I’m qualified to help?

— What types of promises can I make? What types of promises can I NOT make?

— How can I help my customers to make purchasing decisions from a place of trust and discernment, not hysteria and fear?

— What does “ethical, respectful marketing” mean, and look like, to me?

Don’t be the scary “fire and brimstone” billboard. Don’t be a tyrant. Don’t be the Trump of your industry. (I know that’s the OPPOSITE of what you want.) Skip the scare tactics, and communicate with compassion instead. That’s what your customers want and deserve, and that’s what will generate fan mail, enrollments, and all the good stuff that you crave. 

And if you’re thinking, “But that’s not how the other people in my industry do things. Everybody else uses ‘scare tactics’ so maybe I should, too?” then allow me to quote Michelle Obama:

“When they go low, we go high.”

Go HIGH with your business, and you’ll attract the best possible clients and customers. The cream of the crop. True, devoted, loyal fans, not people who swiped their credit card because they felt frightened and who aren’t even the right customers for you anyway. 

Go HIGH and your income will follow.


PS. If you still don’t have a firm business/marketing plan for 2017, have no fear! I’m doing a FREE business-planning webinar on December 6th and you’re welcome to attend. This is your chance to breathe, think deeply, and get all your ducks in a row. Your vision. Your priorities. Your revenue streams. All of it. Here’s where to sign up for the webinar. Bring friends and be there LIVE, on the 6th, because live is always way more fun. 🙂

xoxo, Susan


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