Will Pain or Promise Inspire Your Customers to Take Action? To get your customers to take action, you have to consider what will really inspire them.

By Jeffrey Shaw

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For years, the rule of thumb in marketing has been that people need to see their pain before they'll seek a solution. In other words, before people will buy into whatever it is you're offering, you would first have to point out what their problem or pain is and then point out how you will take that pain or hassle away. This, of course, was based on past human behavior and buyer psychology.

As an example of this human behavior, marketers would often say something like, "Similarly, people don't go to the doctor until they're already sick." The question is: Is that still true?

Related: Infographic: Psychology of Color In Branding

Regarding health and wellness, a recent article by McKinsey & Company states that of 7500 people surveyed, 79 percent stated that wellness and preventive care are important to them. The wellness industry is also growing at a rate of 5 to 10 percent annually. It seems people are no longer waiting around until they are sick to do something about it. Pain and illness are less of a trigger to take action.

Similarly in marketing, it seems the need to see the pain before seeking a solution is also less of a trigger to take action. Pointing out their current pain may not be the way. What is then?

Perhaps it's the promise. Promise instead of pain. The promise of who they can be, how they can live, the success they can have, the life that is possible or the time they can gain back.

Let's look at an example from pop culture. While still staying in the public eye even today, lifestyle guru Martha Stewart was tremendously popular in the '90s. She was known for making home decorating and cooking ideas look simple, yet she inadvertently made most people feel completely inadequate for not being able to do what she did. Today, organization consultant and minimalist lifestyle expert Marie Kondo is all the rage with her "spark joy" process to decide whether to keep it or get rid of it. The difference? Pain or promise. Inadequacy equals pain. Sparking joy equals promise.

Related: 5 Psychology-Backed Hacks That Train Your Brain to Be More Innovative

To market your product or service today, you have to consider what is really going to inspire your customers to take action and hire you or buy your product. Is it the pain they want for which you have a solution? Or is it the promise of what's possible for them?

The first step in figuring out whether to market the pain or the promise to your customers is to pay attention to how the example above made you feel. Which example were you drawn to? We sometimes forget that as consumers ourselves, we are often not that much different than our own customers emotionally.

Right now in this transitional phase of marketing, perhaps there's no one way. You may need to touch on the pain your customers are facing for which you have a solution, and then quickly transition to getting them to imagine what's possible for them.

In your website copy, marketing materials and content, try using more aspirational words and phrases. While bigger brands like Nike have embraced aspirational messages and the promise of being "all you can be" in their marketing for years, smaller businesses and entrepreneurs seem to be following an older mindset and leading with pain marketing. Perhaps as a smaller business, you don't think you are big enough to lead a positive movement. But you are. Your customers may not only be more drawn to a promise of who they can be with what you have to offer, but you may also be just the breath of fresh air people need.

While this transition from pain to promise marketing has been in motion for quite some time, it may be that it's accelerated recently because many people have encountered more than enough pain over the past year or so. Your potential customers are craving happier times, more hope, possibilities and promise. By marketing a message with more promise, perhaps you can get potential customers to crave you and your business as well.

Related: 6 Ways You Can Leverage Consumer Psychology to Drive More Sales

Jeffrey Shaw

Small business coach

Small business coach, Jeffrey Shaw is the author of The Self-Employed Life and LINGO, as well as an in-demand keynote speaker. He's the host of the top-rated podcast, The Self-Employed Life and a LinkedIn Learning instructor. Shaw's TEDxLincolnSquare talk is featured on TED.com.

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