Fear - Businessman Tied Up in Knots

Selling Fear

Like many people, I’ve been following the U.S. election. It has become nasty and full of hate. The Internet, the media, and social media are amplifying the effect.

A year ago, we watched the Conservative Party try a few of those fear based tricks in the federal election. They ended up losing. Instead of the positives (we are all still here), much of the remembered legacy will be based on their leadership and communication styles.

Part of this is because we are wired pay attention to negatives much more strongly than positives. The old part of our brains (amygdala) keeps us alive by looking for threats. The problem is, most situations are no longer a matter of life and death, but our brains treat emotional stress just as seriously as a close grizzly bear encounter.

Over the past few months, I’ve heard of some businesses closing their doors, and many of those surviving are struggling or have downsized significantly.

The last thing Albertans need right now is more fear and stress.

The Danger in Silence

Part of being in a democracy is the acceptance that the people chose the current government. So, the rest of the population lives with it while exercising their right to complain. Then, you get another shot when their terms end. I see no upside in attacking the people in the current ruling parties or devolving into the nastiness south of the border.

The NDP in Alberta got elected on a platform. Whether you see it as good or bad, they are implementing the key elements of that platform. We won’t see the full impact until 2017 and beyond.

The problem is that they envisioned most of the platform before the full effects of the economic downturn hit. The NDP party itself is made up of relatively inexperienced members due to the hold the PC party held for decades. Then, there was the distraction of the federal election. So, it took them some time to get the basics going.

But, it is now over a year later. I’ve been watching the news, and I see a critical problem.


And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence
~ Paul Simon

We aren’t getting much information on what the NDP government (or the Liberals federally) is doing over the near-term to help boost the Alberta economy. Albertans don’t want EI. They want jobs and the ability to create viable businesses.

All great leaders and marketers know one thing: in the absence of information and communication people will make up stuff.

Rumours, Gossip, and Conspiracies

Social media, the Internet, and the media will amplify those rumours. Conspiracy theories will be quietly voiced and then gain momentum. Facts don’t matter as much if emotions are involved.

I was talking to a service business that has been around for over 20 years. They moved locations recently. One of their competitors started telling their clients that they had gone out of business. Those customers were worried. The competitor may have even genuinely believed it.

In bad times, it is important that you communicate more than normal. Communication includes your internal team and all of your external stakeholders and clients.

But, you don’t want to communicate for the sake of communicating. You want it to be relevant to the audience.

Positioning You as the Expert

When things get tight, many businesses start to look for new products and services to jumpstart sales. They start trying to be everything to everyone. This approach usually backfires.

Unless you are Walmart, or otherwise have the scale to sell everything but the kitchen sink to thrive as a small or mid-sized business, you must stand for something.

It seems a bit counter-intuitive, like you are being cornered. You are not a politician. Being cornered like this is usually good for business.

More and more, people are looking for specialization and expertise. They are looking for solutions. If you have one thing that stands out, that is the best strategy. Most effective marketers will pare it down to one to three key areas of focus. You can offer your other solutions once you have increased the trust.

Some questions you can ask to help you narrow your focus:

  • What problem does it solve?
  • What do you ideal clients look like for that problem?
  • Do enough businesses have that problem right now?
  • Is the problem important to them right now?
  • Do they have the ability to pay to solve that problem?
  • Can you compete effectively in that space?

The last four questions determine if your offering is viable right now. It is critical you lead with what opens the doors and can keep your doors open.

Once you narrow your offerings down and get selective about your ideal clients, you can use that focus to get a lot more mileage out of your marketing and sales budgets.

The other upside is that word of mouth is much stronger when you are the perceived expert in something. People start finding you.

Coincidentally, that this also the key hallmark of great inbound marketing. It amplifies the impact of you being the expert in one or a few key areas. More of the buying process is in your prospect’s hands than ever before. So, you put out great content that helps buyers through their journey of:

  • Understanding their problem
  • Looking at alternatives
  • Helping them pick a trusted supplier.

The goal is to make your business that trusted supplier. When they are ready to buy, you are the first choice. And, they feel great, because they found YOU.

People want to hear from you when you are helping them achieve their goals.

What are the biggest problems facing your clients right now? What are the significant challenges facing Albertans right now?

Solve those problems, and you will do well.

Originally published in the October edition of the Oilfield Pulse

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