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Why Your Messaging Should Focus on the Negative

When we ponder marketing messages for a product or service, we tend to focus on the positives, or the “plusses.”  Maybe we want to highlight why we’re better than the competition.  Or how a particular feature could save customers time and money.  That’s important, to be sure.

But there’s a little-known aspect of human-behavior you can tap-into to make your communications even more effective.

Human beings are biologically-wired for survival. As such, the human brain has evolved to put more emphasis and importance on “avoiding pain” relative to “achieving gain”. Studies have shown that buyers will often perceive a downside benefit to be more important than an upside benefit, even though the net-result may be exactly the same.

We’ve seen it in our own research.  One company we spoke with told us about how they had been positioning a product benefit as helping companies achieve additional revenue. But when they flipped that around and positioned the benefit as helping companies avoid a loss of revenue, they saw a much bigger response.

Think about that… “Achieving a $10k gain” is the exact same net-result as “Avoiding a $10k loss”…but we humans perceive and value them very differently.

As your prospects are all presumably human, these dynamics of human perception can’t help but play a role in how they respond to your marketing programs. So look for ways to also position your benefits in terms of risk-mitigation or loss-avoidance. And most definitely, look for any and all opportunities to highlight and magnify the downside risks or increased costs associated with the competitive alternatives your prospects are considering.

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