How do you sell what no one wants to buy?

November 14, 2011

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How do you market stuff no one wants?

Most of us don’t have the luxury of selling ocean front property, the coolest laptop, the latest in tractor technology or porsches.  But in most cases, while it may not be sexy to many — someone really wants it.

But how do you sell something that no one has any enthusiasm or interest in buying?  You know, things like…. funeral services, trauma clean up or bankruptcy law services.

Granted…when someone has lost a loved one, had a horrific accident in their home or can’t survive their financial crisis — they need to talk to you.  But it’s not something they’re looking forward to doing.

How do you market to them prior to that triggering event so that when an event occurs — they know about your company, your offerings and you, at the very least, are on their short list of potential vendors?

When you sell something that people dread having to buy, the psychology of that dread is pretty straight forward.   Something very bad has to happen before they’d need to buy something from you.  And odds are that bad thing would have to happen to someone they love.

Focus on the emotion: 99% of the time people don’t want to buy what you sell is because of the emotions attached to the purchase.   You are not a want.  Sooner or later — you’re a necessity.

So in your marketing — paint me a picture of how you help your customers get over the very thing they’re afraid of.   This means you have to truly understand the psychology of your customers at their point of purchase.  Once you do, think through every touch point of the purchase cycle and make sure you’re focusing on getting them through the event.

This isn’t the time for being fuzzy with your message.  Directly acknowledge that you understand their pain/fear etc.  and show them how you’ve  built your business to ease those emotions.

Go with a prevention message: One of the best ads for a funeral home I ever saw was an ad with an anti drunk driving theme.  The basic message was — don’t drink and drive, we’re not that anxious to see you.  it made them seem very human and caring.

If your product or service only comes into play when something bad has happened — one strong marketing tactic is to help people avoid that bad event.

Offer/sponsor a financial literacy class or promote a suicide hotline.  But do something that actually helps people avoid you.  Those who aren’t so lucky will remember that you were compassionate enough to try and help.

Demonstrate on a small scale: Usually, part of what makes people dread buying from you is the enormity and finality of their situation by the time they get to your front door.

But you can show off your skills on a much less scary scale.  For example, if you clean up trauma scenes — think of the stains you have to remove.  Blood, body emissions, etc.

Is there a way you can demonstrate those abilities — but on a less scary scale?  Kick off  a series of blog posts or post card tips that talk about how to remove tough stains like blood.  Show us you know your stuff — but slowly and in less dramatic applications.

Find your influencers: Often times, people are a bit numb at the moment they need to buy these sorts of services.  They are on auto pilot, due to the emotions they’re facing.  So people like attorneys, police officers, hospice centers etc. are often guiding them through the process.

Find out how to genuinely connect with these influencers.  Give them information, materials, etc. to help them get a person/family through that moment in time.  Be truly helpful and they’ll remember you at the point of referral.

The over-arching message here is — you have to be part psychologist to sell what people have no interest in buying.  You are often meeting them at their most vulnerable moments and they need you to help them feel safe and cared for.

The upside of all of this is just that.  You are meeting people in their worst nightmare.  If you can truly serve them well, help them with not only the mechanics of what you sell — but more importantly, walk through the nightmare with them — that’s very noble work and you should take great pride in it.


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