The Art of the DM Scare: Making the Most of Fear in Direct Marketing

Marcos Ribeiro de Cast - iStock_56266354_LARGE.jpgBOO!  It’s the ghost who knows your most epic direct marketing fails. And in a matter of days, that ghost is going to Tweet them to out to the entire industry!

Scared yet? I hope so. Because it’s a good thing for my mission. As a direct marketing writer, I want to scare you because fear can be a powerful motivator. So let’s look at using fear effectively in direct marketing, and what you can do to get from fear, to desire, to action, to ultimately a donor mind at ease.

Realistic Fear

Far from paralyzing, fear in direct marketing can drive action. But that fear has to be grounded in reality. All-knowing Twitter ghosts may grab your attention, but do they seem like a legitimate threat to you, your planet, and the people you care about? For fear to elicit the desired response, the threat must be genuine, the stakes high and personal. And your organization must be uniquely equipped to do something about it.

Fear Right off the Bat

We live in a truly terrifying world at times. If there’s a frightening situation you need the donor’s help to address, don’t be afraid to dive into to the scary truth straight away. When you have fear at your disposal, there’s no reason to begin a letter with anything other than the horrifying crisis. Don’t tip-toe around it with weasel words like “might” or “could” or “maybe,” and don’t start with a thank-you. There will be plenty of time for thank-you’s once you’ve ignited your donor’s desire to alleviate the fear you’ve caused them, by fixing the scary problem at hand. Be sure to tell them the scary things that will come to pass if they don’t do something.

Relief from Fear

Vera Petruk - iStock_48606344_LARGE.jpgOnce you’ve scared the bejesus out of your donor, give them a means to relieve their fear. Provide a solution. What action can the donor take right now to solve this particular problem? Why is your organization the one who can change the course and how will you do it? Comfort your donor, so that they can stop being scared because they are doing everything possible, through their action, to fix the problem at hand.

It’s a pretty simple formula. Once you’ve scared your donor, offer them a solution to the problem, which is also a solution to their fear.  Show them how the solution works, and make sure they know that their action WILL have an impact. Fear creates a desire to change the circumstance, action changes the circumstance, and changing the circumstance provides relief.

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