Fear is B2B’s Hot, Hot Sex

“Sex Sells”

Many take it as a given: sex sells.

The assertion is rampant in the B2C world. Is it true?  Who cares!  Let’s just put up some pictures of hot babes and move some toothpaste!

Here is an actual study about the effectiveness of marketing with sexmore here.. and here …  The main takeaway is that while sex can be effective for sexually related products and services, despite common assumptions, it is not usually effective for actual sales of non-sexual products and services because it tarnishes the brand image.

However, sex does get people’s attention. No doubt this is because, according to this statistic we just made up, most adults aspire to having more sex.  But just because you have someone’s attention does not mean you’re getting someone’s dollar.  They have to believe in your product or service to buy.

I aspire to keep my job.

What’s the equivalent of sex in the B2B world? Fear.

According to another statistic we just made up, 96% of respondents say that they fear losing their jobs.

This has often been explained as being at the root of the old cliché: “Nobody ever lost their job by buying IBM.“

This cliché was followed up in the 90’s by “Nobody ever lost their job by buying Microsoft or Cisco.”  Check the stock prices for these companies in that later-half of that decade to see why marketers love to keep bringing these chestnuts up.

Ok, I get it.  Fear sells.

So should I start spreading F.U.D. in the marketplace right now?

No, because Fear doesn’t sell.  It might get people’s attention, but it’s not going to result in a sale. It will more likely result in buyer-paralysis. If the buyer is confused they won’t know what to do.  They won’t risk making a mistake and getting fired. So they do nothing.

Brands don’t need to introduce fear.  Buyers are human bundles of insecurities just like the rest of us; they bring plenty of fear to the table on their own. To close the sale, brands need to inspire TRUST.

In all of our above examples, people bought not out of fear, but out of trust. They bought because they trusted IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco. They trusted those brands with their jobs. That kind of trust is worth a significant price premium, especially when that premium is being paid with company money.

Trust sells.

That’s why fear is to B2B what sex is to B2C.  It gets people’s attention but is often misconstrued as the reason buyers buy.

Fear and Sex are both red herrings. Buyers buy because of trust.

Rich Quarles

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