September 12, 2017

Do ‘negative’ messages work best?

I’ve been following a few conversations recently asking whether it is effective or even ethical to lead with a negative message in your marketing.

This is especially prevalent in the Infusionsoft partner community, where many partners lead with the fact that Infusionsoft can be extremely confusing for novice users. My own business name, ‘The Confusion Clinic’, was once a play on this.

I think we need to set a few things straight.

As long as you’re not engaging in slander, you’re free to say whatever you like in your marketing. And quite often, drawing someone’s attention to a problem they are experiencing is the best way to get their attention. You can only engage people by joining the conversation already going on in their head.

If Infusionsoft for example happens to be confusing to a statistically meaningful number of customers, that’s Infusionsoft’s problem, not your problem.

Also, any system that provides the outcome Infusionsoft can provide is likely to be complicated, at least under the hood if not in the interface itself. Facts are facts. Infusionsoft is complicated. Salesforce is complicated. AdWords is complicated (despite Google’s repeated attempts to dumb down the interface). Facebook ads (oh my word) are complicated. The challenge all these systems face is maintaining the outcome they provide, while increasing ease of use.

Complexity in marketing is going up as new tools appear, and existing tools become more sophisticated.

Take the Facebook ads interface. You’ve got image ads, video ads, carousel ads, lead ads, offers, offline conversion tracking, unlimited interest targeting possibilities, a huge number of demographics, custom audiences, lookalike audiences… I simply can’t keep track of it all.

If you wanted to help companies with their Facebook ads, do you think it would be more effective to lead with a positive happy clappy message, or a negative message that focuses attention on the real problem at hand?

To paraphrase Oren Klaff:

There’s a great tendency in marketing to drown out negative talk. But many times that negative self-talk is actually saying, “Stop! We have a real problem here. Optimism is not going to fix this!” You need a healthy dose of reality to balance optimism.

My advice: lead with reality. But follow up quickly with optimism. Don’t be slow off the mark to get an interested prospect excited about an outcome you can provide.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.

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