using ‘hot buttons’ in your marketing attracts the wrong clients

over the last few weeks I’ve been doing some serious head-scratching as to why most marketing is so ineffective (and what to do about it).

I have a pretty clear picture in my mind, alas, it’s rather ‘big’ with lots of moving parts, so I’m still working on how to express it in ‘human’;-)

Here’s what the real problem of ‘modern (mass) marketing’ is about:

it’s too much focused on the classic ingredients of an ‘avatar’: your prospect’s pain points, their fears, their desires, their emotional hot-buttons.

In practice you then use these in your ads, your sales-copy, your video-sales-letters and so on.

Even when you’re all ‘enlightened’ and you do ‘strategy sessions’ where your prospects sell themselves on the idea of enrolling in your coaching program, it’s the same principle:

you get them to realize how much pain they’re really in, and that the cost of not doing anything is just too much to bear.

And yes, all of this IS powerful at getting someone to take action. (aka: get them to buy).

It’s just the way humans are hardwired.

Unfortunately, that’s also where the big problem begins:

all that focus on getting someone motivated to take action leads to an emotionally driven purchase, in other words:

it’s an impulse purchase.

It’s NOT a well-reasoned purchase.

And guess what, after an impulse purchase 2 things happen:

Problem #1: you, as the vendor have to keep overcoming/preventing any potential buyer’s remorse …

… typically by working those hot-buttons and other emotional triggers even harder:

provide more and more bonuses, ‘overdeliver’ by drowning them in free stuff, using ‘shock and awe’ packages etc, etc, etc)

And that’s a never ending, and never-really-satisfying (for either party) out of control spiral into marketing hell.

Problem #2: because the focus of all that marketing was on ‘hot buttons’ and emotional triggers, …

… you’ve overlooked THE most important function of marketing:

pre-qualifying your prospect.

Not in the sense of:

do they have the cash to satisfy YOUR needs, but …

… do THEY have everything in place so they can actually get true VALUE out of whatever you’re selling them.

in the sense of: them getting closer to their goals!

How often have you bought a course and not implemented it because there were just too many ‘missing pieces’ or ‘obstacles’ you just couldn’t overcome?

See what I mean!?

if that’s the case, you were being sold to, instead of being qualified properly!

It would’ve made much more sense for the vendor to emphasize your needs and RESPECT your CURRENT REALITY (of what’s possible for you and what isn’t), instead of hammering your hot-buttons and bonus-receptors into submission.

Now, in case you’re wondering:

the answer to the ‘most marketing sucks’ question, or – more specifically –

how to transition over from ‘hot-button’ marketing to ‘respecting current reality’ marketing is …

… (drum-roll)…

content marketing!

well, to be precise: it’s ‘content marketing done right‘.

you see, most content marketing these days is nothing but glorified ‘drown those prospects in randomly distributed content and hope that some sticks’

that’s NOT the answer.

The answer is to be a little bit more strategic

… and when I say ‘strategic’, not in the sense of ‘this is how we strategically persuade‘ them, but instead,

this is how we strategically make sure their current reality changes so they can actually take advantage of our offer and really get the results they’re after’

Pre-qualifying in its most basic form simply rejects those who are not qualified to take full advantage of your offer.

And, whilst that’s a million times more respectful of your prospective clients’ needs (and hence much more likely to create true, long-lasting goodwill, referrals, and business down the line)…

… it’s nowhere near as powerful as taking the next step:

having a very good look at their situation, respecting where they’re at, and – if appropriate – open the doors for them to get to place where they can truly benefit from your offering.

Interested how do this in practice?

Join us on a on our upcoming webinar on ‘almost-no-hot-button strategic content marketing’ (we’ll have to find a better title though;-) (watch your inbox for details)

(it’s “almost” no hot buttons, because there is ONE place where it’s imperative to use hot buttons, and that place is actually respectful of your prospective clients’ needs)

thoughts? comments? suggestions?

leave a comment and tell me what you think!





  1. Matthew Newnham says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Veit: tune into where your ideal prospects are actually at, show them where what’s possible that they really want [and need], then genuinely show them how they can get there. If we do that well, many prospects will ask for our help to put our advice into practice, and everyone wins. If we each do that in our zone of where we’re at our most awesome, the world [not to mention our clients and our business] will be a far better place.

    • Matthew,

      you’ve hit the nail on the head: “tune in where they *actually* are”. If they are experiencing pain, then no need to ignore it or pretend it’s not there … however, then, as you move forward, your focus can & should shift away from the ‘pain’


  2. Most marketers think you can’t market any other way than to hit the pain button.

    I recently wrote a photography letter for myself, and painted a picture of the pleasures my audience would receive from joining my membership. My copy coach (who charges high 5-figures to write for clients) thought I did a very good job on my letter. I showed it to a copywriter from the IM world, and she immediately started in with “There’s not enough pain.”

    So is it we don’t know how to properly market to our audience, or is the IM world prone to always falling back on the fear/pain angle?

    Looking forward to your webinar.

    • well, the pain-button does work (better than the gain button in many cases)

      However, the way it’s being used (in e.g. the sales-letter in order to ‘persuade’ someone) is just plain wrong (where of course ‘wrong’ is very subjective, if you’re doing mass-marketing of ‘impulse’ driven purchases, then pain is very powerful …)

      after some more head-scratching, I can now think of TWO places where using ‘pain’ (away-from motivation) are useful, effective and ethically acceptable … all to be revealed on the webinar;-)


  3. Douglas Pye says:

    Spot on Veit! Having spent my working life in Marketing/Sales I have struggled to understand the I M Logic behind the “pain principle in cold blood” … yet it’s spruiked all over the field ! … In the bricks-n-mortar world such an approach encourages “objections” which need “overcoming” along the road to a “sale” … leaving buyer remorse lurking to undo the whole tangled thread.

    As a sales practitioner and coach I always advocated that prospecting – prepping was the real art … thus leaving closing ability as the sales technique !! … I look forward to hearing about your potentially refreshing approach !!
    … Cheers from Aus. … Doug …

    • Doug,

      ha, my thinking is influenced (in part) by my own past as an insurance salesman …. we were forced to use scripts for both prospecting, presenting as well has ‘handling objections’ (aka: “you’re an idiot, you don’t know what you’re talking about, buy this now”).

      obviously, I didn’t stick around for too long, however it’s taught me a few good lessons



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