Pain has many faces. Physical pain, anguish over a loss, or fears of emotional pain. We, humans, are hard-wired to stop or flee all forms of pain. Everything from an embarrassing moment to a stabbing level eight agony.
Just like the rest of humanity, I’m a pain avoidance specialist.
I used to love horses. I’d wanted one from the time I was old enough to read Black Beauty.
The first thing I did when the man in my life moved me to the country, was to buy a horse. Did I know what I was doing? No. Did I have all the right gear, stabling, and place to learn? No.
Yes... I was a walking recipe for a disaster. I have the healed bones, bruises, and emotional trauma of accidents to prove it.
Table of Contents
I’d sent a three-year-old filly for training. Three months later, the trainer announced she was ready to go to the stable where I was going to lodge her. (Doing it right this time.)
Since the trainer had to be out of town, an experience horsewoman friend went to help me move her.
The trainer had been rather spotty in her communications on techniques, etc.
When we went to load Brandy in the trailer, Linda asked, “Does she ride tied or untied?”
“I don’t know...Kathy never mentioned that.”
“Well, I don’t like to tie them unless I have to. She’s quiet, we’ll just leave her loose. You lead her in and then hand me the rope through the side.”
I led Brandy in and handed Linda the rope through the open window.
As I reached the open rear ramp, I heard Linda unsnap the lead.
“Careful, she’s turned and coming toward the door.”
I can still feel the surge of disquiet and adrenaline as I type these words. Goosebumps form on my arms.
The next thing I knew Brandy hit the back of my head with the full force of the length of her face. She felled me like a tree to knock me out of her way and lept over me to get out of the trailer.
Facedown in the dirt, I could see her feet coming down on both sides of me. Pain stabbed through my right hand where one foot had grazed.
I lay there shaking with terror, knowing the outcome could have been far worse.
I think the New York Times summed it up well in their article, “Pain is the secret of neuromarketing.” I’ll explain more on that in a minute.
Most of us know that we need to find the customer’s “pain points.” However, we don’t always really understand what that means or how to use it appropriately in marketing.
An article on MarketingLand on Pain and Conversions had some great insights that aligned beautifully with what I’d learned from a marketing coach. It filled in some missing blanks.
Better armed with the neuroscience behind pain, I want to share some tips that can help you help your customers. Help them understand pain. Stop pain. Avoid pain.
It works equally well for mental or emotional pain and physical or psychological pain.
The answers are found deep in the oldest part of our brain, the amygdala often called the reptilian or the primal brain. This is the survival part of the brain. It’s the home of our fight-or-flight response.
When faced with danger, it lights up and triggers us to take action. In mild cases like the guy in front of you suddenly braking, you too stomp on the brake. Then feel that leftover adrenaline tingling in your veins.
In the case of severe danger...we flee.
In an article on psychological pain by David Biro, he shares that all pain follows a simple formula.
An attack or assault leads to injury and then to withdrawal. We have to escape. Whether the threat is physical or happening in our head, the result is identical. We feel pain and we need to stop it.
When neurosurgeons tested subjects, they discovered the amygdala lights up when the person felt threatened.
They tested a variety of pain and danger signals and saw the same response.
Then they tested people who were shopping for chocolates and buying them. Interestingly, the area again lit up.
While the triggers were very different, they came from the same area of the brain. The area with a very powerful “action” drive.
To effectively incorporate this powerful drive we need to focus on helping our customer or prospective buyer. Every single one of us wants to remove fear, remove pain, and feel pleasure. We are reward focused. When we escape danger, fear, or pain, we get a pleasure surge in the same area, the reptilian brain. The feel-good is automatic and elemental.
Successful conversion starts with your customer. You have to understand what they are feeling.
Is their pain from a physical problem? Joints lose cartilage. Muscles can strain or tear. Bones break and accidents do nasty things all over. Kidney stones and delivering babies trigger intense pain.
Emotional health is your ability to express your feelings about the information you have processed.
Emotional pain like anxiety, stress, financial fears, insecurities, guilt, and grief are emotion-based. All forms of loss trigger emotional pain. Non-physical pain can lead to loss of sleep and depression. In its most severe form, it prevents the person from living a normal life.
Nothing matters but the pain.
Whether emotional or physical the person feels and describes what they feel in the same terms as physical pain.
One unfortunate aspect of pain is that the longer we endure it, the more we feel it. We don’t want to leave prospects to wallow in their pain.
It's our job to help them find a glimmer of hope. We want to help them find relief.
A word of caution, avoid pain as a sales gimmick. A good example is the poorly acted television commercials of a company in the late 1980s. Selling a protective device to seniors they slogan was ‘I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” They turned a serious situation into bad comedy.
They made US Data Corporation's top 15 marketing blunders list. Right up there with NEW Coke and NOVA.
There are plenty of ways to take the high road and still take advantage of the pain principle. It can be done with words and images without focusing on the pain.
Check these examples and think of the emotions tied to each:
You’re selling a pre-natal supplement...protection for mother and baby. (What are they feeling?)
Selling a super door lock with a camera...you’re selling Theft protection. (What emotions?)
Can you identify which emotions a photo of a flooded row of homes would trigger?
How about a picture with a nasty black spider graphic situated next to a happy family?
As badly as we want to escape pain...we seek pleasure. We want to feel good, enjoy our families, feel safe, find love, belong, and have confidence and esteem. Help them see themselves feeling better and having fun.
Showing hope and reminding them of the potential pleasure rewards guides them to your solution.
If you’ve done your work and guided them forward, the desires are activated. The need to take action is strong for us pain-avoidance pleasure-seekers.
Buying triggers a feeling of satisfaction and that activates the brain’s primal reward region. We feel pleased with our purchase.
Proper post-sales nurturing can reinforce this feeling, set the right expectations, and continue the positive experience. The positive experience draws them back to you to repeat it.
Help them get their next dose of happiness with lots of nurturing.
Would love to hear how you implement the pain motivator in your marketing.
Oh and Brandy and I...I've never been back on a horse. I got out of it with a minor concussion and a broken little finger on my right hand. I was very lucky. I never wanted to tempt that fate again. My time as a dare-devil risk-taker was over.
Judith Culp Pearson receives three top honors
at the annual Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals in
Ft. Worth, Texas - October 7-9, 2023