How To Sell Using Fear

By | Ecommerce, Marketing | No Comments

Fear is powerful.

This is the ancient survival mechanism that has been driving people’s choices since the beginning of time. It’s completely automatic, and often, beyond our ability to control.

Inspiring people to take action may sometimes require fear. The most common place where you will see fear used in public advertisements come from public health issues. You’re likely to have seen images made to convince people to wear a seatbelt or stop smoking.

Before addressing the ethics behind marketing with fear, let’s start by examining how fear can be used to motivate people to buy, donate, or simply comply.


There has been a significant amount of research trying to understand the underlying factors as to why fear motivates people to buy.

In regards to the fear in general, there are two major factors controlling how we experience fear:

  1. Perceived Vulnerability: “How likely is this going to hurt me?”
  2. Perceived Severity: “How much is this going to hurt me?”

People who feel they are likely (vulnerability) to be hurt (severity) will feel threatened. You may think that the response would be to take action that reduces that harm altogether.

However, there is another factor to consider which motivates people toward an action that avoids harm.

Now, you may want to pay attention here. This is the element that marketers are using to push an action toward a purchase, donation, or subscription.

The factor is called efficacy. Efficacy is a person’s perceived ability toward being able to act on the threat or not. If people feel they have no control, they will take no action.

How does this relate to marketing?

Let’s look at some examples.

If you intend to use fear to drive an action toward a specific purpose, you have to be able to convey to following:

  1. Are they likely to be affected?
  2. If they are affected, will it be painful?
  3. Do they have the ability to avoid that pain?

As a marketer, your goal will be to find the fears that are already motivating actions. Your ability to capture a fear already in the world then removing the threat with a solution you provide is the effective marketing approach.

Fear in marketing can be used in places like home security. The threat of someone breaking in, stealing your precious belongings and potentially harming your family is a very frightening thought. Of course, the solution to this would be to install the security system you happen to be selling.

The threat affecting them is real, harm and trauma from a break in. How painful it will be is subjective. However, there is a clear solution to avoid this kind of pain.

Let’s look specifically at a large organization’s efforts that uses fear to gain donations for their cause.

This campaign, titled “Before it’s too late” uses an end of the world approach to motivate viewers toward taking a specific action, make a donation.

Take a look at their website, you can learn a lot from their marketing tactics: WWF website.

The marketers at WWF strive to prove that the problem is real and it affects us all. Their campaigns give a sense that what we are doing is destroying the planet and along the way we are destroying ourselves.


If you’re wondering how fear can be translated into your marketing efforts, let’s take a look at a real example of fear used in advertising.

Take a look at this advertisement.

Do you see how they entice fear?

Here they are using the fear of missing out. This is a popular approach for marketers to entice action. Using phrases like, “ends tomorrow,” “this week only,” and “last day,” creates that urgency to act.

Making sure your customers know that there is a limited time and that time is running out can tap into their instincts to buy now before it’s too late!


As you can see, fear is a great motivator to direct someone to a specific action. However, they shouldn’t be used excessive otherwise they’ll start to lose their effect and your credibility may be called to question.

Here’s a few ways to rewriting your marketing plans into a fear driven campaign:


Instead of saying, “Advertising increases traffic to your store,” use, “If you’re not advertising you will have less traffic than your competitors and a significantly reduced revenue.”

Financial Strategy

Instead of saying, “We help you save more money on your taxes,” use, “Do you really want to pay more in taxes and limit your financial freedom?

Health Insurance Plan

 Instead of saying, “it’s important to provide your prospective employees with an attractive package,” use, “Do you want to lose many great prospective employees because you don’t provide an attractive benefits package?”

These are just a few examples as to how you can write your marketing ideas into a fear based approach. The goal is to trigger the fear underlying the loss or damage of something valuable. Often, this can be in the form of reduced profits which is something everybody fears.


Finally, let’s examine the ethics of using fear to sell. This may not be the only approach to making a sale, but it certain proves to be effective.

Depending on the product and services you provide, fear may be the only way to market successfully. Take for example WWF and other charities tackling global issues. They are able to get the funding for their humanitarian efforts by examining the fundamental root of the things we fear. Such as, the fear of poverty, the fear of bad health, the fear of death.

Fear may not apply directly to your marketing efforts, however you can see that the language you use can trigger fear based feelings.

Doing so allows you to connect with real fears already existing in the world and providing a solution for it.

However, in order to be a responsible marketer, there is always a fine line between ethical and unethical use of fear in marketing. The point here, tap into fear that exists, never try to create new fears in the world.

How To Use Social Proof To Sell More Products Online (E-Commerce)

By | Ecommerce, Marketing | One Comment

Social proof is a powerful determiner for customers when they’re shopping online.

Having reviews readily available and a rating system in place, you will be able to sell more products online with your e-commerce business.

However, before we go on, let’s try to define what social proof really means:

People Social ProofSocial Proof is a psychological phenomenon causing people to conform to the actions of others under the assumption that the actions previously were taken reflect the normative of social behavior.

In its simplest form, what other people are doing, you should be doing that too.

For marketers, using social before is a smart tactic to increase conversions because it reduces the worries of customers and helps establish trust when shopping online.

Now, let’s take a look at a few different types of social proof that you can use in your marketing efforts to sell more products online.



Getting reviews from your customers or creating case studies on other companies can reveal to future customers what others know about the product they’re on the verge of buying.


Social proof from credible and trustworthy experts in your niche aims at reassuring customers of the product in question.


Celebrities who endorse and purchase your product is a powerful and effective method of establishing social proof. If celebrities are shopping from you, a vast majority of their followers are sure to follow suit.


Large numbers always have a tendency to drive behavior in a particular direction. Think of the websites claiming they have service 100,000+ people. This reveals that something they are doing is working and the numbers back it up.


Take a look at your closest companions and you’ll find you share many similar traits and interests. Tapping into this social proof enables you to make claims like, “37 of your friends have bought this product, you should too!”


Getting your services and products certified lets your customers know that you are knowledgeable, trustworthy and high quality. An example, if you’re selling organic food, would be to get a USDA Organic Certification.


Now that you have an idea of the types of social proofs that exist, let’s look at how they can be applied toward selling more products online.


These are the core to any e-commerce success. Customer testimonials lets your customers learn more about your products and base their decisions on what others are saying.

Just take a look at Amazon’s reviews used on all their products:

Amazon Reviews Social Proof

Every product has a dedicated review section with a 5-star rating system. Not only that, email reminders get sent out to notify a customer after their purchase to leave a review.

Sometimes, the products will speak for themselves and those that are desired and sought after will get the best reviews.


As mentioned, getting a celebrity to endorse your products makes a powerful statement. Going this route may come with a price. For example, in 2013 McDonalds made an endorsement deal with Justin Timberlake for $6 million. According to the singer himself, he said that shares in the company went up 25% from that endorsement alone.

Another way of getting endorsements is through the natural use of your services by an industry leader. Just take a look at WPBeginners which used industry leaders to endorse their free video training programs:

WPBeginners Social Proof3) MEDIA MENTIONS

You’ve probably seen this on many websites, a list of media outlets that have featured or mentioned a product or service.

Often, you’ll see the logo on the bottom of the page with the title, “as seen in…”

Take a look:

Media Mentions4) TRUST SEALS

Getting a trust seal on your e-commerce site can certainly boost conversions. There are many different kinds to get, however, they often add an extra layer of security to your checkout process and in turn provide that added level of trust.

Here are some of the most popular trust seals available for your e-commerce website:


Does your e-commerce site use popular third-party services?

A very effective social proof you can add to your site will be to add the logos of those partners. This adds an extra layer of credibility for those familiar with those brands.

Take for example Baremetrics, they mention their integration with Stripe,

Baremetrics StripeWhile Baremetrics may be a new platform on the web, Stripe is a service that has a trusted reputation for effective and secure checkouts.


Social proof in the form of social likes and shares is a strong use of social proof. Social media is a major influencer in decision making. Incorporating a few counters that show off how popular your items are will increase conversions quickly.

Social counters are a simple and easy way to show off social proof for your e-commerce store:

Social Media Proof7) SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT

Another great social proof can be done through your customers engaging and sharing your e-commerce with others. Setting up a specific hashtag that your current and prospective customers can tweet out or share is an effective way to prove to others that you are a trusted place to shop.

Here’s how WeSellSocks does it:


Building your social following is a solid method of social proof. Channels reaching millions of followers allows customers to purchase with confidence.

Just take a look at this successful e-commerce store, J Crew:

JCrew InstagramSocial proof is a remarkable phenomenon. The effect can cause a wave of sales for your store. Sometimes, it won’t matter what the product is. When the snowball starts to roll down the slope, it will gather enough momentum and just continue to get bigger and bigger.

Try adding these social proofs to your e-commerce store and just watch as you boost sales.

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