It sounds pretty ruthless, doesn't it? Inducing negative emotions to sell more stuff. In some ways, the way we play on each other's fears and insecurities to make money is absolutely deplorable (see: the weight loss industry). There's no denying that it works. However, there are morally responsible ways to induce anxiety in potential clients to increase the chance of conversion.
You don't have to become a manipulative super villain, hiding in the shadows and dropping weird passive aggressive statements about your clients' hair to make sales. You don't have to undermine their self-esteem or insult them to influence their actions on your website.
Anxiety in sales and marketing is created through three avenues: time the product is available, amount of product available, and social pressure to use the product. Here's how you can use these tactics to assist your lead generation efforts.
The use of time-based anxiety is very common in car dealerships: "This week only, 0% financing until 2066!" Viewers are urged to take immediate action since, supposedly, this is the only week they'll be offering a fifty-year 0% financing plan.
Sense of Urgency
Urgency, whether real or imagined, gets our adrenaline flowing. It causes us to forego deep consideration and make rash decisions. Phrases like "Hurry!" "Act now!" and "Time is running out!" play into our sense of urgency quite effectively.
The trick is to make your potential buyers feel like their problem needs a solution now. Not tomorrow, not someday, but right now. Their problem is urgent, and they have everything to lose by taking their sweet time in finding a solution.
Limited Time Offers
Use the sense of urgency to your advantage with limited time offers. The offer itself could be discounts, BOGO deals, additional/free products or samples, or whatever will strongly appeal to your buyers. Whatever you pick, put a strict time limit on it, and make sure to clearly mark the deadline and how much time is left to take advantage of the offer.
Clocks, countdowns, and other visual indicators are highly effective in conveying a sense of urgency.
Product amount is the second way to drive action in a customer. See: "Get it while supplies last!"
The Element of Scarcity
Scarcity (or the appearance of it) is used to drive higher prices and make people scramble for "rare" items. The diamond trade is a common example; diamonds are actually plentiful, but a clever chokehold on supply and insanely high prices create the illusion of scarcity and value.
People take pride in being part of an exclusive group - in this case, that means being one of only a few people to own/wear/drive/eat a certain product. It makes us feel special and important. You only need to look at the price and status of a fifty-year-old Corvette to get the picture.
Manufacturers may have difficulty creating a feeling of scarcity, since the purpose of a manufacturer is to make as much of a product as a client requires. You can play around with offering a limited number of discounts, content offers, or other non-manufacturable resources to the first X people who sign up for your email list.
Limited Quantity Offers
Limited quantity offers create an element of scarcity by default. When the product is gone, it's gone. No more will be produced, ever, so you'd better get it now while its price is somewhat reasonable.
Many authors, musicians, and artists take advantage of this by offering limited quantities of autographed works to the first X people who order a new product. Autographed products by themselves tend to be valuable and scarce, which automatically drives up the price.
The affects of social pressure can be seen easily in clothing, make up, and fitness industries. Telling people subliminally "you will not be accepted you if you dress in last year's fashion" or "you will not be loved if you don't wear make up/work out" are perfectly terrifying examples of social pressure.
Acceptance and Rejection
Social pressure in advertising and marketing plays on base emotional needs of our lizard brains. We want to be accepted by others. The desire for acceptance and the fear of rejection manifest in different ways for different people: some value money, so they do whatever they can to obtain money. For others, it's beauty, intelligence, humor, power, and so on. If you don't have the desired traits, you're excluded from the group.
On a large scale, we see it in language, race, religion - people who speak, look, and pray certain ways stick to their own groups. People with similar characteristics band together and accept one another, while being wary of strangers.
To an extent, you can play on the fear of rejection in your marketing strategy. AT&T took that bull by the horns with their campaign slogan "Don't get left behind."
Fear of Missing Out
Affectionately referred to as FOMO, the fear of missing out is a powerful call to action. We want to be "in the know." The fear of being out of touch is the devil sitting on our shoulder whispering "They're out having fun/living life/being cool but you're not."
To feel like we're on the same level as others, we're willing to spend money on the newest and best products/services. How many people do you know who had a perfectly good iPhone 5, which they immediately got rid of when the iPhone 6 came out?
Make your website visitors feel like they'll be missing out on something if they don't convert. For instance, only savvy and smart professionals will download your state of the industry report or your guide to choosing the best vendor.
If you're a manufacturer, you can play into this with your nicest machines and processes. "Nobody uses drills to fabricate metal anymore - plasma cutting is the new big thing!" or "Why aren't you working with a lean manufacturer? Your competitors are doing it and they're seeing big results."
Anxiety is only one of many psychological marketing tactics. It's one of the easiest ways to compel people to action, though there are other human instincts you can use to your advantage (authority, reciprocity, and likeability are a few). Advertisers have been using these tactics since we began assigning value to objects.
Try some of these strategies and see how they work for you. As always, some industries will have more success than others.