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Tear Down That Wall! Overcoming Obstacles In Your Marketing

By September 10, 2012June 26th, 2015Marketing Insights & Strategy
Tear Down That Wall! Overcoming Obstacles In Your Marketing

Good copywriters ask their clients a lot of questions. Sometimes these questions elicit perplexed looks, raised eyebrows, head shaking and even red-faced anger.

One such question that I often ask is this:

Are there any common assumptions, misconceptions, fears or negative stereotypes that people have about your product or service, your business, or your industry that might prevent them from doing business with you?

The most common response is this:

Why do you want to know that?!?

First, it helps me get deeper inside the mind of my client. I need to understand why someone might have reservations about handing over money to your business. After all, marketing isn’t just about coming up with a long list of reasons why your business is so wonderful.

Every business has at least one obstacle that needs to be removed before a sale is made. If there wasn’t, you’d close the deal every time.

When you identify these obstacles, you can overcome them, or at least start the process of overcoming them, in your marketing.

Many business owners, and some marketers, will claim it’s a bad idea to reference anything that may be perceived as an obstacle to a sale. They say you should avoid delving into the “negative” that causes people to have reservations. That would just feed assumptions, misconceptions, fears or stereotypes. Just focus on the positive – as if the negative will somehow fade away.

That’s really a shortsighted, self-serving mentality. It’s not a matter of being negative or positive, and the fact that these obstacles exist doesn’t mean something is wrong with your business.

Dealing with obstacles in your marketing has two major benefits.

1) You’ll build trust with your audience by addressing their concerns in a way that’s transparent and honest.

Hiding from negatives or pretending they don’t exist is just asking for trouble. People have easy access to too much information – and too many opinions – whether the information or opinions they find are correct or not.

Address the most common obstacles directly instead of letting them fester in people’s minds.

By being upfront and honest about why people may be apprehensive about doing business with you, you help to establish your credibility and integrity. You show people that you care.

Maybe you can show data or statistics that prove an assumption wrong. Maybe you can show how a stereotype that may have been accurate 20 years ago is no longer accurate. Maybe you have a client who was hesitant to make a purchase because of a common misconception but can now offer a testimonial to clear up that misconception.

2) By tackling these obstacles head on now, you can speed up the sales process later.

When we watched the Olympics last month, there was a reason why the times in the 100-meter sprints were faster than the 100-meter hurdles.

Hurdles slow things down.

If someone is apprehensive about doing business with you, I’m not saying you’ll be able to completely win them over just because you can effectively prove in your marketing that their reason for being apprehensive doesn’t hold water.

But if you can use your marketing to reduce a major hurdle into a minor speed bump, you can alleviate their concerns to the point where they’re at least open to contacting you. And you’ll make the sales process that much easier before it even begins because your marketing has accomplished some of the heavy lifting already.

The ability to change someone’s perception is a powerful thing, but it can be a process. Why not start that process in your marketing? If each sale takes less time to close because you’re overcoming obstacles in your marketing, that’s a good thing.

Here’s a real world example that worked.

When I was a Creative Director in radio, we had a client who was selling reverse mortgages. The client pointed out that there were myths about reverse mortgages that scared seniors. We identified the three most common myths:

  • I won’t own my home anymore and I’ll have to leave.
  • I’ll end up owing more than what my home is worth.
  • I’ll lose my Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

We created a different commercial for each myth. The commercials started by identifying the myth, continued by offering easy-to-understand data that debunked the myth, and closed with a call-to-action that invited people to contact the company to get the facts about reverse mortgages.

We addressed the most common obstacles to the sale in a very straightforward, honest and credible way, and the response was phenomenal.

If we were able to overcome obstacles in 60 seconds (about 150 words), or at least begin that process, you can certainly do the same on a page of your website, a series of blogs or videos, a brochure, or whatever other marketing platform you’re using.

Tear down those walls. Build trust. Speed up the sales process. Win-win-win.

What are you doing to overcome obstacles that may be preventing people from doing business with you?

Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • This is super well explained, and I was one of those “no negative” guys for awhile. It’s a phase… Thanks Scott 🙂

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Jason. I guess we all go through that phase in which we think we’re clever enough to dance around a negative instead of dealing with it directly. I think this is a more effective and easier approach to execute. Can you really go wrong with honesty and transparency?


  • Adrienne says:

    I can also see the benefit of addressing the negative and when you bring it out in the open yet give them the positive of what they can expect, that is what will turn them around. Ignoring that it exists or not wanting to address it is what will get you in trouble down the road. You’ll be stumbling over your words whenever that is brought up because it will be brought up.

    Great post Scott and an important topic.


    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Adrienne! Nothing is more awkward when someone brings up one of those negatives and you’re not prepared, right? I guess that’s another positive of overcoming obstacles in your marketing – you get better at it when you have to do it “live.”


  • Sue Price says:

    Thanks for a great message Scott. I agree with you pretending potential customers concerns do not exist is crazy. Far better to deal with them. As you say if there were none everyone would buy.

    Well done.


    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Sue. The thing about much of the apprehension that people have about purchasing a product or service is that a simple, straightforward explanation can often alleviate their concerns – easily and permanently. And if the apprehension is warranted, that’s valuable knowledge for a business owner to have and address.


  • Hi Scott, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I really like that concept, and I have used it, maybe without really being fully aware that I was.
    This made me think of my series about Self-Hypnosis which was a series of 4 blog posts and 3 videos where had to explain that the concept that people have about hypnosis is general completely wrong.
    In order to do this, I used illustrations and expanations that could help my readers and listeners understand what hypnonis is really about and how self hypnosis could help them, once they knew the truth about it.
    It’s interesting that your clients don’t understand why you are asking them the couple of questions you mentioned at the opening of this article. It makes total sense to me.
    Thank you for this very interesting post 🙂

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Sylviane,

      Hypnosis is a great example of how people’s perceptions are probably based more on cartoons and sitcoms than what hypnosis is and does. I love your ideas about incorporating a multimedia approach with blogs, video and illustrations. Don’t just tell them. Show them!


  • Hi Scott
    Great post. Actually you did a great job of summing up good copywriting in a simple easy to understand example. Will have to keep that in mind when I try to create a call to action statement. We see it all around us on TV and print but don’t realize that they are pulling at our resistance to buy…and we are hooked!

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Mary! What we’re really doing is creating a more educated consumer. The call-to-action is an important component. When you’re overcoming obstacles, I always avoid a hard sell. Instead of saying, “to buy ___,” invite people to contact you to get more information, ask questions, clear up any misconceptions, get the facts, etc.


  • Hi Scott,
    What a great example of the Reverse Mortgages you have given. It summed it all up. All we have to do is give simple answers to those perceived obstacles people have on a specific product. Give them simple solutions.
    It reminds me of those commercials I see that have the 800 number to call and I get a knee jerk reaction to do so, even if I don’t want that product. It is so interesting to me how people market.
    Also, It doesn’t always have to be positive. If someone asks me about a negative of a product, I like to deal with it head on with the best possible answer I can give them. Or just say, Hey, maybe this just isn’t for you.

    Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed it.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Donna! The thing about most “negatives” is that they’re usually not based in fact. Those kinds of obstacles aren’t too difficult to overcome, so let your marketing do the work!


  • I am not doing business online as of now, but I do certainly understand your thought, Scott (I can relate back to it – in the sense when I promote my blog to get more traffic).

    Great analogies and real life examples provided here! Makes you realize how powerful being honest and addressing the negatives of a situation can be. It builds that relationship, in a better manner, with “better” trust.

    And of course, addressing the negatives not only showcases your business, but also helps you to solve that.

    Thanks for the great tips, Scott! I should take these things into consideration as I am working on my Kindle Book (I am still working on the marketing plan!).

  • Hi Scott,

    thanks for sharing your insights. I agree with you that this is a very intelligent question. If there are any reservations, it’s not necessarily about the business or the product, but about what the customer thinks about our business or product. Avoiding an honest answer is not good business sense, is it ?

    I address potential issues upfront and allow the customer to say “no”. Saves time and frustration.



    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Oliver, allowing a customer to say “no” is a delicate line to walk. But if you’ve done everything you can to overcome an obstacle and someone still has reservations, I 100% agree that you sometimes have to just walk away and dedicate that time and energy towards a better prospect.