Customers act on drama, not subtlety. We rarely buy if a product promises to offer only marginal improvements in our lives. That applies to virtually everything we consume, from brochures and emails to gum and movies. Without some compelling motivation, we pass on reading the brochure, watching the demo or making the purchase.
Contrast is one of the most highly effective ways to communicate the benefits of change or action to people. It provides the emotional impetus for buying and, in the least, moves prospects closer to a decision.
Cold Water Testing
Try the following experiment to get a feel for the impact of contrast on your sense of touch. Pour three buckets of water, one hot, one room temp and the other cold. Simultaneously put your separate hands into each of the hot and cold buckets, and then simultaneously dunk them into the room temp bucket. Trippy, isn’t it? The room temp water feels cold to the hot water hand, and it feels hot to the cold water one. Contrast shows you the profound impact of change relative to other situations.
By showing customers a contrasting experience with respect to your products or services, you gain the same kind of emotional impact.
Case Study Contrast
One way you can achieve this with writing is via the case study or success story. The contrast of highly undesirable circumstances against a pie-in-the-sky solution provides readers with a grand vision of how the world could be better. First you elicit pain, and then you provide the refreshing, enlightening, ingenious solution. There’s some additional psychology at work with case studies, but the principle of contrast provides that fundamental kick. If you don’t sustain a clear line of contrast in the story, the punch and pay-off flattens out. You can even lose key ideas by allowing solution and pain points to co-mingle too much.
The measure of success you attain when writing a success story is directly related to how sincerely the writing identifies with the reader. If you’re not talking about the right pain points, for example, your credibility goes out the window. A good interview can help illuminate and bring forth these coveted pains from the interviewee. You can get a sense for the right kinds of issues to address by talking to customers and digging for the visceral reactions that accompany problems.
On the flip side, you need to dig a little deeper than “we installed your product and solved the problem” to gather the contrasting emotional pay-off to the purchase. Ideally, responses like, “it made my life so easy,” “I looked like a hero,” or “we’re so relieved,” help color in the descriptive spaces between standard pay-offs like ROI and time saved.
Do Your Homework
If you want to research pain points and the uplifting emotions that accompany their solutions, it’s worth checking a few sources before concocting your interview questions. Read up on:
1. Your competitors’ case studies
2. Industry Forums
3. Analyst reports (Gartner, Meta, Yankee, IDC, etc.)
Witness Real World Examples
If you have a keen eye, you can notice contrast in marketing everywhere. For an “old school” example, check out your local haberdasher. The next time you go shopping for nice clothing, see if you can pick up on this concept in action. The sales people will usually steer you toward high dollar purchases first. For example if you’re there for a suit and a shirt (and you offer up that information), they’ll focus on the suit first so that the following shirt price seems relatively less expensive. The potential for further add-on sales is also excellent after the biggie purchase. It’s the hot and cold water test. Every perception is colored by the one that precedes it. Master these types of presentations in your collateral, and you’ll be way ahead of the game.