Pain tolerance and marketing methods

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One of the often-quoted sales adages is that people make a change when the pain of the same situation exceeds the pain of change, of doing something different. The thing is, as with individuals, organizations have different levels of pain tolerance when it comes to making change.

Some organizations tolerate only a little pain before they’re willing to make a change, while other organizations can tolerate absurd amount of pain before finally deciding that enough is enough and switch things up.

Marketing to organizations with a low tolerance for pain is easy, but the flipside is that they are just as likely to abandon you if you cause any pain whatsoever. At the first trouble ticket that goes unanswered or the first crisis in the relationship, they are likely to flee.

Marketing to organizations with a high tolerance for pain means that getting them to switch and change is very difficult, but they are also likely to stick with you in times of trouble or difficulty. They’ll tolerate many more errors.

So how do you identify an organization’s pain tolerance levels? From the outside, you can’t beyond very perfunctory surface measures. Do a reputation search of the organization on sites like GlassDoor to see what kinds of complaints (because almost all of the reviews of any company are complaints) people have. If complaints are about constant change, then you know you have an organization with low tolerance for pain. If complaints are about stubbornness and refusal to change or adapt, then you likely have an organization with a high tolerance for pain. That should give you insight into what kind of business relationship you’ll have with that company.

The next logical part of this from a marketing perspective is to reduce the pain of change. You can’t adjust an organization’s pain tolerance levels, but the less friction and pain there is to change, the easier it will be to get a prospective customer to make a change. Use every technology at your disposal to ease the pains of change. Give free trials or a certain dollar amount off at the beginning of a relationship.

For complex sales, use transition processes to assist in change. For example, if you’re a real estate agent selling houses, throw in the cost of movers into the sale to ease that change. If you’re a SaaS business, make the best data importer ever to make transition to your service seamless. If you’re a burger and fries joint, have a kids eat free night or other transitional deal.

Whatever you do, make change as painless as possible. The lower the pain you cause, the lower you can do the limbo under a prospective customer’s pain tolerance levels.

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