This is a guest post from Drew McLellan, CEO and Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Repulsed customer

How do you market stuff no one wants?

Most of us don’t have the luxury of selling ocean front property, the coolest laptop, the latest in tractor technology, or porsches. But in most cases, while it may not be sexy to many — someone really wants it.

But how do you sell something that no one has any enthusiasm or interest in buying?

You know, things like funeral services, trauma clean up, or bankruptcy law services. Granted, when someone has lost a loved one, had a horrific accident in their home, or can’t survive their financial crisis — they need to talk to you. But it’s not something they’re looking forward to doing.

How do you market to them prior to that triggering event so that when an event occurs — they know about your company, your offerings, and you, at the very least, are on their short list of potential vendors?

When you sell something that people dread having to buy, the psychology of that dread is pretty straight forward.

Something very bad has to happen before they’d need to buy something from you. And odds are that bad thing would have to happen to someone they love.

Focus on the emotion

99% of the time people don’t want to buy what you sell is because of the emotions attached to the purchase. You are not a want. Sooner or later — you’re a necessity.

So in your marketing, paint me a picture of how you help your customers get over the very thing they’re afraid of. This means you have to truly understand the psychology of your customers at their point of purchase. Once you do, think through every touch point of the purchase cycle and make sure you’re focusing on getting them through the event.

This isn’t the time for being fuzzy with your message. Directly acknowledge that you understand their pain/fear etc. and show them how you’ve built your business to ease those emotions.

Go with a prevention message

One of the best ads for a funeral home I ever saw was an ad with an anti-drunk driving theme. The basic message was — don’t drink and drive, we’re not that anxious to see you. It made them seem very human and caring.

If your product or service only comes into play when something bad has happened, one strong marketing tactic is to help people avoid that bad event.

Offer/sponsor a financial literacy class or promote a suicide hotline. But do something that actually helps people avoid you. Those who aren’t so lucky will remember that you were compassionate enough to try and help.

Demonstrate on a small scale

Usually, part of what makes people dread buying from you is the enormity and finality of their situation by the time they get to your front door.

But you can show off your skills on a much less scary scale. For example, if you clean up trauma scenes, think of the stains you have to remove. Blood, body emissions, etc.

Is there a way you can demonstrate those abilities — but on a less scary scale? Kick off a series of blog posts or post card tips that talk about how to remove tough stains like blood. Show us you know your stuff — but slowly and in less dramatic applications.

Find your influencers

Often times, people are a bit numb at the moment they need to buy these sorts of services. They are on auto pilot due to the emotions they’re facing. So people like attorneys, police officers, hospice centers, etc. are often guiding them through the process.

Find out how to genuinely connect with these influencers. Give them information, materials, etc. to help them get a person/family through that moment in time. Be truly helpful and they’ll remember you at the point of referral.

The over-arching message here is — you have to be part psychologist to sell what people have no interest in buying.

You are often meeting them at their most vulnerable moments and they need you to help them feel safe and cared for.

The upside of all of this is just that. You are meeting people in their worst nightmare. If you can truly serve them well and help them with not only the mechanics of what you sell — but more importantly, walk through the nightmare with them — that’s very noble work. You should take great pride in it.

About Drew McLellan

Wall Street Journal calls Drew McLellan’s blog,, "one of the ten blogs every entrepreneur should read." His passion is helping clients discover their story so they can create authentic love affairs with their customers. He's also an author, national speaker, and has owned his own marketing agency in the Midwest since 1995.

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