There is a good book I read a little while back called Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. One section in the book dealt with fear and its effects on marketing. I thought it was applicable to law firm marketing, especially in some consumer segments such as personal injury, criminal, bankruptcy, etc., so I wanted to share.
The book describes the effects of fear-based communication as such:
For the most part, research has demonstrated that fear-arousing communications usually stimulate the audience to take action to reduce the threat. However, there is one important exception: When the fear-producing message describes danger but the audience is not told of clear, specific, effective means of reducing the danger, they may deal with the fear by “blocking out” the message or denying that it applies to them. As a consequence, they may indeed be paralyzed into taking no action at all.
Advertising campaigns that inform potential customers of the real-world threats that a company’s goods or services can alleviate should always be accompanied by clear, specific, effective steps they can take to reduce the danger.
Simply scaring customers into believing that a product or service can help with a potential problem might have the opposite effect, potentially cementing them into inaction.
I believe this has an impact on a lot of law firm marketing efforts out there. I have seen quite a few that utilize fear as a strong emotion to get a potential client to take action. However, this may be back-firing if not done properly.
A Law Firm Marketing Example
Perhaps you are marketing your criminal law practice. You have a page on your site discussing the ramifications of what can happen after an individual is arrested for a DWI offense. You lay out the consequences and punishments of a DWI for the reader, with the intent of informing them about consequences and the need to hire a DWI attorney to help them. After arousing a bit of fear in them, you tell them they should contact an attorney. However, you do not clearly articulate what the process is from that point forward or what hiring an attorney can do to help “reduce the danger or fear”. The end result can be one you didn’t intend, a potential client that is frozen into inaction.