Fear motivates us to act quickly, whether it's running away from a falling object or closing your eyes just before a roller coaster takes an epic plunge. Our brains are hardwired to handle fear with a "fight or flight" response.

In the same vein, fear-based marketing can motivate customers to take action quickly in response to an advertisement and it's used by marketers in a number of industries. For example, in the insurance industry the marketing often consists of what a person or business risks losing without the right policy. In the home security industry, the message is that a home without a security system puts the lives of the family at risk. In advertisements for anti-bacterial or hygiene products, we are reminded that common household germs put our health at risk every day.

While fear-based marketing may lead to short-term results, it may not be useful for creating long-lasting relationships with customers and building your brand. A different approach is to draw your audience in by being authentic and offering real value.

To build relationships that lead to sales, try these methods instead:

1. Be an authority, not an alarmist.

State the problem that your product or service solves, but don't sensationalize it. Present the facts, which will speak for themselves if they are compelling. Then provide a solution, consisting of your product and the value it provides.

2. Ditch the threats and offer encouragement instead.

Emphasize the benefit the customer will receive from your product, instead of the detriment to them if they don't buy it. In the insurance sector, the message is often about what you stand to lose if you don't have the right coverage. A better approach might be to focus on how taking the right risks can move the business forward, when you protect yourself against the risks you cannot control.

3. Stick to the facts and build a relationship based on trust.

Present your product or service in the best possible light, of course, but make sure your presentation is based on facts. Provide the potential customer with enough information to make their decision, and then deliver what is being promised.

When formulating your go-to-market strategy, remember that everything you say -- and imply -- sends a message to your customers about your brand and your product. Do you want your customers to associate your offering with fear? Or, do you want them to them to feel empowered to confront the challenge and solve the problem?

Marketing uses emotion to connect people to your product. The emotions you choose to access will determine whether that connection is based on fear, which drives short-term results, or on trust, which drives long-term engagement.

Inspiring customers to make sensible and informed decisions based on a straightforward and honest marketing campaign will not only help to drive sales, but will position those same people to become long-term customers who believe in your brand, your messaging and, most importantly, your products.

Published on: Oct 20, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.