Have you ever been in a meeting where you’ve pitched a new idea or a product or service and the other party acknowledges it’s an important and promising thought but they aren’t going to do it? What’s missing from your pitch is urgency. You have now entered the “nice to have” zone where your idea, product or service languishes in limbo.
We all know we should do things. Lose five pounds, get on an exercise program, or spend more time developing new business or other opportunities. But because these needs aren’t pressing, we tend to put them aside. Also, the results are in the future so we can’t really feel and touch the result. In my communications business, we see this same approach to crisis planning, media training, or presentation training. It’s nice to have. But it’s not really seen as necessary. Until there is a problem or a new opportunity that we aren’t ready for.
Our clients tend to do the same when presented with our products, services, and programs. Even though we’ve made our best pitch, marketed our hearts out, or solicited support up to and including the point of tears, we may not be seen as essential to their lives and livelihoods.
Years ago, when I worked inside an organization, I encouraged our senior leadership team to undertake media training. They loved the idea, but wouldn’t approve the funds. Then the organization was hit by a lawsuit, national media came calling and our chief spokesperson went on camera and made the problem worse. At that point, he came to me and asked for media training. There was urgency and pain.
We don’t want to fearmonger and we don’t want to create pain. We do, however, want to create a sense of urgency. And to do that, you have to make the benefits concrete for the here and now. How?
Ask really good questions. Start from the inside out, and revisit what makes your product, service, or program different from all the others. Then ask what potential clients, customers or supporters really want that might intersect with what you have. Ultimately, you want people to see your company or organization in a different way.
Think value. What do your critical audiences value most? If you’re approaching your messages and marketing through a “Prism of Value,” you’ll ask how you can deliver what they value, you’ll consider what positive you add and negatives you subtract to improve their situation or condition.
Develop messages that speak to value. Your prospective client, customer or supporter must come to understand that what you deliver will improve their bottom line, make life or work more efficient, or answer an unanswered need. Every communications opportunity should somehow address that message.
Speak in “now” terms. I have an acquaintance who spent several weeks trying not to buy anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Remarkably, she grew weary of the exercise after just a few days, but carried on, even though her life was utterly disrupted. Turns out, unless it was a tank of gas or an utterly empty food pantry, she didn’t need much. We have to reach beyond the perception of need to create urgency. And one way to do that is through language.
Build a contrast to “now.” Once you’ve assessed what your prospects may think they need, it’s time to persuade that it’s crucial to take action—and do so without delay. Language is critical here. I recommend using the word “now” in our conversations. How do you feel your work is going now? What if you could do something now that would make your life better today? What if you could make your employees more productive now? By portraying the contrast between what’s possible in the future and what’s essential to do now, you’ll create an underlying sense of urgency that makes the path toward that future even more desirable.
Your prospect’s needs and wants, together with the right questions and compelling—and urgent—calls for attention, will help you bump your status out of “nice to have” and straight into the rewarding “must have” zone.