By Andrew Neitlich

Using data to create pain

By Andrew Neitlich

Wherever possible, use data to create pain. It works.

For instance, I heard an account exec at a security company make a great pitch the other day. Sites with security breaches can be fined something like $50,000 per incidence by the state of California. They can lose their ability to do business with Visa and MasterCard instantly if they don’t meet their high standards, which can cost all of their revenues. And international issues can also cost money, as standards outside the US are even stricter.

She then offered a free remote security audit of a pre-production web site, an offer I couldn’t refuse. Who wants to risk a $50,000 fine or loss of Visa approval (even if we are pre-production on this particular site and way below the radar)?


Of course, when the results came back, how could I not hire her to fix the issues she uncovered, especially when she explained how she would fix the various issues?

I’m not sure what services you sell to whom. But I hope you collect data from third party sources that will help you create pain and make your case.

  • This technique seems like it would work well. Does anyone have any scare stats that relate to web design.

    Something like –

    “Businesses loose $xxx in potential revenue that can be created by owning a website.”


    “Busniesses loose $xxx because of usablitity issues on their websites.”

    Do stats like that exist? If so, where’s a good resource to find stats like this?

  • Bahamut

    So, in other words, this is the flip side of a positive sales pitch in which you describe how you can help your client; this is what could happen to them if they *don’t* hire you.

  • Should I worry about whether that figure is right or not? If not, does it not mean that my figure will just be taken out of thin air?

  • myrdhrin

    worchyld… I’d say yes you shoult worry otherwise it’s your credibility that will take the hit when your customer realizes that the number you gave to get their business was no good.

  • There are studies which show that stressing the negative consequences of inaction have a higher impact than stressing the benefits of acting on your offer. Ie. sell the negative.

    Another interesting fact: If you have two possible sales pitches, always lead with the larger/more expensive option first. If the client refuses, they will be more likely to accept your second, smaller option than if you lead with that one. It is human nature to feel bad about rejecting someone, and the second offer can be a way out of this uncomfortable situation. Also, if you present the smaller/less expensive option first and your client rejects that, there is no way they will listen to the more expensive proposition…

  • Maybe compare the cost of producing a website the the cost of a full-page colour ad in their industy’s trade magazine? Or compare such a print ad run every month/quarter for 2 years to the total cost of ownership of a website over a 2 year period? Then outline how much better a website it compared to a single page ad. Haven’t done the math, but I’d think a website would stack up pretty well. Good thinking Andrew!

  • Ravedesigns

    Good idea Andrew!

    And to comment on worchyld’s comment “Should I worry about whether that figure is right or not? If not, does it not mean that my figure will just be taken out of thin air?”

    Use documented proof to back up what you’re saying if possible. Quoting an article from a major publication or newspaper like USAToday will carry more weight than just mentioning numbers in a presentation.

    So…keep an eye out in magazines you read and websites you visit for studies that reveal information you can use to your benefit.

  • It’s an interesting (and controversial) trend. Seems that American TV ads are pushing this angle more than anyone else in the world; scare the consumer into action.

    Fear is a very powerful emotion, and evidently very effective at controlling behavior.

    Personally, though, I think it’s a very unfortunate that humanity is going down this path.

  • codeninja

    I once walked into a lawyers office with my laptop and netstumbler pingging away… they had their network wide open and were sharing c:/ on all systems…

    After I offered to “See if their network was open to attack” (some attack) they paid me a small fortune to lock it down, install a hardware firewall, organize their data, and investigate one of their rivals down the street… (they were open too, which I reported… when I approached the competitors office they turned me away… they soon after has all their business stolen from Lawyer 1… I wonder if theres a connection?:)

    Scare selling is one of the more powerful tactics out there… no one wants anything bad to happen to their business or data… just be careful, as the tactic could easily border on extortion if not approached carefully.

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