How to Market to an Anxious Audience

Anxiety is becoming tremendously common in our society and it’s making marketing more difficult.

This is evidenced in a New York Times article called, “Prozac Nation is Now the United States of Xanax.”

In this piece, the author writes, “anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition, too: a shared cultural experience that feeds on alarmist CNN graphics and metastasizes through social media.”

This is evidenced by an increasing amount of statistics, that show anxiety is incredibly common. The most powerful of which is that web searches containing the word anxiety have almost doubled over the last five years, according to Google Trends.

This is often attributed to smartphones and the amount of attention they demand with endless notifications. When you step away from your phone for an hour and come back to 30 or more emails, it’s enough to make anyone uneasy.

For marketers, this anxiety shows in lower email and engagement rates. What many are calling “picky” or “cynical” consumers might just be consumers that are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of emails flooding their inbox. Especially now that email is a primary channel for marketing.

In 2013, around 61% of emails received by consumers were marketing messages. Fast forward to the end of 2016, and almost 88% of the emails were marketing messages.

It makes sense, most online retailers compel you to create an account, therefore signing up for their mailing list. And even brick and mortar retailers will ask for your email address at the register.

In the business world, to get some of the best and most useful content, you must fill out a form or register an account. And once you end up on a few lists, the amount of emails that flood into your inbox becomes staggering.

All of this leaves marketers in a difficult place. It’s harder to convince the public to look at their marketing messages, never mind have them click through or download.

We have a handful of tactics marketers can use to ease the anxiety of their prospects and create marketing messages that are beneficial to both parties.

Promise No Spam

And, of course, follow through. When someone fills out a landing page or box for their email, be sure to promise them that you will not spam them.

This can be as simple as, “We promise to not spam you,” or “We hate spam too, that’s why we won’t send it to you.”

Then please, for the love of all things marketing, don’t spam them. It’s like the boy that cried wolf, buyers are going to stop believing those messages if they find they’re untrue too many times.

Marketing emails are responsible for 70% of “this is spam” complaints. Use A/B testing to find out the best sending frequency. Be sure to not send too much, it will make your already anxious readers even more so, which will make them either delete your messages or unsubscribe from your list.

Don’t Rush Them

This is very important.

So many marketers will rush their leads down the pipeline, depositing them on Sale’s doorstep without a backward glance.

If the lead isn’t ready, then moving them over to sales will make them uncomfortable and dodgy.

Ensure that you have an accurate lead scoring process and that every lead you put into your database has a score.

This includes leads you buy from others. Don’t just assume that because the leads you got were “sales-ready” means that you should just sic a salesperson on them. In reality, only 5-15% of leads are sales-qualified. The only way you can figure out who those are is by finding out for yourself.

Send even those leads some nurture content designed to gauge their responses. This will tell you far more about them and how you should treat them in your pipeline.

Use Genuine Subject Lines

This one is simple. Make sure that your subject lines are both truthful and accurate. According to Litmus, 54% of consumers say they have felt “cheated, tricked, or deceived into opening a promotional email by that email’s subject line.”

If you write a subject line that says, “There’s something wrong with your account, Susan,” there better be something wrong with her actual account. If Susan opens that email and you are trying to sell her a membership to something, she’s going to be unhappy.

Keep your subject lines specific and relevant and your audience will be less uneasy about opening them.

Make it Worth Their While

Time is money and wasting time today can make the average, overly busy businessperson anxious.

If you are making someone open an email or social media post, make sure that it’s worth their time.

Spend time researching, thinking about, creating, and testing all sorts of different content. You want to make sure that the value of what you create is worth the time/any data they gave up accessing it.

Have Trustworthy Spokespeople

Because of the sheer volume of messages that come from marketing companies, it can often be more effective to have a group of individuals that talk about your brand.

These can be anyone, from a handful of specific employees to a fellow writer in the same space as your brand (aka an influencer).

Have specific people speak on behalf of your brand and you’ll notice more and more referrals come in.

Today’s leads are more difficult to read than ever. They will simply dodge and evade much of your marketing tactics if they feel anxious about them.

Be careful to not break the trust of this already uneasy group. Any friction will cause them to disappear without so much as a “goodbye.”

Make your content meaningful, valuable and it will build their trust and loyalty in your brand long before they consider purchasing.


Do you think that the increase in anxiety is making marketing harder?

Do you have any tactics to deal with it?


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