To see how this plays out, I’ll invoke the magic pill analogy. Let’s say I had two magic pills to sell.
One pill would prevent cancer from occurring later in life.
The other pill would cure cancer.
Which will sell better? Which will command a higher price?
People think they’re never going to get cancer or a disease that a preventative could prevent. But if they DO get sick, they’re willing to pay much more for the cure.
This aspect of human nature is why it is much easier to sell a cure than a preventative. So when you have a product or service to sell, remember this maxim:
Always sell the cure. Avoid selling prevention.
Now, what if your product is a preventative? What can you do?
Position a Preventative as a “Cure”
If your product is inherently a preventative, find a way to sell it as a cure.
The question to ask is:
What features or benefits can be positioned to cure an existing problem?
Concentrate on those instead of features or benefits that try to prevent a future problem. Here are a few examples:
Vitamins are a perfect example of selling a preventative as a cure. As vitamins are mostly unregulated by the Federal Drug Administration, anyone can make a claim that vitamin A through Z can prevent any kind of disease in the future, including cancer.
But do vitamins sell because they prevent some obscure-sounding disease 30 years in the future? Not likely. Other than parents buying vitamins for their kids because they’d feel like responsible parents, vitamins sell because they are positioned as a cure or remedy for an affliction today.
People hate taking pills whether they are sick or healthy. If they are healthy, they feel they have no reason to take a pill. If they are sick, they’d take a pill to cure their sickness, only because they hate the affliction more than taking the pill.
Vitamin C, for example, sells well because it’s positioned as a cure for the common cold:
Take megadoses of Vitamin C and watch your sore throat vanish in minutes!
Even if it’s true that daily doses of vitamins prevents many, many future diseases in the future, it is not why people buy vitamins. They buy it to cure an ailment today.
Skin Care Products
Another good example is skin care products like anti-acne creams or anti-wrinkle creams.
Young people without wrinkles don’t buy anti-wrinkle creams. Why would they? They don’t think about preventing aging or getting wrinkles. But when they do start getting wrinkles, they go to the mirror, examine their face, and start thinking about shopping for a — you guessed it — cure.
Same goes for anti-acne creams. They sell better when they are advertised to cure an existing acne problem, than when they are said to prevent future acne problems.
How External Factors May Change a Preventative Into a Cure
Fear and urgency both play a role in product sales, especially preventatives. Sometimes the driver behind a temporary spike in product sales is beyond our control. In such cases, certain events may occur that, to some people, a preventative product suddenly looks like a cure.
Here are a couple of examples:
Home Security System
A classic case of selling a preventative involves products like anti-theft technology, such as burglar alarms, steering wheel locks for automobiles, and bicycle locks.
People may not buy a burglar alarm for their house because they think they live in a safe neighborhood. In this case, a burglar alarm is just a preventative for something that is unlikely to happen. It would be a hard sell.
Until one day, when someone’s house down the street gets robbed, the same burglar alarm suddenly becomes a cure for a problem that “hit too close to home”. People are much more likely to purchase and install a home security system if there’s been a recent local home burglary.
Just like home security systems, smoke detectors are preventative products that would be difficult to sell if people don’t perceive house fires as a serious threat.
They simply don’t think it could happen to them — until a neighbor’s house burns down in a fire. Everyone who lives on that street will now be shopping for smoke detectors if they didn’t have one already.
How Market Size Affects Product Strength and Sales
We’ve now established that a curative product is much stronger than a product marketed as a preventative.
Another factor that contributes to product strength is the size of the market it caters to. The market size can be broad or narrow.
If an e-commerce product can only be sold as a preventative and it can only cater to a narrow niche market, the product is weak and unlikely to make much money. But if a product can be sold as a cure and appeals to a large market, this product is very strong. It will make lots of money by commanding higher prices and selling at high volume.
In summary, products sell better when you play up its curative aspects and underplay its preventative benefits.
See Related article: Are You Killing Your Sales By Making These Copywriting Mistakes?