Brace For Impact

Brace For Impact

If you hear those words on airplane, your day is probably about to get much worse.

It’s the opening line of one of my favorite television shows, “Air Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel.

I love the show because I’ve always been a nervous flyer. Let me explain.

The show is one hour and it’s usually a combination of two stories. The first story is a dramatic reenactment of the disaster. Sometimes it ends in real disaster. Sometimes it ends with a brilliant save by the crew. Getting that plane on the ground under impossible circumstances makes for great drama.

The second story focuses on the National Transportation Safety Board (or equivalent for a non U.S. disaster). The second half of the show holds the secret that makes me calmer when flying on an airplane.

The investigation aims to find the cause and determine a remedy so that the same cause will never result in an accident again. Sometimes these solutions address one in a million occurrences and once in awhile they come up with solutions to systemic issues and revolutionize air safety.

In the 1970’s there were a string of accidents due to “loss of situational awareness”. After a DC-8 ran out of fuel in 1978 over Portland, Oregon the NTSB recommended something called Crew Resource Management to address the issue of crashes due to “loss of situational awareness.” It has since become a global standard and one of the biggest contributors to the stellar safety record of airlines in the last 30 years.

How It Changed My Life

Something strange happened after I watched that episode wrap up. I felt like flying was safe. Of course I knew the statistics. I know that it’s the safest form of travel, but you don’t feel statistics.

The best part? I lose a tiny bit of my fear of flying after each episode. With each investigation, they remove one more cause of a possible crash.

There’s a neat lesson in there for marketers of big ticket products. Your prospect feels fear. The more fear you can eliminate, the better chance you have at closing the deal.

Consider all the fears they face. Financial fear (“I might lose my investment”). Social fear (“if this goes south, I’ll look like a fool” or “how do I explain this to my friends, family”) .

Social fear often drives behavior more than financial fear, especially if the prospect is already financially set.

In most cases you can address the fear by offering guarantees or including “reason why” copy in your sales pitches that allow them to justify their purchase (even if they lose money) to their coworkers, friends and family.

In big ticket investments you obviously can’t make financial guarantees but you can arm them with “reason why” copy to address the social fears.

Spend some time thinking about what social fears might crop up during your campaign:

  • My [boss, coworker, press] will think I’m an idiot or make fun of me
  • How do I justify this decision to [any name]

By the way, if you have any interest in Airline Disasters, it runs on the Smithsonian Channel. I suggest you start with Episode “Focused on  Failure” – Season 4 Episode 8


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