David and Lucinda Basset, long-ago clients, have made millions by asking that question. It has broader appeal than you might think, because, it turns out, just about everybody is anxious and nervous and on edge about all sorts of things.
The media makes part of its living by hyping various “terrors” in order to keep us tuning in to the news programs – consider: Y2K; anthrax; bird flu; how terrorists could poison our water supply; etc. John Stoessel just did a 20/20 program on ABC about everything people are worrying about in sizeable numbers – in almost every case, hazards grossly magnified by their own negative imaginations.
It was particularly interesting to see the unintended consequences – for example, that forcing by law the wearing of bicycle safety helmets by cyclists had increased the number of injuries and deaths rather than decreased them. (Emboldened cyclists rode more recklessly; motorists can be observed driving less cautiously around helmeted cyclists than unhelmeted cyclists. One of my hobbies is cataloging unintended consequences.)
As small business marketers, it’s important for us to remember that, while we may be confident, self-reliant, most others are not. Inside everybody, Woody Allen. They are walking around in a constant state of high anxiety.
Or at least low dose anxiety. And their ability to respond to us, send us money, make and keep appointments to come in and see us, buy from us, etc. rests on a continuum of “anxiety” vs. “confidence”; are they comfortable or not?
In other words, the more anxiety you can remove from your customers’ experiences with you, the more attracted to you they will be.
Many Vegas hotels have no Floor #13, because staying on that floor, staying in a #13 room, carrying a key with a #13 on it causes anxiety in gamblers. They may not want to admit it. They may not ask to be moved to a different room for fear of sounding foolish. But they may gamble less or make a point of staying somewhere else next time in town.
Years ago, I determined the number one reason that prospective patients made but failed to show up for appointments at chiropractors’ offices was anxiety over the uncertainty of what to expect, so I invented a block of copy titled “Your X# Of Questions Will Be Answered During Your First Visit”, and in some doctors literature added an illustrated presentation of what would happen step-by-step, with photos and captions.
One good thing to remember is that people HATE not knowing where they are going (maps!) or what to expect or how they are supposed to behave or dress. They HATE looking foolish. They HATE feeling confused.