One of my favorite people and life mentor Richard Craig used to talk about “creating a crisis” for people that refused to look at their problems. He would then exacerbate the issue in a number of different ways to illustrate the problem, and initiate change in the individual.

I’ve taken that mantra and transferred it into an SEO sales tool that I’ve been successfully using for years.

For this post I wanted to tap into the mind of my friend and colleague Lincoln Murphy. Lincoln is a customer acquisition specialist and is the managing director for Sixteen

“As long as you aren’t ACTUALLY creating a crisis – like a network security vendor initiating a DDoS attack and then offering to help them fix it – but are instead tapping into the “crisis potential” that exists in your customer’s mind, it’s fine.

Not every situation has a pent-up Crisis Potential that’s easily tapped into, but many do.

If you sell a product that helps people solve – or avoid – a problem, and that problem is well understood by the customer already, it’s relatively easy to paint a picture of a crisis in a way that resonates and creates a sense of urgency in the mind of the prospect.”

Most business owners do not realize that they are in fact in the middle of a crisis. Think about these scenarios that could potentially cause harm and loss of revenue for a business:

  • 1000’s of spammy backlinks pointing at a domain
  • a website that is non-mobile friendly
  • potentially harmful widgets on a website
  • duplicate content

Dissecting a website / stack

Being able to rip through a website and its stack is imperative in creating a sales crisis. It is helpful if you have some SEO, programming, and network knowledge. From what I’ve seen over the years the best sales people are the ones that are equipped with the most knowledge, and this is not limited to internet marketing.

Start by looking at the bottom of the stack. What kind of server are they running on? Is it outdated? Full of holes?

One really easy way to quickly dissect a stack is the browser plugin Wappalyzer. Once you have a breakdown of what the site owner is working with, you can start to rip it apart.

Look for versions. Are they running a version that could be exploited? Sure, most SEO’s are not security experts but outdated server software can show signs of other problems that are going on.

Moving on towards the middle of the stack, look at their website framework. Is that up to date? Is it properly implemented? Is it the best choice for implementation?

Real world example: Last week we found a website running Magento that was only selling 1 product! This was a spectacular informational website that had 1000’s of posts, videos and resources and the site owner was selling 1 item (no options, sizes etc). In short they were not only using a ridiculous amount of resources to keep this site running, it was killing their load time, and none of it was even necessary.

Once you’ve sifted through most of their website, you can start probing their SEO. Checkout our other post where we teach our over the phone SEO analysis method which has some great tips.

Backlinks can be a real crisis in today’s climate. A quick glance will reveal a lot about a website, but a deep look will tell the true story of what the webmaster has done. Look for signs for bad links. Look for intentionally made blackhat style links. Anchor text is your best friend. If you see large %’s of exact match anchor text, chances are there is a problem. If you can spot a pattern, chances are Googlebot definitely will.

Is this even ethical?

I’m glad you asked this. Well, I asked this actually. Here are the facts on this matter:

A) you are not telling anyone anything that is false

B) [hopefully] your only goal is to help your client in the end

If you hold true to being honest and helping people (and yes, charging for it) then there should be no ethical qualms with creating a crisis.

Now, don’t go telling people their computer is going to explode and kill their family if they don’t upgrade their Drupal blog.

When I was in college I had a creditor who called me and was so aggressive he threatened to come down on a plane and have me arrested if I did not make a payment. We’re talking a $750 credit card here people. This would be an example of an unethical and possibly illegal sales method used to create a crisis and ultimately get the sale.

Lincoln adds: “While it’s not necessary to do in every situation, “Creating a crisis” is a great way to hook a prospect and get them to pay attention to you (vs. what else is happening in their world, the status quo, competitors, etc.). This tactic can also help increase the sense of urgency (which is a form of time scarcity) where one doesn’t organically exist, which can significantly accelerate the sales cycle.”

Creating a crisis in other industries

This can be used in a number of different industries. Debt consolidation sales people is a great example of an industry that is known for this. This is how they get their foot in the door. They get you all worried about your credit, your creditors, and most times worried enough that you will take action.

The creditor who threatened to send me to jail is probably one of the most aggressive (and unethical) tactics that are out there.

The best way to really make this happen is to get to know your potential client. There are some people that you just cannot shake, but everyone has their weak point.

I asked Lincoln for an example and he chimed in with:

“There’s a great story from Direct Marketing lore that shows how to do this and it starts with a company that sells safes. The owner of the safe company goes to a data broker and finds information on people that just bought gold coins and sends them a sales letter that says “I took 5 minutes and cost just $5 to find out that you just bought Gold Coins and to get your home address… criminals can do that, too. You need one of my safes.” Or something to that effect. Go sell safes to Gold Coin collectors.”

Thanks everyone for stopping by! If you have any questions feel free to shoot a comment here or reach out to Lincoln or myself on Twitter. Namaste!