Moving Decisions Forward with Contrast
   By Phil Dunn

Customers act on drama, not subtlety. We rarely buy if a product promises to offer only marginal improvements in our lives. That applies to virtually everything we consume, from brochures and emails to gum and movies. Without some compelling motivation, we pass on reading the brochure, watching the demo or making the purchase.

Contrast is one of the most highly effective ways to communicate the benefits of change or action to people. It provides the emotional impetus for buying and, in the least, moves prospects closer to a decision.

Try the following experiment to get a feel for the impact of contrast on your sense of touch. Pour three buckets of water, one hot, one room temp and the other cold. Simultaneously put your separate hands into each of the hot and cold buckets, and then simultaneously dunk them into the room temp bucket. The room temp water feels cold to the hot water hand, and it feels hot to the cold water one. Contrast shows you the profound impact of change relative to other situations.

By showing customers a contrasting experience with respect to your products or services, you gain the same kind of emotional impact. In terms of writing, this is often achieved with the case study or success story. The contrast of highly undesirable circumstances against a pie-in-the-sky solution provides readers with a grand vision of how the world could be better. First you elicit pain, and then you provide the refreshing, enlightening, ingenious solution.

The measure of success you attain when writing a success story is directly related to how sincerely the writing identifies with the reader. If you're not talking about the right pain points, for example, your credibility goes out the window. You need to gather the contrasting emotional pay-off to the purchase. Ideally, responses like, "it made my life so easy," "I looked like a hero," or "we're so relieved," help color in the descriptive spaces between standard pay-offs like ROI and time saved.

Learn more from Phil Dunn at


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