I just got off the phone with someone who was crying the blues because their machine would not boot up. They told me that their entire life (hopefully they meant just their business life) was on that machine. They were sure that they had some kind of virus on their system, although it’s equally possible that they “fat fingered” a critical file into the recycle bin.

Here’s a little something that I have observed as an IT consultant and a direct marketer. It seems to be an artifact of human nature rather than something that IT consultants face. And it appears to resonate across industry lines and disciplines.


It’s also something that I’ve noticed a lot of good direct marketers have written about. The last one I read was from Joe Polish, creator of Piranha Marketing Systems.

This one tenant, this principle that appears to run deep in the human psyche is this:

People will put off prevention, but will immediately act on problem resolution, and they may even pay extra for it.

For the last week, I’ve made several posts regarding an increase in the malware activity levels and even noted some of the free utilities that Panda Security and ESET have made available so people could scan their systems. Very few people, however, had taken any action on them.

Now this guy’s system is dead and he is looking for a way to get the malware off, repair his system and bring it back to life. And he is frantically looking for an immediate solution.

Before, when his system was limping along, he could have run any one of these online virus scanners on his system and caught whatever had precipitated this catastrophe. However, that’s considered prevention. It costs time and effort and there was no immediate pain.

Now that his system is dead in the water with a possibly corrupted operating system, he is desperately engaged in finding a solution.

So, what other types of activities are considered prevention? Stuff like backing your data up, system maintenance, reading, education, training, planning… stuff that fits squarely in the “B” side of the time management quadrant. They’re important, but they are not urgent. And because they don’t cause any pain, they get relegated to the back burner.

What kinds of activities are considered problem resolution? Stuff like data recovery after your drive is dead. Or major system repair when the processor in your laptop overheats and dies. Or getting laid off because you haven’t sharpened your skill set. Or losing market share as you try to staff up quickly with anyone you can get your hands on because your company laid-off all of the knowledgeable people. Or dealing with an emergency you knew was coming because you failed to plan for the obvious.

These are things that fit in the “A” side of the time management quadrant, the “corporate fires”. These are things that are urgent and important. And some people like that kind of activity. It makes them feel alive, even if they outwardly exhibit symptoms of anxiety and anguish.

So what does this have to do with your sales and direct marketing effort? When you are writing your sales letters promoting your business or consultancy, or when you are in front of a client selling your services, remember this one principle: people will put off prevention, but they will act on and even pay extra for problem resolution.

Your challenge from here on out, is to take your product or service and portray it as solving a problem that your prospect has right now, not as a preventative solution to a problem that they might have in the future.