Rational Buyer Apathy

If your prospects seem apathetic, they may be rational.

“Rational apathy” is when people perceive a problem to be so small, or the solution to be so enormous that they become apathetic about it. After all, we cannot individually take on every woe in the world. In commerce, rational apathy exists when a problem does not, or the market doesn’t perceive a problem, or solving the problem seems insanely complicated.

apathyThe word “rational” is included in the concept because prospects are making gut-level decisions concerning their needs and alternative (in)actions. Lackluster concern comes from the perceived effort and benefit in solving the problem, and takes one of many possible forms including but not limited to:

No Pain: Prospects perceive that they do not face a threat, the pain within their situation, or that the pain is small enough to endure.

Too big to correct: Solving the problem appears to be slightly more complex than world peace. Prospects will suffer the status quo or take tiny incremental steps.

Maybe it will just go away: Delaying a decision is a slick form of apathy, related to complex solutions. After all, never do today what can safely be put off until tomorrow.

Rational apathy is a nuanced problem for marketers, which they typically address by using a sledge hammer. Prospects displaying rational apathy have made a decision to avoid being decisive. Marketers are battling a customer who, in effect, has made up their minds that nothing can or should be done. Often marketers don’t recognize the problem because it manifests itself in subtle ways:

Lack ‘o leads: If the pipeline isn’t being filled, one possible reason is that prospects don’t perceive the need to take action. If your lists are clean, your targeting precise and your prospects are not calling, they may be apathetic.

Early funnel drop-outs: A better indicator is when prospects are curious enough to take a peek at your product, then never engage with you again. If they are being rationally apathetic, they at least have acknowledged the possibility of a problem to solve, but don’t care enough to solve it.

Customers don’t articulate pain or value: If prospects or the market at large is not articulating the problem, then they might not believe it exists or don’t understand it well enough to be conversant. Either way they will be apathetic about solving the problem.

Misaligned products: If your product’s value is not tightly aligned with the customer’s perception of the problem, then you reinforce the benefit of being apathetic.

Buyer rational apathy can be cured, providing you are not too apathetic to solve that problem.


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