Find Your Customer’s Hot Button

What are your future customers worried about? What are their hot buttons?

Think about something that is bothering you right now. Does it make you angry? Give you anxiety? Is it a nagging thing to get off your to-do list? Is it something you would love some help with?

What do you think could solve it? How would you want it solved? How fast, and for how much?

These are all legitimate questions that race through one’s head daily. That thing that’s occupying your mind—it’s called a hot button. What’s a hot button? Here’s a dictionary definition:

hot button [NOUN]: a topic or issue that is highly charged emotionally or politically.

A hot button is anything that gets you out of your chair when you are otherwise comfortably relaxing. Politics, religion, and professional sports are the most popular hot buttons, but those are big topics. What about something small and urgent?

Got milk?

Remember those great milk commercials from the early 1990s? My favorite was the Aaron Burr commercial—an Alexander Hamilton historian gets a trivia call from his favorite radio station while he has a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich. No one on the planet is more qualified to answer the question than this guy. He knows the answer, but his mouth is full, and the caller can’t understand him. He needs to wash down his sandwich, and he tragically learns he is out of milk. At that moment, milk was his hot button.

What is a hot button issue for you?

It could be:

  • Where can I find a good daycare for my kids?
  • Which mechanic can I trust to fix my car so I can get to work every day?
  • Should I refinance the house now or wait to see if interest rates move?

These are real problems affecting you right now. Problems you would like to be free of. Here’s the thing: if it’s happening to you, it’s happening to your customers and future customers.

If you had the instant cure for the problem, would you want others to have it? Of course, you would.

This need to be in your advertising

You run a shop that provides products and services that help people. You are the person to solve their problem. Think about your average customer.

  • What is their demographic?
  • What problems do they face?
  • Why would they do business with someone like you?

Now take all that info and try to identify their hot buttons. What are they dealing with? What problems do they want to go away? If you identified more than one problem, that is excellent. The trick now is to figure out how to solve that problem in one sentence. Think of it as a headline in the newspaper (people still read those, right?).

Personal: “Worried that your kid won’t be able to enjoy their birthday because of the pandemic?”

Professional: “Are you absolutely positive you could do more business if more people knew about you?”

These are common hot buttons for anyone who has kids or owns a small business:

  • Social distancing rules mean that childhood birthday parties are on hold, at least for a little while longer. As a parent, you want your kids to have the best childhood they can.
  • If no one walks in the door, clicks the website, or picks up the phone, how are you supposed to sell them anything? As a business owner, your company needs exposure.

Can you solve these and other problems with your products?

Can you put your solution in a single sentence? This sentence is called “The Interrupt.” You are interrupting the conversation going on in someone’s head. You are pressing one of their hot buttons. This is what will get their attention. This is how you will generate more leads and get new customers.

We are exposed to ten times more advertising than we were back when Got Milk? first aired. Every day we are bombarded with “great value,” “been in business since 1993,” “highest quality,” and “great customer service.”

Have you ever had a boiling need to have “great customer service?” It is not typically a hot button issue. Yet, we see it all the time in small business ads and promotions.

When you truly understand your customers, you know exactly what their hot button issues are. It’s usually the first thing out of their mouth when they enter your shop or call you on the phone. You simply cannot cut through the noise with regular platitudes like “4 stars on Yelp” and “money-back guarantee.” You need to solve their problem. The more unique the problem, the harder it is to solve it, and the more you can charge for it.

What are your future customers worried about? What are their hot buttons?

The Interrupt is the first part of a four-part conversion equation. Next time we’ll talk about the second part: The Engage.

Dana Curtis

Dana Curtis


Dana Curtis is the founder and CEO of Biztools, a strategic consulting firm that helps small businesses multiply revenue through improved customer experience and pivot to new markets.

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