The Art of Persuasion in B2B Marketing
Persuasion marketing applies what we know about human psychology to develop techniques to market products or services. Usually it specifically applies to the promotions aspect of the marketing mix, and builds on a customer’s impulsive behaviour to lead them to purchase. It’s a very popular marketing technique in B2C, but also in B2B some of techniques could be very useful. Below the 10 most efficient persuasion techniques according in my experience of B2B marketer.
People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. Consistency is activated by looking for, and asking for, small initial commitments that can be made. In one famous set of studies, researchers found rather unsurprisingly that very few people would be willing to erect an unsightly wooden board on their front lawn to support a Drive Safely campaign in their neighborhood.
However in a similar neighborhood close by, four times as many homeowners indicated that they would be willing to erect this unsightly billboard. Why? Because ten days previously, they had agreed to place a small postcard in the front window of their homes that signaled their support for a Drive Safely campaign. That small card was the initial commitment that led to a 400% increase in a much bigger but still consistent change.
So when seeking to influence using the consistency principle, the detective of influence looks for voluntary, active, and public commitments and ideally gets those commitments in writing. This technique is especially useful if you are trying to convince someone to make a much bigger decision in the end, as they are more likely to agree to doing something if they have already agreed to similar propositions before.
Believe it or not, presenting yourself or someone else as an authority on certain matters can improve the likelihood that people will do business with you. This is the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. Physiotherapists, for example, are able to persuade more of their patients to comply with recommended exercise programs if they display their medical diplomas on the walls of their consulting rooms. People are more likely to give change for a parking meter to a complete stranger if that requester wears a uniform rather than casual clothes.
What the science is telling us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt. Of course this can present problems; you can hardly go around telling potential customers how brilliant you are, but you can certainly arrange for someone to do it for you. And surprisingly, the science tells us that it doesn’t seem to matter if the person who introduces you is not only connected to you but also likely to prosper from the introduction themselves.
One group of real estate agents was able to increase both the number of property appraisals and the number of subsequent contracts that they wrote by arranging for reception staff who answered customer enquiries to first mention their colleagues’ credentials and expertise. So, customers interested in letting a property were told “Lettings? Let me connect you with Sandra, who has over 15 years’ experience letting properties in this area.” Customers who wanted more information about selling properties were told “Speak to Peter, our head of sales. He has over 20 years’ experience selling properties. I’ll put you through now.”
The impact of this expert introduction led to a 20% rise in the number of appointments and a 15% increase in the number of signed contracts. Not bad for a small change in form from persuasion science that was both ethical and costless to implement.
People prefer to say yes to those that they like. But what causes one person to like another? Persuasion science tells us that there are three important factors. We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.
As more and more of the interactions that we are having take place online, it might be worth asking whether these factors can be employed effectively in, let’s say, online negotiations.
In a series of negotiation studies carried out between MBA students at two well-known business schools, some groups were told, “Time is money. Get straight down to business.” In this group, around 55% were able to come to an agreement.
A second group however, was told, “Before you begin negotiating, exchange some personal information with each other. Identify a similarity you share in common then begin negotiating.” In this group, 90% of them were able to come to successful and agreeable outcomes that were typically worth 18% more to both parties.
So how do you get someone to like you? Simple: find similarities between the two of you and compliment them. To harness this powerful principle of liking, be sure to look for areas of similarity that you share with others and genuine compliments you can give before you get down to business.
Gift giving is perhaps one of most celebrated activities in the world. Perhaps this is why it tends to have such a powerful effect on how people respond to you. When you give a gift to someone or perform a favor for them, they tend to feel indebted to you in some way. You can use this to your advantage by giving small favors or gifts to those you are doing business with, which will prompt them to do even more business with you in the future. If they feel like they are working with a generous individual, people are more likely to give back in kind. Many companies have used this strategy by implementing contests, giveaways and other such concepts.
One of the best demonstrations of the Principle of Reciprocity comes from a series of studies conducted in restaurants. So the last time you visited a restaurant, there’s a good chance that the waiter or waitress will have given you a gift. Probably about the same time that they bring your bill. A liqueur, perhaps, or a fortune cookie, or perhaps a simple mint.
So here’s the question. Does the giving of a mint have any influence over how much tip you’re going to leave them? Most people will say no. But that mint can make a surprising difference. In the study, giving diners a single mint at the end of their meal typically increased tips by around 3%.
Interestingly, if the gift is doubled and two mints are provided, tips don’t double. They quadruple—a 14% increase in tips. But perhaps most interesting of all is the fact that if the waiter provides one mint, starts to walk away from the table, but pauses, turns back and says, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint,” tips go through the roof. A 23% increase, influenced not by what was given, but how it was given.
So the key to using the Principle of Reciprocity is to be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.
The word *because* makes your marketing copy more convincing. Imagine you’re waiting in line at the Xerox machine, getting ready to make some copies. I walk up to you and ask: “Can I cut in front of you?” What would you do? Depending on your mood, you might have some choice words to send my way. You might politely decline. You might let me go ahead just because of how taken aback you are by the weird request. Now imagine that I instead said this: “Can I cut in front of you because I’m in a rush?”
I’m moving too fast to make copies. Maybe your copies aren’t as urgent, or you just feel like being nice. You might not always let me cut in front, but this is better than my first (quite rude) question. But hold on! We’re not done yet. What if I said “can I cut in front of you because I need to make some copies?” What would you do then? I’ll let you think about it – but researchers have studied this question as well. 94% of those waiting in line let the person in a rush cut in front of them. Shockingly, 93% let people cut them “because they needed to make some copies.”
“Because I need to make some copies” is a meaningless statement – that’s the only reason anyone ever needs to use a copy machine! The reason for the huge jump in cutting (only 60% let themselves be cut in the first condition) is the word “because.”
The word “because” is powerful. It gives people a reason to believe what you say. Use it in your messaging to make your communication more persuasive.
Analogies can help explain complicated ideas by connecting them to things people already understand.. “This nutrition plan changes the reuptake of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, ultimately impacting the regulation of appetite.” “This diet flips a switch in your brain and makes it easier to eat healthy.” Which is a better description? Scientifically (if such a diet exists) it’s probably the first. But persuasively it’s the second. “Flipping a switch” sounds easy, so it’s persuasive
When you describe your offer to your audience, it’s important to do it in terms they understand. But more than that – if you can connect your idea to a concrete metaphor or image, your idea becomes more persuasive. In the diet example, the first phrase seems like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. It doesn’t paint any kind of picture, and it’s likely to leave the reader thinking “huh?”
The second uses an analogy. “Flipping a switch” is easy to understand.
Whenever you can connect your messaging to the ideas your audience already understands, you have an opportunity to get more persuasive.
When people are unsure, they look to others to see if they’re on the right track. You’re more likely to visit a popular restaurant that has rave reviews than one that doesn’t. This is why we often see blog subscribe call-to-actions that start with how many subscribers have already signed up, such as the example below. Other examples that can be used throughout the sales process are case studies, reviews, or customer references.
Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own.
You may have noticed that hotels often place a small card in bathrooms that attempt to persuade guests to reuse their towels and linens. Most do this by drawing a guest’s attention to the benefits that reuse can have on environmental protection. It turns out that this is a pretty effective strategy, leading to around 35% compliance. But could there be an even more effective way?
Well, it turns out that about 75% of people who check into a hotel for four nights or longer will reuse their towels at some point during their stay. So what would happen if we took a lesson from the Principle of Consensus and simply included that information on the cards and said that 75% of our guests reuse their towels at some time during their stay, so please do so as well. It turns out that when we do this, towel reuse rises by 26%.
Now imagine the next time you stay in a hotel you saw one of these signs. You picked it up and you read the following message: “75% percent of people who have stayed in this room have reused their towel.” What would you think? Well here’s what you might think: “I hope they’re not the same towels.” And like most people, you’d probably think that this sign will have no influence on your behavior whatsoever.
But it turns out that changing just a few words on a sign to honestly point out what comparable previous guests have done was the single most effective message, leading to a 33% increase in reuse. The science is telling us that rather than relying on our own ability to persuade others, we can point to what many others are already doing, especially many similar others.
So there we have it. Six scientifically validated Principles of Persuasion that provide for small practical, often costless changes that can lead to big differences in your ability to influence and persuade others in an entirely ethical way. They are the secrets from the science of persuasion.
Use the word you. Speak directly to your customer.. Once you have someone’s attention, you need to keep it. How? You can hold attention using a curiosity gap, for sure. Creating a mystery and not explaining it right away is one way to get your readers to keep reading. But there’s another way…
A way that make more personal the comunication using the most powerful word in the English language. One I’ve used over 200 times in this post. The word “you.”
The things that hold our attention are the things that are relevant to us personally—speaking directly to your audience, in the second person, helps you keep them reading. When you read about things that are relevant to you, you pay closer attention.
That’s why one of the most powerful copywriting techniques is to swipe words directly from your audience.
Social proof, or it’s slightly darker name “conformity,” was most famously studied by Solomon Asch in the 1950s. In the classic experiment, Asch demonstrated that normal participants were willing to give obviously, horrendously wrong answers to easy questions—if everyone else in the room had given those same answers first.
In a less dark reading of social proof, it makes sense that we would trust endorsements from our peers. Brands have an incentive to represent themselves well. Our friends—unless they’ve been sucked into a pyramid scheme—have no incentive to recommend particular brands.
Social proof is everywhere in marketing. Testimonials, 5-star reviews, and even the number of users or customers (think “1 million customers served”) are examples of social proof.
Analogies can help explain complicated ideas by connecting them to things people already understand.
“This nutrition plan changes the reuptake of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, ultimately impacting the regulation of appetite.”
“This diet flips a switch in your brain and makes it easier to eat healthy.”
Which is a better description?
Scientifically (if such a diet exists) it’s probably the first. But persuasively it’s the second. “Flipping a switch” sounds easy, so it’s persuasive
When you describe your offer to your audience, it’s important to do it in terms they understand. But more than that – if you can connect your idea to a concrete metaphor or image, your idea becomes more persuasive.
Enjoy the video below. This animated video describes the six universal Principles of Persuasion that have been scientifically proven to make you most effective as reported in Dr. Cialdini’s groundbreaking book, Influence.