B2B communication is a fine and intricate art, but in its purpose, it’s dead simple: convincing people to do things.
Of course, you might find it important what your customers think about you, but it’s only when they take action that the cogs in the machine really start turning. When they download your whitepaper and leave their details. When they get in touch with sales, make a decision, or sign the order form.
I could take it a step further, and say that the actions of others are probably the main reason you and I have a job today.
It’s a simple realisation that provides us with a clear purpose, but also with a problem. Because if there’s one thing I learned during my time in B2B, it’s this:
It’s darn difficult to get people to do something
Every day, you’re asking your customers to take deliberate, decisive action when, in fact, they’d much rather do nothing.
Before you accuse your customers of living in sin (that is, the sin of laziness), I want you to imagine the following:
You are tasked with choosing a new CRM tool. In roughly this order, you’d need to talk to your sales and marketing colleagues, list their requirements, compare solutions, select a vendor, get buy-in, manage the long and costly implementation process, and then finally cross your fingers that you actually end up better off than when you started.
In other words, you’re facing a lot of effort for an uncertain outcome. Even worse: you could make the wrong decision and face the wrath (or at least ridicule) of your fellow colleagues.
Suddenly, the possible losses seem to far outweigh the gains, so you end up doing nothing. It’s a persistent bit of human behaviour scientists have dubbed ‘status quo bias’, and it’s everywhere, all the time.
Status quo bias is what keeps your customers from doing what they should. It’s the mother of inaction, the bane of business, and in our communication, we want to put a stop to it.
They dare if you dare
So how do you escape the pull of the status quo? How do you help your customers do what they should, disregarding the threat of a potentially bad outcome and instead focusing on the possible gains?
It’s not – and this shouldn’t come as a surprise – by sticking to the status quo yourself. If you want to make a difference in what people do, you need to make a difference in what you say, which means:
- making clear-cut choices in terms of audience, goals and messaging
and not trying to keep all options open
- sharing simple but imaginative stories
and not firing off elaborate lists of abstract benefits
- showcasing your distinct brand personality
and not resorting to bland B2B blabber
The key thing to remember is that your customers are not fully rational beings (really, they’re not). It’s not because you know what your customers find important, that you can just fire off a bunch of keywords and expect them to make a good decision.
Just like any human, your customers feel first and think second. If they feel that you’re positively confident in what you say, if they feel that you’re likable, truthful and trustworthy, they might think about taking that next step. How you say things is just as important as what you say.
Daring breeds daring.
It might sound obvious now, but we’ve actually come a long way before we figured this out and made ‘Inspire Daring’ our creative purpose. We used to think brands needed to be different. Then we thought brands needed to be right. Now we think they should be both.
No matter how you package it, there should always be a fundamental truth in what you say. You can’t inspire daring with a lie, or a banality. That’s why, at BBC, we inspire daring for our customers and business buyers by focusing on four things:
- solid strategy
saying the right thing, and knowing it
- compelling creative
original ideas based on insight, brilliantly executed
- engaging experiences
making it easy and fun to take informed action
- real results
performance-driven campaigns supported by data dashboards
Don’t mind the sales-y alliterations there (although from a cognitive science standpoint, they’re proven to be more effective). The point is that you need all elements to inspire profitable customer action in the long run. Daring isn’t about doing wild and unruly things, it’s about taking small deliberate steps that can turn into confident strides as you see the results roll in.
So in the end, it boils down to this. Don’t fear the unknown, but fear the obvious. Make clear-cut choices and stick to them. Be confident and outspoken. Embrace your brand personality. Help your customers do the things they wouldn’t otherwise. Keep the beautiful wheels of business turning.