Sometimes, things don't work the way we think they should.
I've been on a health and fitness kick recently. One of the strangest lessons I've learned is that dietary fats don't make you fat. To the contrary, research shows that eating more dietary fat can help you lose body fat and maintain a healthy weight.
Similarly, you may have heard the rumors floating around that our love for antibiotics in soap, medicine, and cleaners may actually be doing more harm than good. Logic says more medicine is better, right?
These things sound logically backwards, don't they? But they're true. We can't always trust our first instincts, or what appears to be common sense. Sometimes, we have to dig deeper to find the truth.
Counterintuitive Business Decisions
Let's take these backwards lessons and apply them to your marketing efforts.
What's the most logical conclusion about marketing? How about: I have to sell more to sell more. Or, the more places and walking wallets people that see my product, the more product I will sell.
What if that logical conclusion was doing you more harm than good? What if the key to selling more is selling less?
Why B2B Inbound Marketing Needs to Sell Less
You're not stupid. As a whole, people aren't stupid. We are capable of making our own decisions and choosing which products we purchase. However, we need information to justify those decisions.
We assess three types of information to justify our purchasing decisions: promotional, educational, and emotional appeal. Here's the approximate impact of each on our purchases:
1. Promotional Information
Here's the biggest reason successful B2B marketing needs to sell less: promotional information only impacts about 10% of the entire purchase decision. This is especially true for considered purchases.
So, what counts as promotional information? Any sales copy that talks about your specific product or company. Your "About Us" page, your "Our Mission" page, your products/services page, even your home page - all of that is promotional content, and very little of it will matter to a buyer.
When does promotional information matter? During the late stages of the buying process or buyer's journey. At this point, the buyer is deciding between products and companies, so the details about yours are relevant and valuable.
2. Educational Information
Educational information has a much larger impact on B2B purchases. The vast majority of the buyer's journey is spent doing research, which means there is a greater opportunity to make yourself useful.
How does educational info differ from sales copy?
- Identifies possible problems
- Lists possible solutions
- Humble & customer-centric
- Valuable & relevant
- Does not advertise or solicit
- Helps the visitor make the best decision for their needs
Educational information should be provided with no financial strings attached. Some content can certainly be gated behind a form. But you shouldn't withhold relevant information until they sign a contract. That's shady.
Transparency makes you look confident in your product or service. Why would you need to withhold information? Are you not confident in your product? Is your business tanking? Is your product not selling? It looks suspicious, no matter your intent.
Transparency also builds trust with your buyer. If (it seems like) you truly want to help them, they'll see you as a valuable resource. They'll trust your recommendations. They'll gravitate to you when they have a problem or opportunity.
This confidence and trust built by educational information is your first foot in the door.
3. Emotional Appeal
Especially in the B2B arena, your emotional & personal impact will make or break the business deal.
Think about it: if you're not in a specialty or niche industry, your product looks just like your competitor's. It fulfills its purpose, it meets requirements, it stays within tolerances. These products are basically interchangeable.
So how do you get the buyer to your side of the sandbox? You have to reach deeper than specs or pricing. You have to make a lasting impact. Differentiate yourself in the industry clone wars.
The easiest way to become memorable is to target emotions. Fragile, delicate, squishy emotions. (Have you seen a buyer's "Product Benefits" section of the brain? It's built up like a fortress. Impenetrable.)
How do you reach your buyers' emotions?
- Understand your buyer personas, or you're shooting in the dark
- Use words and phrases that resonate with them
- Communicate in their preferred tone (casual, humorous, scholarly, etc.)
- Appeal to their personal struggles (subculture, social class, career path)
- Identify their anxieties and fears, then soothe or stoke them
- Talk about your audience - people love talking about themselves
- Tell stories (real stories, not sales copy disguised as stories)
Like a possum in a trap, they won't know they're caught until it's too late.
Want to sell more? Stop selling.
Ads, promotions, and sales copy are incredibly annoying. We mute commercials, and we leave websites with intrusive advertising. We hate it when others push things onto us. But, for some reason, we continue to market our own businesses in the same way.
It's time to break away from the zombie-like acceptance of traditional sales tactics. Shake off the wet blanket of Annoying Your Customers. Build your marketing strategy like this:
- 10% sales
- 40% education
- 50% personal appeal
And always, always, adhere to the golden rule of B2B inbound marketing: Market unto others as you would have them market unto you.
Which begs the question: How do you want to be marketed to?