Confess or Deny? Choosing Your Strategy in B2B

Developing message content is a critical part of any B2B marketing campaign. It requires researching your target audience, using that research to construct your messaging, and testing that message before implementation. But during the research stage, you might discover negative perceptions or disadvantages among the target audience; then you must decide how to handle that in the message design. Scientific research can be helpful in guiding your decision in cases like these, so this week I’d like to discuss this through the concepts of one-sided and two-sided messaging.

One-sided messaging is when you choose to include only the positive aspects of your product/service; two-sided messaging is when you include both sides, whether positive or negative. When deciding on two-sided messaging, there are three techniques you might consider: Refutation, Diminution or Tactical Concession.

Confess or Deny? Choosing your B2B Strategy

  • Refutation: When you simply refute the negative perception of your product/service.
  • Diminution: When substantial drawbacks are at least mentioned, but downplayed.
  • Tactical Concession: When minor drawbacks are used to increase credibility and, in turn, acceptance of the message.

Scientific research regarding the art of persuasion indicates two-sided messaging is more persuasive if the target audience knows about the issue, is wary of being manipulated, and already knows about the positives. However, two-sided messaging may have negative effects if the audience was not thinking about the negatives — it may make those aspects more salient, and then negatively influence the audience’s buying decision.

So when doing your primary research, be sure and ask as many questions as possible about your product or service in order to see what your target audience thinks about it — positive or negative. See my previous post on Sense-making Theory for some tips on this, and I would also recommend holding focus groups, which foster a kind of group synergy that unearths information that may otherwise have been unattainable in a one-on-one setting. If the feedback you’re getting is negative, continue to ask questions and determine whether to utilize one-sided or two-sided messaging in your message design. As with every B2B campaign, research is vital, and utilizing what science has already taught us about human behavior may give you more of an advantage, furthering your ability to motivate your customers’ buying behavior.