Making Sense in B2B Marketing Messaging

I’ve already spoken about the importance of the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) in B2B Marketing. Since people often make decisions based upon both personal and social attitudes, we will be most effective at encouraging a prospect to adopt our desired buying behavior if we can appeal to both. To do this, we simply must talk to people in the industry, and with this week’s blog I’d like to expand on that idea by talking about what methodology we can utilize once we have these people on the phone (or ideally, in a face-to-face).

Making Sense in B2B MarketingSense-Making. The communication approach known as Sense-Making is a methodology that has many theoretic assumptions, but the main idea as it relates to B2B marketing is simple: In order to develop successful messaging targeted toward a prospect, a campaign must focus on how that prospect makes sense of his/her world. As strategic partners, we cannot trust what our clients say about their customers—we must talk to them personally. As an example, when we were developing a campaign recently for an in-flight phone system, we called aviation managers and employed the Sense-Making approach to see how they made sense of their world (and how our product fit into that world).

Here’s how it works. To effectively utilize sense-making, you cannot let “nouns” guide the conversation; you need to think in terms of “verbs.” Your conversation must be dialogic and dynamic. Going in with a set of questions is fine as a guide, but it should not be an end-all. If the prospect goes down another trail, let him/her. Follow, and ask questions along the way. Remember that the whole idea is to figure out how they make sense of their world; we do not want to assume we know, because we don’t.

Now what? Think about what you learned, and incorporate it into your messaging to motivate the prospect’s buying behavior. So for us, after speaking to aviation managers and understanding how they made sense of our product, we discovered that the top-selling proposition was price. We thus developed the tagline “Say hello to Forté, and goodbye to the high costs of in-flight phones.” And guess what? It worked. For the 12-month period after the campaign launch, Forté sales were running at 116% of their projected goal.

Always remember that we are not just marketers—we are strategic partners. We must know about our client’s industry in order to develop effective strategy, and we also must know that we can never stop. So though Sense-Making is important for a campaign, it is also just as important to continue using it throughout the year. Give someone a call out of the blue and just ask about the industry, and then sit back and listen to what s/he has to say. Who knows—you may even find out about a need they have that your client can fulfill so that, the next time you call, it may be related to a whole new campaign.