The Science of Persuasion in B2B marketing

The Science of Persuasion in B2B Marketing

If you’ve read my recent post: Got Milk? Got Leads? – Changing Perceptions and B2B Buyer Behavior you know that one of my undergraduate Communications classes at UGA, Persuasion, looks at advertisements (usually B2C television ads) and dissects their method of persuasion and how effective it is.

One day in class we watched a video from Robert Cialdini, the author of best selling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Cialdini has been conducting research on the psychology of persuasion for over 35 years. The video we watched looks into the 6 universal shortcuts that humans use to guide their decision making.

Do you know what these 6 universal principles of persuasion are? And more importantly, are you applying them to your b2b marketing efforts in ethical and creative ways? If you couldn’t confidently answer either of these questions, then you came to the right place.

Here’s the principles and how to use them to improve your marketing:

1) Reciprocity

People are more likely to do something for you if you do something for them first. Research shows that tips increase 3% when a waiter or waitress provides a mint with the bill. Tips increase 14% when the waiter or waitress provides two mints with the bill. When the waiter provides one mint, starts to walk away, and then turns and says “For you nice people here’s an extra mint.” tips increase by 23%.

It’s not just what you give people, its how you give it to them and when. Be the first to give and make sure that that gift is personalized and unexpected.

Are you giving anything away?

Giving away valuable information on your website and across social media that can help your target audience make better decisions in the form of blog posts, ebooks, or even instructional videos is a great way to make reciprocity work for you.

2) Scarcity

People want more of something when there is less of it. This is the age-old principle of supply and demand. Cialdini points out that to maximize the persuasiveness of your message you should highlight the benefits of your proposition, its uniqueness, and what they will lose if they do not consider your proposal.

What makes your products or services scarce?

What do you have to offer that is different from your competition? What will your target audience miss out on if they don’t consider your proposal? Answering these questions for your target audience is an important step in the persuasion process.

3) Authority

People are more likely to listen to credible, knowledgeable, experts. Research shows that physiotherapists can persuade their patients to comply with recommended exercise programs if they display their medical diplomas on the wall of their office. People are more likely to give change for a parking meter to a complete stranger wearing a police uniform than someone wearing casual clothing.

It is important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority, before you make you attempt to persuade them.

What makes you credible, knowledgeable, and/or an expert?

Featuring awards, positive testimonials, success stories, and other credibility boosters on your website are a good way to help your target audience know that they are in the right place. Instead of just talking about how great you are all the time, having others talk about how great you are can be highly beneficial. Studies show that it doesn’t matter if the person talking about you is connected to you or if they are likely to prosper from the introduction themselves.

4) Consistency

People like to be consistent with other things they have said or done. Consistency can be activated by looking for small initial commitments that can be made. In one case study, people were unwilling to place a large sign in their yard supporting a safe driving campaign, but four times as many people were willing to place the sign in their yard after agreeing to place a small postcard supporting the campaign in a window at the front of their house.

What are some small initial commitments that you can ask of your prospects?

The sales funnel is a conceptualization of the process of moving people from smaller initial commitments to bigger commitments. If you smack people in the face with an offer right on your homepage you may not get a lot of business, but if you get someone to subscribe to your blog, follow your company on LinkedIn, and download an ebook first, they will then be more likely to make a larger financial commitment to you.

5) Liking

People prefer to say yes to someone that they like. Researchers have identified three main factors that create liking. We like people who are similar to us, pay us compliments, and who cooperate with us. In a study involving two groups of MBA students, one group was told that time is money and to get straight down to business. In this group 55% of people were able to come to an agreement. In the second group the students were told to exchange personal information with each other and find common ground before discussing business. In the second group, 90% of the students were able to come to agreements that were worth on average 18% more to both parties.

How can you employ social selling?

Building relationships with prospective clients, or social selling, is imperative to business. One great way to do it is through social media. In B2B marketing, one of the most efficient social platforms is LinkedIn. One out of every three professionals on the planet is on linkedin. Learn how to utilize linkedin to build relationships here.

6) Consensus

People, especially if they are uncertain will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own. In hotels, signs telling people to reuse towels because it is good for the environment leads people 35% compliance. Studies show that People staying in a hotel for 4 nights or more will reuse their towel at some point. If the sign is changed to say “75% of people reuse their towels sometime during their stay, please do so as well.” Compliance increases by 26%.

What can you use consensus to your advantage?

This is where conducting research on your target audience can be incredibly effective. Finding ways to communicate to your target audience what other like minded people have done to solve similar problems and then providing that solution can help people see that your service is right for them.

Any of these principles can be abused and used in manipulative or unethical ways, and if done so will not be very effective in the long run.

Enjoy the video below and thanks for reading!


The B2B Social Media Tune-Up: How to Build Effective Social Media Accounts

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