Theory, Sex & B2B Marketing

As both a B2B Marketer and Behavioral Scientist, I am constantly examining individuals’ buying behavior in order to determine what motivates them to make purchasing decisions. And as I was browsing the library of successful marketing case studies on today, of course the following title caught my eye (though for a very different reason!): SEO and Sex: A Recipe for Success. A case study about a dentist who wanted to stand out among the competition, it told of how Dr. Helaine Smith broke through the clutter with a combination of inbound marketing and finding her niche; other than just a successful case study, I noted it was also a great example of why incorporating theory into strategy is a necessary endeavor.

Though the case study was directly related to B2C, there were some definite nuggets that could be carried over to the B2B industry. As a B2B inbound marketer in Atlanta, I understand the importance of developing important content, distributing it through multiple channels, and always remembering to include keywords throughout; however, this case study had an interesting addition in that it reminded me of the importance of “finding your carrot”. In order to break through the clutter we must find something that will make us not only stand out – but also draw people in. For Dr. Smith, this carrot was sex.

Buyer Behavior supports B2B Marketing StrategyAs the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) posits, people often make decisions based upon their own attitudes as well as the social attitudes related to that behavior. So in order to encourage a prospect to adopt our desired buying behavior, we will be more effective if we appeal to not only their personal attitudes, but also the social attitudes related to the product/service we are promoting.  And that’s exactly what Dr. Smith did – she appealed to the personal attitudes of the individual, but also appealed to the social relationship she found between oral hygiene and sexual relationships. (After all, we all know we should go to the dentist to prevent cavities, but we also know that our society values a nice smile and often finds great smiles sexy; so in going to the dentist this social attitude may be motivating me just as strongly as my own personal attitude.)

So in applying this theory to B2B Marketing, remember that as we promote ourselves and our clients, we must take into account not only the personas of the prospects themselves, but also the social norms that may be influencing their buying behavior. How do we do this? Well, the first way is through constant dialogue with the client; find out as much as you can about their industry, their customers, etc. Unfortunately, this may often be the hardest part, as I know clients are often busy, but dialogue is a necessary component of any campaign so this is a battle that simply must be fought. Second, pick up a phone and find out what other people in the industry think – your client is a great resource, but not the only one (and sometimes might not even be the best). Third, read trade magazines. In doing these things, you’re finding out what’s big with individuals in the industry, as well as what social issues might be of importance.

Finally, don’t quit. Sure the information you find may be useful to a particular product/service campaign, but don’t lose those relationships. Call again a few months later and see what is new in the industry, and always keep reading the trade pubs. And in the end, remember what TRA has taught us: the key to your prospect’s buying behavior may be a combination of both social beliefs + personal beliefs – so whenever possible, pinpoint both and include them in your outreach.