I feel like a constant dilemma in B2B marketing is determining how to structure the message. Specifically, should the main argument or top unique selling proposition (USP) go at the beginning of the copy or the end? If it’s at the beginning, we know it will be seen; but will people instead scan to the end, expecting an argument to be built up and lead to a strong conclusion? Scientists studying the art of persuasion have researched this issue, and their results can be useful in helping us motivate the buying behavior of our target audience.
Science: Researchers have studied message structure to determine whether the climax order (placing the main argument last) or anticlimax order (placing the main argument first) affects the persuasiveness of an argument. Studies have found that the order does not appear to be of much consequence, but that the pendulum is swinging toward climax order. That is to say, when they did find a statistical difference, it was in favor of climax order, but the difference was small; when they did not find a statistical difference, the results were still pointing toward climax order, but not enough to be statistically significant.
Science and B2B: So to apply this to B2B marketing, it appears that the climax order is a good safety net to fall back on, but since the statistical difference is so small its probably best to make your decision on a case-by-case basis. Does your headline speak to the top USP? If so, it would make sense to have the copy begin with that to allow for easier comprehension. Or maybe your messaging surrounds how your product/service is better than the competition, in which case you might want to make your copy your argument, with the main argument at the end.
In the end, whether you begin or end with the main argument depends on the surrounding circumstances. Remember, scientific research looks at the average, and your particular situation may be an outlier that doesn’t fit within that bell curve. But if youre in a situation in which you simply dont know how to structure an argument, it might be a good time to trust in science, and go with the climax order.
Lets do our own research. What’s more persuasive? Climax or anticlimax order in B2B messaging?
Please share your comments.