Persuading people to adopt a new way of doing things or to try a new product is no easy thing. We possess faculties of invention, but we are also resistant to change. The major objection every innovator faces is a variation on theme “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sometimes it seems the only thing that compels people to adopt something new is pain, fear or desire. After all, if things are working for you, why change them?
Organizations, being made up of people, are the same way—but more so. They have a built-in resistance, like any material that is charged with electricity. Anybody trying to push a new idea up through an organization knows this only too well.
On the other hand, no people or organizations are without problems and unmet needs, real or perceived.
This is where you start, in discovering what people or companies in your target market want or think they need to solve a problem or to reach a goal. The aim of your marketing communications is to convince them that you have the tool or service to get them where they want to go.
The digital age has changed the media involved in this process, but the stages that prospective buyers move through are constants:
Traditional approaches to persuasive communications has distinguished two basic appeals that will move prospects moves through this feedback loop: appeals to logic or reason and appeals to emotion. But, during the last decade, research in both the physiology and functionality of the brain strongly suggest that the cognitive and emotive regions of the brain (the amygdala and cortical regions) are linked directly in terms of “wiring” (synaptic links) as well as being functionally integrated.**
To simplify, no feeling happens without thinking and no thinking happens without feeling. This is really no surprise. Really good marketing communications have always combined appeals to logic and emotion. The upside of an appeal to logic is that it makes sense (see Forming your message), but even the most hardened and expert prospect is influenced by emotions, even if it’s merely the pleasure of seeing a great graphic, the surprise of hearing or reading “what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed”*** or being amused by a Rub Goldberg animation on like this one on revenue performance management by Eloqua.
Your audience, in B2B marketing communications, is much more focused on economic advantage, which is rooted in a primitive drive to survive but is largely “figured” in messages such as value, utility and facilitating efficiency. Selling to consumers is really not that different, but perhaps shades more toward appealing to emotive elements such as looking good, feeling good and eating good. Still, why are promotional messages among the most effective? Value for money, which certainly involves cognition.
* David Rogers in The Network is Your Customer (Yale University Press, 2011). What I like this funnel is that it includes the most important element of marketing communications—word of mouth, or advocacy,by your own customers that completes the feedback loop.. Also, on this topic, see Finding your audience for the role of technology enthusiasts in spreading the word about new technologies.
**For a short summary of this link between the cognition and emotion, see http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Cognition and emotion.
*** “An Essay on Criticism,” Alexander Pope, 1711