As humans, we like to think of ourselves as rational beings who make rational decisions. We weigh risk against gain, investment against return, effort against value. It’s tempting for B2B marketers to imagine that their customers are deeply rational, ordered, professional beings. But the reality of the matter is that an estimated 95% of the B2B buying decision process takes place in the unconscious mind. In other words, your B2B customers and prospects are largely driven by emotional and visceral responses, and unconscious biases.
And just to multiply that challenge for the B2B marketer, in the B2B buying process there are an average of seven decision-makers within a decision-making unit (DMU).
Professor De Martino (Associate Professor of Neuroscience at UCL and cognitive consultant to bcm) explained: “In my view, it is only by understanding cognitive biases and how they affect customer decision-making that marketers can truly become effective. And where you have many decision-makers involved, each decision-maker needs, effectively, to be treated as a separate and self-contained unit harbouring many potential biases.”
A great deal of neurological research has been done into framing human decision-making and into the emotional factors that influence it and cause it to deviate from the rational. Much of this knowledge is transferable to a B2B marketing context. Framing is asking a question, making a point, or otherwise providing information in such a way as to exploit the irrational, emotional human decision-making process and potentially steer it towards a desired conclusion. This process is always about deliberately restricting, by language and by the options on offer, the number of ways in which it is possible for a prospect to respond emotionally to a given choice – to the marketer’s advantage.
As an example, loss aversion is a powerful emotional decision-trigger that raises some perhaps unexpected opportunities for marketers to use it as a framing tool. There is widespread scientific evidence that people prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Indeed gains, on average, need to be two and a half times greater than the perceived loss to be deemed attractive. This concept alone can dramatically change how you communicate with your audience. A firm of solicitors, for example, may concentrate on the fact that 80% of cases are settled before court, thereby saving clients thousands of pounds in losses and protecting their reputation, rather than leading with the team’s years of experience and that 70% of cases result in a win for clients.
In order to truly understand your B2B customer, you need to delve deeper, not simply analysing segments or personas, but individuals. Only by knowing your customers at a deeper level than your competitors, understanding human behaviour and winning their hearts and minds, can you even begin to market your brand successfully.
Technology has had a formidable impact on marketers’ ability to analyse, predict and respond to buyer behaviour. But technology is just the enabler, not the solution. It is the strategy behind the technology that is key to obtaining the information and intelligence about DMUs that the cognitive marketing agenda requires. Part of the problem for most marketers is knowing what data to go for in the first place – and this is where strategic planning comes in. Shockingly, more than 45% of companies do not work to a strategic marketing plan.
A strategic cognitive marketing approach simply means putting the customer where they belong – at the heart and forefront of your marketing activity. Learn how to manage this process, and you will see increased success and ROI.
bcm is a strategic marketing communications agency, founded on the principle that marketing ‘should be done properly’. Using a B2B cognitive marketing approach, bcm uses insight and intelligence in context to help you understand your B2B customers better than the competition, leading to profitable growth and increased brand equity. bcm simplifies the complicated.