From lead generation to sales enablement and retention, our underlying goal as marketers is to influence the perceptions and behavior of our various audiences. However, even with a solid multi-channel strategy and carefully crafted messaging, changing the minds of prospects and customers can prove difficult.
To help us become masters of persuasion, we recently hosted best-selling author and world-renowned expert on change Jonah Berger at our annual Just a Book event, where he discussed key takeaways from his newest book “The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind.” In “The Catalyst,” Jonah reveals the five greatest barriers to change and offers actionable techniques to overcome them.
Let’s unpack the five barriers outlined in the book and dive into how we as B2B marketers can apply Jonah’s techniques to overcome them and achieve our marketing goals.
According to Jonah, the first barrier to change is reactance — the state that occurs when people feel like their personal freedom is lost or threatened. Typically, when we attempt to persuade someone, perhaps through paid ads or email marketing campaigns, our audience will either counterargue or ignore the message altogether in order to regain their sense of control.
One way to overcome reactance is to start with understanding. Before people will change their behavior, they have to be willing to listen and trust the person they’re communicating with. This explains why word of mouth can be more effective than advertising, because people are more likely to trust the opinions of those they’re already close with. As B2B marketers, we can reduce reactance by striving to understand the situations, feelings and underlying motivations of our target audience. An easy way to do this is by conducting a buyer persona exercise to map out the needs and pain points of your target audience so you can lead with empathy in your content and ultimately gain their trust.
Have you ever received a notification to update the system on your laptop or iPhone and immediately muted the reminder? This could be because of the second roadblock to change — endowment. Endowment is the concept that even when better solutions are presented to us, we tend to stick with what we already have because the act of switching appears time consuming or expensive.
Since the costs of switching often loom larger than the potential gains, Jonah reveals that pointing out how much time or money is being lost by not acting tends to be more motivating to people than the potential benefits alone. Knowing this, it’s important to surface the cost of inaction to help people realize that their current status quo isn’t as costless as it seems. For example, rather than focusing on the benefits of your product or service in your messaging, try highlighting how much your audience is losing out on by not using your solution.
When trying to change the minds of others we often assume that if we provide enough factual information, people will eventually be convinced and come around. However, even when there’s no direct attempt to persuade, Jonah warns that providing facts and figures alone can still backfire. If the information you provide is too far away from someone’s existing beliefs, it’s likely to be rejected because people tend to search for, interpret and favor information that confirms their existing beliefs.
To overcome this confirmation bias as B2B marketers, we can frame our messaging in a way that’s more applicable to our audience so it doesn’t disrupt their beliefs. One way to do this is by leveraging data and marketing technology to hyper-segment your audience. Hyper-segmentation will not only help you identify those who have the highest propensity to purchase your offerings, but will also enable you to target them with content that’s extremely relevant to their existing preferences and needs.
The more uncertainty there is around change, the less people are willing to change. Because people are inherently risk-averse, the thought of trying something new with no guarantee of success is often a risk people aren’t willing to take.
To alleviate uncertainty, we need to increase trialability or the ease with which our offerings can be tested. One way marketers can do this is by reducing up-front costs and lowering the amount of time, money or effort is required to experience your product or service. Consider offering a free trial or a money-back guarantee to reduce your audience’s initial hesitation with buying your product. Pay-for-performance contracts are also a helpful way to lower any skepticism surrounding the results of your service.
Find Corroborating Evidence
While research shows that multiple exposures to advertisements can encourage action, it’s no secret that ads are susceptible to being tuned out. Many marketers try to combat this by pushing out a variety of different content through multiple channels, but often still fail at driving conversions because the audience understands that each touchpoint is just another version of the same underlying message.
However, it’s harder for your audience to ignore you when there’s corroborating evidence and reinforcement from multiple sources. Having validation and endorsements from multiple sources increases credibility and legitimacy, and often makes a greater impact than claims coming from your company directly. Use this knowledge to your advantage by sharing testimonials or case studies from customers spanning multiple industries to prove your solution has worked for others. You may also consider co-hosting an event with current clients to give prospects the chance to hear directly from those who have benefited from your product or service.
If you want to change the minds of your audience, it’s not about pushing harder or being more persuasive — it’s all about removing the barriers to change. If you need more support in building a savvy marketing strategy that drives real results, get in touch with our marketing experts here.