Discovering ‘FOTU’ in 2020 Marketing and Beyond

While its not hard “see” the above issues as they dominate news channels, it is sometimes hard to see how each may impact the success of our 2020 marketing efforts. At the end of the day, no clever campaign, no amount of social likes and shares, and no volume of media purchases can compensate for FOTU.

Making this post about “seeing clearly in 2020” is nothing short of trite and cliché. However, being  able to see all of the influences, attitudes, concerns, myths, and facts that inform and drive consumer behavior will be the difference between success and failure as we enter the new “roaring” ’20s.

And no surprise or argument here, but we are off to a roaring start. We’ve got an impeachment trial, a threatening war, an economy that is certainly uncertain, a pending election, and growing domestic issues like homelessness that are impacting communities and economies, nationwide.

While its not hard “see” the above issues as they dominate all news channels all day every day, it is sometimes hard to see how each may impact the success of our 2020 marketing efforts. And we need to take a long, deep look: Because at the end of the day, no clever campaign, no amount of social likes and shares, and no volume of media purchases can compensate for the FOTU (fear of the unknown), which is a close cousin to FOMO (fear of missing out).

Just some of the things we need to see, under a microscope, as we move toward perfect vision in 2020 include:

How Political Turmoil Affects Confidence in the Economy and, Thus, Spending

Think about it for a minute. No matter where you stand on current events, a supporter or not, all the negative energy we hear daily gets in your head. You can’t help but feel disgust with one side of the story for what you have learned to believe is “propaganda, contrived, politically motivated, or just plain deceit.” Whether it is or not, it affects you. Your brain gets muddled with harsh words, angry vocal tones, contradictions, and consciously and unconsciously your vessel gets full of chaos.

And when chaos strikes, we slow down, often giving into the fear of the unknown and hold onto what we have. We stop thinking of what we “want” and start focusing on what we need. We spend more on what we want vs. what we need and so when that mindset changes, so does our spending behavior.

Regardless of where you and your customers sit on the political fence, you need to present a brand that can calm the chaos, provide order or realism in a world that seems to have gone too deep into the fake side and chaotic uncertainty. And most importantly, you cannot take sides or you, too, become part of the chaos.

How a New Era of ‘Truth’ Impacts Consumer’s Trust in Society and, Ultimately, Brands

Lies, alternative facts, partial truths, misleading statements, altered statistics, and other little demons of communications strategies have gone from prevalent to accepted. As shocking as it is to see authorities and leaders and consumers and friends in our society defend what once was considered wrong, or still is considered wrong for non-politicians, it is more so, at least to me, shocking to see how many people are fine with it. This leads to a new standard of double standards and right vs wrong vs partially right or partially wrong. These attitudes create a new standard of trust that transcends community and political leadership, and brands. As we accept non-truths or misleading behavior in any aspect of our society, we learn to expect it. So if we accept it on a political and governing level, we tend to believe that everyone is guilty of the same behavior. So we learn to safely believe no one and nothing, including all of those claims of service and product quality, added values, and rewards of membership. We simply don’t believe as much as we used to and have learned to filter what we choose to believe, which is many cases, is very little.

Do a self check. Be honest. Are you more skeptical now than you were in three years ago? Five years ago?

What Consumers Want to Hear, Believe, and Who They Listen to

Even though you are not going to change your truth to fit the emotional needs of your customers, you have to pay attention, and close attention, to what your target audiences want to hear. As I’ve mentioned in my many other columns, we throw out truths, facts, and evidence if it doesn’t fit our construct of the world as we want to see it. What do you customers want to see? Again, don’t change your truth and put your integrity on the line for sales and profits. But do know what those issues are, as it gives you a glimpse of your customers’ values and what messages are likely to resonate with those values. Are they conservative? Liberal? Stay focused on messages that reflect the traditions that guide them.

Regardless of where you see your brand going in 2020,  take time to look deeply at what is happening around your customers, and how those happenings or “reported” happenings affect the mindset of your constituents. Does it add to FOTU, FOMO? Or spark heated debates on Facebook or across the fences? Survey your customers and learn what moves them, what scares them, what inspires them.

Ask much more than the typical NPS question and customer satisfaction questions. When you do, you will not only gain that 2020 vision, you set your brand up to roar in the best of the ‘20s yet to come.

Healthcare Marketers Live in Multiple Worlds — Leverage That Insight

As healthcare marketers, you live in multiple worlds. Of course you are a professional. But every time you go to the doctor, you’re a healthcare consumer. And while your employer provides care to tens of thousands of people each year, it’s also one of the largest purchasers of health insurance coverage in your market.

As healthcare marketers, you live in multiple worlds. Of course you are a professional. But every time you go to the doctor, you’re a healthcare consumer. And while your employer provides care to tens of thousands of people each year, it’s also one of the largest purchasers of health insurance coverage in your market.

These multiple perspectives can be a strength as you build bridges among your audiences. Or they may frustrate you, because it adds nuance and complexity to the task at hand.

Let’s take a look at the duality of being both a provider of healthcare and a consumer of health insurance, with all of its rules and paperwork.

Hospitals are one of the largest employers in most communities. A hospital of 200 beds may employ as many as 1,400 full- and part-time benefit-eligible employees, while large facilities can top 5,000. Workforces of that size are diverse, with many roles that impact patient experience but don’t require familiarity with the intricacies of health insurance. But, hopefully, all of those employees are eligible for insurance and made their selections last fall for the 2020 coverage year.

Likewise, consumers who may have changed insurance or their doctor are beginning their patient experience journey. Perhaps, as a consumer yourself, you’ve taken one of your kids to a new doctor and experienced a little disorientation. What would have helped?

This is all to say that more often than you think, you have opportunities to see things through more than one lens. That recognition of the friction points can lead to real improvement in communications and brand experience.

Bring those insights to the table.

Data Will Lead Marketers Into a New World in 2020

What will be so different in this ever-changing world, and how can marketers better prepare ourselves for the new world? Haven’t we been using data for multichannel marketing for a few decades already?

The year 2020 sounds like some futuristic time period in a science fiction novel. At the dawn of this funny sounding year, maybe it’s good time to think about where all these data and technologies will lead us. If not for the entire human collective in this short article, but at the minimum, for us marketers.

What will be so different in this ever-changing world, and how can marketers better prepare ourselves for the new world? Haven’t we been using data for multichannel marketing for a few decades already?

Every Channel Is, or Will Be Interactive 

Multichannel marketing is not a new concept, and many have been saying that every channel will become interactive medium. Then I wonder why many marketers are still acting like every channel is just another broadcasting medium for “them.” Do you really believe that marketers are still in control? That marketers can just push their agenda, the same old ways, through every channel? Uniformly? “Yeah! We are putting out this new product, so come and see!” That is so last century.

For instance, an app is not more real estate where you just hang your banners and wait for someone to click. By definition, a mobile app is an interactive medium, where information goes back and forth. And that changes the nature of the communication from “We talk, they listen” to “We listen first, and then we talk based on what we just heard.”

Traditional media will go through similar changes. Even the billboards on streets, in the future, will be customized based on who’s seeing it. Young people don’t watch TV in the old-fashioned way, mindlessly flipping through channels like their parents. They will actively seek out content that suites “them,” not the other way around. And in such an interactive world, the consumers of the content have all the power. They will mercilessly stop, cut out, opt out, and reject anything that is even remotely boring to “them.”

Marketers are not in charge of communication anymore. They say an average human being looks at six to seven different screens every day. And with wearable devices and advancement in mobile technologies, even the dashboard on a car will stop being just a dumb dashboard. What should marketers do then? Just create another marketing department called “wearable division,” like they created the “email marketing” division?

The sooner marketers realize that they are not in charge, but the consumers are, the better off they would be. Because with that realization, they will cease to conduct channel marketing the way they used to do, with extremely channel-centric mindsets.

When the consumers are in charge, we must think differently. Everything must be customer-centric, not channel- or division-centric. Know that we can be cut off from any customer anytime through any channel, if we are more about us than about them.

Every Interaction Will Be Data-based, and in Real-time

Interactive media leave ample amounts of data behind every interaction. How do you think this word “Big Data” came about? Every breath we take and every move we make turn into piles of data somewhere. That much is not new.

What is new is that our ability to process and dissect such ample amounts of data is getting better and faster, at an alarming rate. So fast that we don’t even say words like Big Data anymore.

In this interactive world, marketers must listen first, and then react. That listening part is what we casually call data-mining, done by humans and machines, alike. Without ploughing through data, how will we even know what the conversation is about?

Then the second keyword in the subheading is “real-time.” Not only do we have to read our customers’ behavior through breadcrumbs they leave behind (i.e., their behavioral data), we must do it incredibly fast, so that our responses seem spontaneous. As in “Oh, you’re looking for a set of new noise-canceling earbuds! Here are the ones that you should consider,” all in real-time.

Remember the rule No. 1 that customers can cut us out anytime. We may have less than a second before they move on.

Marketers Must Stay Relevant to Cut Through the Noise

Consumers are bored to tears with almost all marketing messages. There are too many of them, and most aren’t about the readers, but the pushers. Again, it should be all about the consumers, not the sellers.

It stops being entirely boring when the message is about them though. Everybody is all about themselves, really. If you receive a group photo that includes you, whose face would you check out first? Of course, your own, as in “Hmm, let me see how I look here.”

That is the fundamental reason why personalization works. But only if it’s done right.

Consumers can smell fake intimacy from miles away. Young people are particularly good at that. They think that the grownups don’t understand social media at all for that reason. They just hate it when someone crashes a party to hard-sell something. Personalization is about knowing your targets’ affinities and suggesting — not pushing — something that may suite “them.” A gentle nudge, but not a hard sell.

With ample amounts of data all around, it may be very tempting to show how much we know about the customers. But never cross that line of creepiness. Marketers must be relevant to stay connected, but not overly so. It is a fine balance that we must maintain to not be ignored or rejected.

Machine Learning and AI Will Lead to Automation on All Fronts

To stay relevant at all times, using all of the data that we have is a lot of work. Tasks that used to take months — from data collection and refinement to model-based targeting and messaging — should be done in minutes, if not seconds. Such a feat isn’t possible without automation. On that front, things that were not imaginable only a few years ago are possible through advancement in machine learning or AI, in general.

One important note for marketers who may not necessarily be machine learning specialists is that what the machines are supposed to do is still up to the marketers, not the machines. Always set the goals first, have a few practice rounds in more conventional ways, and then get on a full automation mode. Otherwise, you may end up automating wrong practices. You definitely don’t want that. And, more importantly, target consumers would hate that. Remember, they hate fake intimacy, and more so if they smell cold algorithms in play along the way.

Huge Difference Between Advanced Users and Those Who Are Falling Behind

In the past, many marketers considered data and analytics as optional items, as in “Sure, they sound interesting, and we’ll get around to it when we have more time to think about it.” Such attitudes may put you out of business, when giants like Amazon are eating up the world with every bit of computing power they have (not that they do personalization in an exemplary way all of the time).

If you have lines of products that consumers line up to buy, well, all the more power to you. And, by all means, don’t worry about pampering them proactively with data. But if you don’t see lines around the block, you are in a business that needs to attract new customers and retain existing customers more effectively. And such work is not something that you can just catch up on in a few months. So get your data and targeting strategy set up right away. I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, but this month being January and all, you might as well call it that.

Are You Ready for the New World?

In the end, it is all about your target customers, not you. Through data, you have all the ammunition that you need to understand them and pamper them accordingly. In this age, marketers must stay relevant with their targets through proper personalization at all stages of the customer journey. It may sound daunting, but all of the technologies and techniques are ripe for such advanced personalization. It really is about your commitment — not anything else.

Revisiting My 3 Marketing Predictions: Climate Change Rose to the Top

I am going to be taking a break from posting for a bit. So, before I start my break, I thought I would revisit some marketing predictions I made earlier in the year.

I am going to be taking a break from posting for a bit. So, before I start my break, I thought I would revisit some marketing predictions I made earlier in the year.

My 3 Predictions

I never expected 2019 to totally transform marketing; but there is a major shift underway, with respect to the last prediction.

In my last post, I wrote about the recommendation from the Business Roundtable that companies think more broadly about the constituents they serve, including the planet. The vast majority of Americans believe that the climate crisis is real and there is a desire for real change. Climate worries are also causing consumers to rethink their consumption habits and businesses are responding.

How Am I Doing?

For me, these trends have not just been academic.

I recently went to a fast-casual style restaurant. My younger daughter likes to order the kid’s meal there, and it comes with a fairly rigid small plastic cup to fill up at the drink station. She has decided she wants less plastic in the world, so she asked for the adult paper cup, instead, and was willing to pay the difference. The cashier mentioned that this request was now very common, and they had let corporate know. My daughter received the paper cup, gratis.

In another example, I was at the airport and stopped at a sandwich chain. As I was handed my drink, I was asked if I wanted the lid and straw.

I am not alone, a recent study by Futera found that 88% of consumers wanted brands to help them live sustainably. The marketing implications for this trend are very interesting. Aside from a physical product or service, consumers are asking and paying for less. While it may not seem like much, a lid and a straw are big conveniences bundled into the price of a meal. Yet at the airport I was asked … do you want to take a small hit for the team? I happily took the hit and kept my drink close, until I finished it.

I generally keep my politics out of business, but climate change is not political to me. It is an existential threat, and most U.S. consumers agree.

Now, It’s Your Turn

As marketers, we need to think of ways to satisfy this growing need; and, fortuitously, consumers are willing to share the burden.

Here is my next prediction: Companies that do not change quickly will soon find themselves out of favor with a big segment of the market.

The Silent Killers for Brands Aren’t What Marketers Expect

What marketers expect is that we marketers must address human emotion when building out a customer experience. How we address these emotions can make the difference between brands that survive chaotic times and those that do not.

As much as we like hitting the snooze button when those wake-up calls come in “the morning after,” the results can often turn the best dreams into nightmares.

Recall the day after the 2016 presidential election, when thousands took to the streets, protesting and chanting “Not My President”? One of the many insights that came out of those protests was the fact that many of those protesting had not even voted. They, like countless other voter-age American citizens, had taken it for granted that their candidate was so far ahead in the polls that they didn’t have to make the effort to stand in line and fill out the bubbles on their ballot. One vote won’t change the outcome, right?

Complacency not only elected a president who has very likely been the most controversial and least respected of any U.S. president in decades, but it contributed to a change in the American psyche. People seem to be more outspoken about their opinions on politics and politicians than in the past, and don’t seem to hold back their corresponding emotions much, either. Many select their tribe, based upon posts and likes that support their now very vocal positions on issues and the people behind them. The lines seem to be drawn and few seem to be willing to change, or even smudge the boundaries.

The display of emotions around Trump’s election are examples of the human emotions we marketers must address when building out a customer experience. How we address these emotions can make the difference between brands that survive chaotic times and those that do not. As marketers, we are constantly developing programs to keep customers positively charged about our brands — enthusiastic, excited, engaged, and delighted.

What we don’t take time to do much is assess our own emotions about our customers.

  • Are we as excited about them as we want them to be about us?
  • Are we delighted when we engage with them?
  • Or are we, like many voters in 2016, apathetic and complacent?

These are important questions to ask ourselves. Consumers have learned to not sit quietly, to not take situations for granted, and they have learned to build consensus and communities to support their views and opinions and help others do the same.

This week while visiting Boston, my daughters witnessed voter registration taking place outside the Statehouse — where people were being sworn in as citizens. Voter registration groups did not take for granted that these new citizens would go register on their own and go vote now that they could. They made it easy, simple, and fast to register and join their “tribe” of voters ready for Election Day 2020.

Reverse marketing tactics are key for brands to really engage in mutually beneficial relationships. Consider doing to your own teams what you do with your customers:

  1. Survey Your Marketing, Sales, Customer Care, and All Employees who interact with your customers. Ask them how they feel about customers. Do they enjoy interacting with customers? Do they find it fulfilling to fill a need? Close a deal? Exceed expectations? Why and Why not? Are customers appreciative, grateful, or just going through the actions? These answers will tell you a lot about your customers’ attitudes toward your brand.
  2. Create Branding Campaigns for Your Staff. Communicate the emotional value you offer customers to your staff, so they can strive to create similar emotional outcomes in each interaction. And then create experiences that create those same experiences for employees. Delight your employees. Trigger those feelings of dopamine and oxytocin that create a sense of belonging. When you love your tribe, you love to get others to join to validate your place in that world. If this weren’t so, religions wouldn’t have missionaries who succeed in bringing others to the fold.
  3. Offer Loyalty: What are you doing to keep your employees loyal? It goes beyond just delighting them with ping pong tables, draft beer, on-site laundry, and other perks. What are you doing to create communities that make them feel secure and appreciated, like the communities you create online to make your customers feel like they belong to something really cool that other brands do not offer? Fun, collaborative, and rewarding communities matter and they make us want to stay with that community, despite attractive offers.

While we are building relationships with our staff and customers, keeping the staff our customers learn to love is critical! That seriously needs to take priority over customers’ loyalty, as losing one staff member who 10 customers depend on and love to work with could lose us 10 loyal customers. Not a small loss.

Complacency not only elects unlikely candidates, it kills brands. Just these three simple steps can create the kind of engagement between employees and your customers that take price and competitors out of the equation at the same time!

The Truth Is, There Is No Truth — Let Alone in Advertising

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally.

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally. Or we didn’t experience the results firsthand that a customer claims to have experienced from a company’s products or services.

So can we really trust or should we believe what others “report” to us? The answer to this is widely debated on Facebook and news stations as we face all of the “fake” news we get daily, and as we become more aware that so much of what we see and hear is just that: fake. We are finally being made aware of the fact that many propogandists will overlay someone’s face on another person’s video image to “fake” that someone in the public eye said something harming that, in most cases ,they never did. Scary. We are also learning that so much of the posts we see on social media — Facebook, especially — were created by propogandists and posted to our accounts because of the demographic profile Facebook created from our past posts and those of the “friends” connected to us. We’re really starting to get it, whether we face it or not.

One thing we marketers need to also face is the how the “truth” we are putting out there is being received. As consumers are starting to watch the “news” and read social media with a different lens than before, we need to look at how that new lens affects their vision for our marketing messages. Here’s just two examples.

Testimonials

These have been the foundation of marketing since the beginning of time. They’re claims from one customer at a time about how products or services changed their worlds. We’ve used them, believing prospects will believe them if we attach them to a real person. Perhaps not so much anymore. Celebrity endorsements have been decreasing in influence rapidly for the past few years. We all know celebrities can be bought for the public appeal of their personal image, and that many are willing to put their mouth when the money is, and so these appeals don’t influence our purchasing choices like they used to. The same is holding true for ordinary people testimonials. Especially as more brands offer to reward us for posting reviews about them.

A testimonial is only true for the person speaking, and at the time they wrote the testimonial. Their truth may not apply to someone else, and it may not be true anymore, due to subsequent experiences with the brand involved. Testimonials can also backfire, as the prospects will expect to be just as delighted as those customers they believed, and the reality is that this is not likely the way it will go. Ever. As all customers’ needs, expectations and experiences are as different as the individual using the product or service. We see and judge life’s experiences through lenses of our experiences, culture, expectations, social situations, life’s challenges, and so much more.

Product Claims

Time to drop the hype. We’re so used to making self-proclaimed endorsements of our competitive advantages, product quality, results generated, and so much more. If anything has come out of the “fake” news movement, it’s that we are learning not to believe hype and claims that can’t be substantiated. We marketers need to start writing more like journalists were trained to write decades ago, before they cared more about ratings than news or truth. When I attended to journalism school as an undergraduate, our work was thrown out if we used adjectives or made suggestions that were not attributed to quotable sources. This needs to become the new norm for marketers, many of whom were raised to use big words, project big claims, and spark curiosity, and then explain later.

Many consumers today have become jaded, skeptical, and cautious to trust, and for good reason. They have been bombarded with “fake news,” “fake promises,” fake claims,” and more “fake” truths. Generation Xers, Millennials, and the up-and-coming generations are learning not to believe more than believe. There are a lot of reasons for them not to trust what they hear or see. TV and digital and print news can be manipulated with Photoshop and other special effect tools. Video and comments from spokespeople can easily be taken out of context and, in reality, we are learning to expect that they are more often than not.

What Marketers Can Do About Truth

Marketers can overcome this jaded vision of the world and brands in business today by addressing truth firsthand. You can do this by creating more interaction between your brand and consumers online and in the real world. Let customers experience what you are all about — your products, your persona, your values — more than reading your carefully crafted statements. Apple’s stores are a great example of how this can be done. The atmosphere is open and engaging, not stiff and overwhelming with merchandise and sales signs popping out in front of you at every corner. They simply ask how they can help, educate you about their technology and your options, and let you explore and experience the products for as long you want to, in an engaging, no hype, no hard-sell setting.

In short, “truth” is not in the written word or video snippets, but in the actual experience of each customer. Creating personal realities that are meaningful and relevant should be every marketing team’s top goal.

3 Reasons Why Achieving Organic Search Success Has Gotten Harder

If you think that it has gotten harder to achieve organic search success, you may be right. Most marketers recognize organic search’s tremendous value as an acquisition channel and focus on optimizing for organic search.

If you think that it has gotten harder to achieve organic search success, you may be right. Most marketers recognize organic search’s tremendous value as an acquisition channel and focus on optimizing for organic search.

Even if you are following all of the guidelines and work hard to keep your site in tune with the current demands, you may still be watching your results falter or not grow at levels that had once been easy to achieve. The rewards are still there, but organic search success has gotten harder.

This article will explore three reasons why, despite best efforts, achieving significant search traffic gains may be eluding you. The reasons are structural, outside your site: increased competition for top organic listings; more screens, each with its own demands; and changing consumer expectations.

More Players, Smaller Field of Play

Early adopters of search were richly rewarded. Many online businesses that recognized the potential of search cashed in by optimizing their sites.

At the same time, the search industry landscape was more diverse than it is today. The technology was also much less complex and easier to game. Although there were more search engines to consider in building an optimization plan, there were more baskets to put eggs in.

As the landscape changed and Google became increasingly dominant, search marketers had to focus their efforts toward pleasing an ever-more-sophisticated algorithm. The unfortunate side effect is that a mistake or a misbegotten tactic could and would catastrophically impact a site’s results. Add in that it was no longer a secret that search really works, and the number of businesses seeking those top results grew exponentially.

With the continued growth of e-commerce and the stumbling of bricks-and-mortar retailers, such as Sears, retail has rushed into the organic space. The increased competition of more players seeking the top spots on just a few engines has increased the amount of effort that must go into successful search optimization. This view assumes that the site owner is making all the right moves to meet the improving technology. In short, it is harder — net technology advances.

More Screens, Less Space

The growth of mobile and its impact on organic search cannot be underestimated.

Previous posts have discussed mobile rankings and Google’s own move to a mobile-first index.

Mobile makes the work and the chances for success harder for several reasons. Many sites are still developed in ways that make them mobile hostile – too-small text, color schemes that are hard to see on smaller screens, buttons that are too small, layouts that are difficult to maneuver around.

In moving to a mobile-first index and ranking scheme, Google has upped the ante for search success. Additionally, by rewarding content creation in the algorithm, site owners must balance the demands of the small screen and content presentation. The real downer is that on the small screen, the organic listings are pushed below the fold, off the screen, more readily.

With the recent announcement of new Gallery and Discovery ad formats, it remains to be seen how much screen real estate will be available for organic results. Being No. 1 never had greater valance than it does today.

Consumer Expectations Drive Search

Consumers drive search — they always have. Gone are the days of clunky keyword-stuffed copy (written to impress an algorithm, not a human). Deceptive titles and descriptions are a thing of the past.

Their role has been reaffirmed. Consumers are savvy enough to click away from a page that does not meet the expectation stated in the search result. Google’s use of snippets is a measure of how well or how poorly your page matches user queries. If Google is always pulling a snippet and never using your description, then it may be time to rethink your scheme for writing metadata.

As consumers grow more demanding, it is essential that we, as marketers, provide what they want. As consumer wants change, so we, too, must change.

Change is hard. And today, it is harder than ever to create and execute organic search strategies that work.

Emotions Matter — Why Your B2B Marketing Must Connect Before It Can Convert

Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant and thought to yourself, “Yes! This just feels right.” If so, then the rest of this article won’t come as any surprise to you; though if you’re like many marketers, your B2B marketing may be overlooking the value and importance of that “it just feels right” moment.

Have you ever walked into a store or restaurant and thought to yourself, “Yes! This just feels right.”

If so, then the rest of this article won’t come as any surprise to you; though if you’re like many marketers, your B2B marketing may be overlooking the value and importance of that “it just feels right” moment.

We’re Not All Coolly Rational Consumers

We may like to think that B2B prospects are all like Mr. Spock — coolly rational and unswayed by their emotions, but research and our own experience disproves that at nearly every turn.

Like a Rock, Best-in-Class, or Ram Tough

Credit: Wikimedia Commons by Colin

Lets look for a moment at pickup trucks. There is a large group of buyers who would never consider a Ford pickup truck. And a similarly large group who wouldn’t be caught dead in a truck sporting a Chevrolet or GMC nameplate.

They can’t both be right about the superiority of their chosen brand; which, setting aside functional differences — like towing capacity being more important than torque or vice versa — leaves only the emotional component of the brand.

(My choice of pickups as an example isn’t random. Truck buyers are reputed to be among the most brand-loyal consumers on the planet, though there is some evidence that this is changing.)

Connecting Without Smothering

Back to B2B marketers: For us, the trick is in making an emotional connection without making your case emotionally. We can’t “chew the scenery,” so to speak. We simply don’t have an audience that is as passionate about our services as consumers are about trucks or chocolate or puppies and kittens in need of forever homes … But we do need to make sure we’re connecting with our audience on a level other than “just the facts, ma/am.”

Even with the necessity of a more restrained approach, we do need to create opportunities for our prospects to feel their decision rather than just think it. How do we do this?

Well, there are a lot of tools that can work. Developing personas for your buyers and doing market research into their needs can help you understand motivation and pain points around which emotional connections can be built. Also important are things like testimonials from existing clients and case studies about success stories from people “just like me” who have used your service to profitable effect.

Whose Language Are You Speaking?

Perhaps most importantly, it requires language and presentation that is comfortable to the prospect. Are you speaking their language? Have you met them where they live?

At some point, prospects will want to hear you geek out on the minutiae of your offering — the details and features that make it a better choice. But first, they want to feel the benefits. How does this benefit me? How does this reduce my risk? How is this preferable to doing nothing?

This isn’t an easy goal to achieve consistently, but one worth striving for. Because if you can bring that ever-so-subtle smile to your prospect’s face that says, “Yeah, this is going to work,” you’ve got a winning formula.

Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words

You remember those lists of powerful words we marketers use to use to guide copywriting for short-term response and sales? You remember that persuasive copy. “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free.”

You remember those lists of powerful words we marketers use to use to guide copywriting for short-term response and sales? You remember that persuasive copy. “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free.”

And for a long while, those words printed in bright big bold graphics worked. They got response and they drove sales, and helped launch many direct marketing careers and agencies.

Just as many of you might remember building “urgent” direct mail copy, you might also remember that point of diminishing returns from using all of those “powerful” words. And the point at which your CEO and board of directors were not so okay with that average 1% response of direct marketing campaigns.

Things have changed. And they are not going back. We’re just not in an era where smartphones rule our lives, we are in a perpetual era where smart consumers rule markets, and aren’t believing those brand claims or promises any more. They’re also not caring if it is the very last seat on that flight at that price. They’ve heard it before, and seen it not be real, so they don’t care and they don’t respond.

Smart consumers don’t believe marketing any more. We’ve used those lines way too long and not delivered on promises we’ve made. Conscious choices are built upon values, personality and giving natures of brands. Brands that give back to the earth, people and causes don’t use price discounts or sales gimmicks to drives sales. And never will have to. Apple, Patagonia, Starbucks and Newman’s food products, are just a few of the “feel good” brands that people purchase, regardless of infrequent sales discounts and promotions. They don’t have to lower prices to make people feel good about purchasing from them.

That last statement above is the “key” to copywriting and overall marketing that works in today’s Smart Consumer environment — copy, stories, social and live engagement — that makes us feel good about ourselves and our role in helping drive good, amid the daily chaos we experience and witness.

Marketing copy strategies that align with “feeling good” address many aspects of human nature and what really influences us to change our behavior. It’s no longer about the words we use to influence behavior, it’s about the values we project, our brands, and the values of those we want to do business with us.

Here are some examples of how we can persuade with good values vs. just “good “ words:

Good Character

One of the five drivers of human happiness, according to Jonathan Haidt’s book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” is being part of something that does good in the world. This new generation of customers not only seeks to do good in the world themselves, they seek to purchase from and align with brands that also do good in the world. If a brand just makes good products for good prices, that is not good enough for many consumers. According to Cone Communications research, more than 90% of consumers want to purchase from brands that give back to humanitarian or environmental causes, and around 80% of consumers will switch brands if their current brand is not aligned with their same “do good” values and able to show a direct impact, monetarily. (Opens as a PDF)

Good Place

We are wired to seek safety, comfort and security, no matter how successful we are, or powerful we may think we are. Its all part of the “survival of the fittest” mentality our species adheres to daily — socially, financially, physically and emotionally — whether we admit or acknowledge it. Brands that help consumers find and secure a “good” place in life are brands that win trial and secure loyalty, no matter what they are selling. What is the security that your brand provides? What is the comfort you deliver? These are the things you should write about in your content, your social posts, your marketing campaigns, even your packaging. All those promises of “best” quality, service, price, value are meaningless. We’ve all been there, done that, and now we want more. We want to feel safe and made that way by a brand we trust and a brand that has our same values.

Good Product Values

Of course, good products matter, too. Patagonia sold around $156 million in products with an ad that said “Don’t buy this jacket.” Instead, its call to action was to let customers repair their current jackets and save resources from the earth and money for themselves. However, this was so aligned with its customers’ core values, people bought those jackets and other products, anyway. But ads that promote your values really work best when your product has value, too. So as you promote the values you cherish for brand character, you need to promote what you do to add value to your products or services. Do you base your production protocols upon quality management processes and systems that have been certified by third parties? Do you add value in ways that others’ don’t, such as added features, warranties, extended return periods and so on? How can you communicate what goes into your product development that stands out from competitors’ products?

Words that communicate the above “good values” are the “words” that will stand out and help secure new sales, new levels of loyalty and new referrals. In marketing today, talk or “words” are cheap. Values drive value beyond price and imagination.

Brands Take Stands: How Nike Just Did It Better Than Ever

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands. The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics.

Nike just did it. Other brands are doing it. And overall, social media just got a bit more political, as brands take stands.

The “2018 Edelman Earned Brand” study (opens as a PDF) was just released that shows nearly 65% of consumers around the world now buy on belief, or buy from brands that have similar beliefs as they do, about morals, values, social issues and politics. These consumers state that they will choose, switch or boycott a brand accordingly. And important to note, the number of customers saying this is how they choose and align loyalty went up 13% from 2017. While this was a global study, the increase in just the U.S. was 12% points, year-over-year.

Referring to these customers as “Belief-Driven” buyers, Edelman’s research points out that they are the majority of buyers in all marketers and across all age groups surveyed in this recent global survey. And surprisingly, the biggest increase in belief-driven purchasing choices is among the 55 years and older group. Just FYI, the increase in Millennials was 9%, in GenX, 14% and Baby Boomers, 55%.

Yet when Nike took a recent stand by featuring Colin Kaepernick in a new ad, social media lit up with videos and photos of consumers burning their expensive Nike shoes, and posts about how Nike “Just Blew It.” For a minute, Nike’s stock value dropped. Note: for a minute. Days after the fury and flurry died down in the media waves, the stock value soared 4% to an all-time high, and online sales the weekend the ad hit shot up 31%. Hard to believe when following all of the hate posts on Facebook and Twitter.

So what does all of this mean?

Psychologically, here are some insights about human behavior:

  • When someone pushes our buttons and make us angry, we react. Sometimes we erupt and kick the wall and tell the world what just happened to us in impassioned conversations online and offline. And then, in a few hours, we calm down and sometimes we start to see both sides of an issue and relax our position. But most importantly, we forget about it and focus on the next situation that pushes a button deep inside us. Think about it. Are you still boycotting a brand that made you upset 10 years ago? And do you even remember why it did?
  • Popularity and familiarity trump us all. Donald Trump always said any headline is a good headline, as people forget the bad deeds but they don’t forget your name. His name “awareness” certainly seems to have helped build his brand in many ways. And it’s true for how we vote and purchase. We go with what is familiar to us, even if we have some concerns. You hear it all of the time, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”
  • Consumers view brands as not just manufacturers of goods and providers of services, but as “movements.” Tom’s Shoes started this new genre of commerce with his movement to give away a pair of shoes for every shoe purchased. This promise enables him to sell shoes that cost $9 to manufacture for around $70 or more, and built his revenue to more than $20 million in just three years.

Consumers care about products and they care about your movement and they want you to take a stand and tell them about it. According to Edelman’s report, 60% of the 8,000 consumers worldwide responding to this survey believe that brands should make it easier for consumers to see what their values and positions are when they are about to make a position, even at the point of sale. Whole Foods grocers is a good example of this. Throughout their stores, they have information about recycling, how to reduce your carbon imprint; they have environmentally friendly bags, products, and engage customers in educational events that build their whole healthy self and preserve their world at the same time. It’s a movement, not just a store.

The time is coming for brands to take a stand. Social issues and political issues have become mainstream among all generations. Consumers are taking a stand about gun control, government issues and social issues; and so, too, are their kids. Look at the data above from Edelman’s 2018 brand report. You’re damned if you do (for a day or two per Nike’s stock value changes), and you’re damned if you don’t. And you’re likely damned a lot longer if you don’t take a stand, as the data shows us consumers will purchase from those that have their same values. So if you don’t’ have values and communicate those values, you end up on the neutral line and today, that just won’t cut it.

Determine the values that best reflect your brand. Are they socially, environmentally or politically oriented? What are the values your brand aligns with, what is your stand? How will you communicate your stand and, most importantly, how will you engage your customer and partner communities with these values?

In real estate? How are you supporting homeless programs in your community?

Women’s clothing retail shop? How are you empowering underprivileged women to rise above?

You get it. Now go get on it!