The Power of Persuasion: 3 Psychology Principles for B2B Marketers

We only buy products and services from people and companies we trust. However, in today’s marketing-flooded and sales-saturated society, people have an inherent fear of being sold. We’ve all been sold products and services that didn’t live up to the hype. So, as marketers, what are we to do?

The top marketers in both B2B and B2C are psychologists. Not literally, but their understanding of the way humans tick is extraordinary. If you want to get inside the minds of your prospects, there is no better path than through the reptilian/primal brain (aka the “emotional brain”).

In this post, we’ll explore some psychological triggers that gain the instant trust of your prospects, and how you can use them to your advantage.

Mere-Exposure Effect

People tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. The more you’re exposed to something, the more likely you are to trust it.

The Psychology

Exposing your brand, product or service brings it into your prospect’s awareness. Every subsequent exposure turns awareness into attention, moving it up the chain of trust. As it moves further up, the lure compels you until finally the trust is established and a desire for the product is set.

Researchers from Villanova University and Temple University gave college students a series of over 140 plausible statements on random topics the students wouldn’t normally be familiar with; half were true and half were lies. On three separate occasions, with two weeks in between trials, students were asked to assess 60 statements and rate their validity on a scale from 1 (not likely valid) to 7 (very likely valid). Out of the false statements randomly chosen, 20 were repeated to the students on the second and third trials. The findings show the false statements that were repeated were rated as more valid with every subsequent exposure to the statement.

This is often how rumors spread. How do you think ridiculous myths, “Einstein failed his high school math classes,” proliferate?

Mere Exposure Effect in Action

ABM ads can be a great way to provide the necessary high-level awareness. In a study on banner ads, college-aged students were asked to read an article online while banner ads were displayed. In short, the study concluded that the group exposed to the “test” banner rated the ad more favorably than other ads shown less frequently or not at all.

However, there’s a right and a wrong way to do this. This subtle distinction can make or break your success.

Repetition is only effective when people aren’t giving you their full attention. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that repetitive messages increased the persuasiveness of an argument (even a weak argument) but only when low involvement processing occurred. The brain is able to process emotions without conscious cognition. When your message enters your consumer’s full conscious awareness, your argument must be remarkably compelling because addition repetition will diminish the strength of an argument and become pestering.

How can you get your brand, product or service in front of prospects more? How can you stay top of mind?

The Bandwagon Effect

The rate of uptake ideas increases as the number of people adopting the idea increases. In other words, we tend to trust things that are widely adopted by others. This is how fads and trends start.

The phrase “jumping on the bandwagon” comes from American politics in the late 1800s. Dan Rice used his bandwagon and loud music as a ploy to gain attention for his political campaign. As his popularity picked up, more and more people saw his success and wanted a seat on the wagon.

The Psychology

We want to be part of the “in-crowd.” This effect is so strong that people often ignore or even override their beliefs to follow the crowd. Our subconscious tells us, “If everyone else is buying this product, then it must be good. I don’t have to go through the hassle of doing the work to find the best brand.” They are relying on the collective wisdom of the crowd.

Have you ever decided which YouTube video to watch based on how many views it has? Social media makes this trigger extremely effective, showing you exactly how social each piece of media is, helping you easily jump onto the bandwagon.

Though we no longer use physical bandwagons, the effect endures. Many people wait until the last minute to vote when they have a good sense of who is going to win, then vote for that candidate. In a study of British general elections, Ian McAllister and Donley Studlar gathered Gallup exit poll data and found that voters who heard at least one opinion poll before election day (nearly 3 out of 4 people) were significantly more likely to vote for the favored party.

There’s great appeal for being associated with the winning party, be it in politic, sports, business or any other area.

The Bandwagon Effect in Action

Using testimonials and reviews can have a powerful effect on closing business. The more people who are talking about your product, proclaiming its benefits, and/or leaving reviews, the more it will inspire usage in others.

The crowd has the power to direct attention. A study by Harvard’s Michael Luca found that a single star increase on Yelp can boost a local business’s revenue by 5%-9%. In another recent study, two Berkeley economists found that a ½ star increase in ratings on Yelp improved its chances of having all of its seats sell out by 49%.

How can you create the perception (or effect) that everyone is buying your product? How can you prominently display popularity for everyone to see?

Anti-Inference Bias

Tangibly and visibly demonstrating the benefits and advantages of your product or service, can outweigh and overcome double. Hearing something hundreds of times is not nearly as powerful as seeing it once.

The Psychology

People often question the validity of claims based on facts, figures and theories. However, when empirical evidence is introduced, they are converted from doubters into believers. The more dramatic the demonstration, the more awe is inspired, thus the more people will flock to buy the product or service.

The most powerful demonstrations employ drama to make a point – usually risk or astonishment. Take Houdini for example. At a time when every magician was doing a straitjacket escape, he added drama and risk to astonish and win the crowd. Houdini escaped the straitjacket hanging upside down from a crane hundreds of feet in the air, or totally submerged in shark-infested waters. That’s drama! Introduce visual aides to add drama.

Anti-Inference Bias in Action

Have you ever been flipping through the TV channels late at night, only to stop on an infomercial and see kitchen knives cutting through a plank of wood, piece of rock and a hammer (yes, the metal end of the hammer!)? Did you immediately see yourself using those knives? Be honest – did you buy a set? The entire infomercial business lives on this principle.

So, how does this apply to B2B sales and marketing? Demonstrate the power of your product by using your product!

If you sell intent data use your data to find prospects who are in the market for intent data. If your product is good, you will be the first intent vendor to reach out, which demonstrates how well your product works. If you sell an orchestration platform, use your product to orchestrate your sales and marketing efforts to coordinate multi-player interactions and deliver the right message at the right time. If you sell a direct mail solution… you get the point.

How can you shock and awe your audience with a powerful demonstration? What kind of drama can you add?

The job of marketers isn’t getting any easier. Prospects are getting savvier and more resistant to the tactics of the post. However, equipt with the knowledge of psychology and a deeper understanding of the consumer’s mind, you can get the edge back.

Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger
Brandon Redlinger is the Head of Growth at Engagio, the Account-Based Marketing and Sales platform that enables teams to measure account engagement and orchestrate human connections at scale. He is passionate about the intersection between tech and psychology, especially as it applies to growing businesses. You can follow him on twitter @brandon_lee_09 or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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