“Make me care.” It’s the greatest story commandment and the ultimate goal of all B2B content creators. Yet, for all of our best efforts to engage target audiences around our commercial insights, CEB is reporting that many of their CEB Communications members are finding it “increasingly hard to get audiences to pay attention or effectively absorb company messages.”[i]
Today’s best practices (including providing both rational and emotional messaging, using story-telling techniques, sparking emotional responses, and educating the audience) aren’t always enough. Which begs the question: beyond following best practices, getting your segmentation right, and being on the “right channels,” how can we craft messaging to not just reach our audience, but actually connect with them in meaningful ways?
CEB’s piece smartly draws from academic research and discusses the three types of involvement which motivate people to care about a topic. This post considers that approach within the context of the classic HBR article by Jay Conger, ‘the Necessary Art of Persuasion.’[ii]
As Conger’s work suggests, underlying any meaningful communication is establishing credibility and providing evidence to support your message and commercial insight – in other words, formulating the basis of your rational/logical appeal and establishing relevance. Are you a source worthy of your audience’s time, and can you back that up? These two aspects constitute two of Conger’s four essential steps for effective persuasion.
The other two steps are more nuanced and relate to the emotional appeal, specifically the need to frame your message for common ground and connect emotionally. Viewed within this context, the different types of motivation referenced by CEB, which encourage people’s involvement/engagement with issues, inform how you can most effectively approach both of Conger’s emotional components. Each of the three motivational aspects suggests a frame for messages around your commercial insight – framing being the filter or perspective through which you convey that message.
Different types of motivation for involvement:
Value-relevant involvement is typically the most powerful motivator, as it connects with the individual’s deeply-held values and beliefs. Value-based messaging tends to connect far more emotionally than logically, and will largely hold more sway than a countering rational argument based solely on facts.
Outcome-relevant involvement considers your prospect’s vested interests. Positioning your messaging to depict the cost of not acting on your commercial insight, can spur your prospect into action, especially if they ‘have skin in the game.’
Impression-relevant involvement is defined by the degree to which people are motivated to control how others perceive them. Frame messaging to appeal to your prospect’s self-image. People act on and share information because it makes them look good – create messaging that is unique, credible, well-supported, relevant, and smart.
Regardless of which approach might work best for your target segmentation, the importance of self-relevance is clear and therefore the criticality of the individual appeal – that is, messaging tailored to the benefits and outcomes related to the individual business buyer, not simply the organization as a whole. This observation is, in fact, supported by additional CEB research,[iii] jointly conducted with Google, which identifies the lack of messaging for individuals as the biggest missed opportunity currently in B2B marketing. The research is clear and supports what storytellers have long known – content creators must answer storytelling’s greatest commandment: make me care.
*Get inside your prospective buyer’s head and learn what makes them tick on a personal level with our unique Demand Generation Survey process – learn more here.*