Think about the last business purchase you made — how did you decide what to buy? Did you weigh all the pros and cons? Did you do a careful cost-benefit analysis or pore over a 50-page analyst report?
No, of course you didn’t. I bet you did two things: First, you simply made a list of the initial options that came to mind, and then you dropped a line to your peers who might have used the products and asked, “Any good?”
We’re influenced by the opinions of people we trust more than even the most polished copy on a beautifully designed website. According to Forrester, 70% of U.S. adults trust brand or product recommendations from family and friends online, while just 10% trust ads on websites and only 9% trust text messages from companies or brands.
While it’s certainly not the whole picture, a good word from someone you know is likely to tip the scale when everything else is relatively even. So, what drives peoples’ desires to tell stories about brands, whether it’s spontaneously or in response to, “Any good?”
I’ll start with a personal example: I recently subscribed to SparkToro, an audience intelligence platform. What initially piqued my interest was that it was launched by Rand Fishkin, CEO and Co-founder of SEO software Moz. But what made me spontaneously tell others about it was the email I got shortly after signing up.
It read: “Saw your SparkToro subscription come through today and wanted to reach out with our thanks. Also visited your site and love the mission to rid the world of crappy B2B content… Oy vey have I felt that pain point myself! If there’s anything we can do to help you/your team get the most from SparkToro, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’re pretty darn fast on email.”
The email was signed off by Rand Fishkin himself – the man of Whiteboard Friday fame, which is a big deal in my world, and author of “Lost and Founder.”
This email showed me two things: He’s looked at my website and he’s taking the time to make a connection.
Now, the cynical part of me knows how this kind of email can be created quickly but the thing is, that doesn’t matter. It gave me a reason to talk about SparkToro to others — and I did.
And that’s the heart of successful word-of-mouth marketing in B2B. Ultimately, it’s the challenge of getting inside your customers’ heads. Why would someone talk about your products and brand, and in what context? What’s in it for them? How can we help power that conversation?
Here are three places to start:
1. Show What You Know
In business, there’s value to being the person others look to because you have all the answers. If I’m talking to a client and casually drop a relevant insight about one of their challenges and namecheck a recent article in “Harvard Business Review,” even though I didn’t write it, I’m going to come off as the trusted advisor who knows the stuff they don’t.
2. Make The Complex Simple & Easy To Remember
It’s one thing to look clever, but it’s another to apply that knowledge in the real world of business.
Most challenges are complex and nuanced. They are dominated by ifs, buts and it depends, and many people simply don’t have the time to work through all the variables. Therefore simplified models tend to be shared so often.
Gartner is a master of this: Its Magic Quadrant presents complex data as a simple graph, showing the relative position of competing technology players within a particular market. Providers who come out on top like to share it far and wide.
3. Offer An Exclusive
Who doesn’t want to be first to get hold of something juicy? It elevates us from a face in the crowd to one of the chosen few.
While most marketers tend to be shy of taking this approach, there’s a lot to be said for giving your best-connected customers privileged access to information, people and experiences.
This is less about the tired old track days and rounds of golf. It’s more about inviting customers into your office to give them a sneak peek of upcoming products, pre-launch beta access or even share content pre-publication to get their thoughts and feedback. They will feel special as a result and be far more inclined to drop your brand into conversation with people they want to impress.
Ultimately, getting people to talk about you is an exercise in truly understanding what they stand to gain. This can be something material, psychological or both. Get this right with your most connected customers and you stand to significantly extend the reach and impact of your brand.
Jason Ball is the founder of B2B marketing agency Considered Content, whose clients include Google, Oracle, AT&T, EY and Microsoft. Ball is also behind Prolific, a first-of-its-kind managed content service created for the B2B sector. He helps ambitious marketers differentiate their brands, generate demand and reduce friction from the buyer journey.