A selection from the new book: Different Rules – the B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation
The importance of having a “because”
By Chris Wirthwein
All B2B marketers should be familiar with the famous “Copier Study” conducted by some Harvard professors. It changed our understanding of human behavior. Better yet, it has direct application to B2B marketing. Here’s how it worked…
Professors asked research assistants to cut in front of people waiting to make photocopies at the library. When they spotted a line at the copy machine, a researcher would approach an innocent bystander and ask one of three versions of very specifically worded questions:
Version 1: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
• A request only; no reason
Version 2: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush.”
• A request with a real reason
Version 3: “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies.”
• A request with an immaterial reason
Version 1: 60% of people let the researcher skip the line (no reason)
Version 2: 94% of people let the researcher skip the line (real reason)
Version 3: 93% of people let the researcher skip the line (irrelevant reason)
What can we learn from this? Having a reason improves persuasion. Notice versions 2 and 3 both contain the word because. This simple word – because – seems to make all the difference. Do you provide a “because” for the promises you make in your marketing? Do you give reasons for customers to believe what you say? In B2B marketing you should…in fact, I’d say you must. And don’t be tempted by the data on an “immaterial” reason. Bogus reasons may be good enough to earn you a cut in line at the copy machine. But for the most part, sophisticated B2B buyers know better. And you owe them more than phony reasoning if you intend to make them into long-term, satisfied customers.
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Chris Wirthwein is Senior Director for 5MetaCom, a marketing agency that develops strategies and campaigns to differentiate B2B technical and scientific products. He has authored three marketing books, including his latest, Different Rules: The B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation. You can reach Chris on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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