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Customer behaviour and the principles of persuasion | B2B Marketing

Giuseppe Caltabiano, head of content strategy for EMEA and APAC at Contently explains some of the psychological principles that drive people to engage in your marketing.

As marketers, it’s critical to understand and to apply psychological principles, including how users make decisions and what triggers them into action. Whether you’re writing punchy content, making an existing site more intuitive or building a new digital experience, it should be aligned to a good understanding of how users make decisions.

B2B Marketing sat down with Giuseppe Caltabiano, head of content strategy for EMEA and APAC at Contently, who will be speaking at B2B Marketing’s industry conference, Ignite 2018, this week. He shared some of the psychological principles behind buyer behaviour.

Buyers don’t just send signals they look for them too

“Because we live in an age of information overload, we don’t always have the time to process all of the information at our disposal, or make informed decisions. This overload makes us look for signals that help us decide whether we want to do something. Persuasion expert, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, calls these signals ‘shortcuts’,” explains Giuseppe.

Enabling these shortcuts through design and content will trigger people to read your content, engage with your site and ultimately absorb your message.

Here’s Giuseppe’s overview of the principles at play:

Status Quo:

 People generally prefer status quo, even if they say (or their actions suggest) they’re open to new ideas. If your company’s products or services require customers to venture out of their comfort zone, explore risk-free mechanisms that allow customers to experience them. Meal box companies like Blue Apron, Plated, and HelloFresh do this by offering free meals to new customers.


 People generally feel indebted to those who do something for them without asking for anything in return. Simply put, the more you give to your customers, the more they’ll be willing to give back to you. Some B2B software companies do this by automatically extending free trials or giving customers exclusive access to new product features. For example, Freshbooks has been known to send automated free trial extension emails to users who haven’t purchased after initial trials.

Social Proof and Acceptance:

We generally value opinions and ideas from people like us, and we feel greater compulsion to act when we see others like us taking action. Social proof comes in a lot of forms: customer case studies, testimonials, reviews, and social engagement, to name a few. For example, MarketingProfs applies this principle on its new membership page by pointing out that more than 600,000 marketers have signed up, motivating the reader to become part of that group, as well.

Scarcity and Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO):

 When we fear that something is scarce, we feel compelled to act – buying, stockpiling or experiencing that thing before it’s gone. This is an incredibly powerful psychological principle that marketers have used for years to drive action. By using limited time offers or showing consumers what their friends are purchasing, you can create a sense of urgency to buy. Amazon’s Deal of the Day is a perfect example. It hits on both scarcity (only so many deals are available) and FOMO (you only have so much time). Same with airline companies that show how many seats are left at specific price points.

Fogg’s Behaviour Model: Motivation, ability, and triggers

Dr. BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and has done some amazing research on behaviour design. Behaviour design is where psychology, design, and technology meet – a systematic way to influence the desired behaviour.

Fogg’s model explains that three elements must come together at the same time for a behaviour to occur: motivation, ability, and trigger. If one of those elements is missing, no action will be taken.

We must design our content to increase motivation and ability to the point at which a trigger (or in the case of marketers ‘a call to action’) will be successful.

If the customer is shown the call to action before their motivation and ability reach sufficiently high levels, they won’t be spurred into action. Without a trigger, buying behaviour will not happen.

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