What’s more important, the absolute facts and figures or the story?
As I have written many times before on this blog (read e.g. the posts mentioned at the bottom of this article,) I am not a big fan of presenting naked numbers to an non-expert audience. IMHO, most numbers, spreadsheets and charts are meaningless without a value context or without a good story.
“All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, even if it is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better —and look cooler— than $20 no names… and believing it makes it true.”
Though Godin’s examples are originating from B2C use cases, the title statement also holds for B2B marketers. Often we think that, unlike consumers —who tend to make buying decisions based upon impulse, emotion, or even the love for a certain brand— business customers only care about detailed product specs, competitive differentiators, and value-for-money. But business decision-making is often driven by emotion too.
Recently I came across a CEB research paper about the challenges that marketing leaders in large B2B organizations face in structuring a brand differentiation strategy and in addressing their customer’s real needs:
- Branding is important. Most B2B buyers (74%) believe that brands provide business value, although the exact value is hard to quantify by numbers. Only 14% of customers perceive a real difference in a supplier’s offerings and value its difference enough to be willing to pay a premium for it, while 68% of buyers who see a personal value will pay a higher price for a product or service. This personal value includes emotional appeals in areas such as professional benefits, social benefits, emotional benefits, and self-image benefits.
- Stories and personal value messages drive action. 48% of B2B buyers say they have ever wanted to buy a new solution but not spoken up about it because of fear of losing respect and credibility with colleagues (or even their job). To drive action, suppliers must shift their customers’ focus away from the costs and risks of change, and start a conversation with their prospects about personal difficulties, emotional needs and future personal gains.
By telling a story that empathizes with their customers’ real challenges and offers them solutions in a language they can understand, B2B marketers can build trust and support buyers in their choices and decisions.
And, although one should never lie to your audience or present them with content that you definitely know is incorrect, there is nothing wrong with omitting meaningless figures, or framing the facts to better align with the message you’re trying to convey.