B2B Appeals that Motivate Action


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Napoleon Bonaparte said, “There are two levers for moving men: interest and fear.” These are indeed the two master motivators, and all others are subset of these behavioral drivers. Because we humans can be motivated in a surprising variety of ways, using the correct incentive (including message and offer) for a specific audience is a big factor in good marketing. Following are examples of appeals that have proven successful for different types of B2B offers.
  • Greed – Almost everyone is susceptible to greed to some degree. While greed is usually thought of as a negative emotion, it is really just the desire to get a better deal than the next person, or to enhance our position at a low cost. Copywriters who effectively push the greed button sell a lot of products.
  • Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) – When using the FUD formula, you are selling from the negative perspective. Instead of saying “If you buy our product, these good things will happen to you,” FUD copy implies, “If you don’t buy our product, these bad things will happen to you.” Fear has been used in financial marketing to persuade prospects that their current investments are suspect, and in the computer industry to convince prospects that their current technology has shortcomings that leave them in a weak competitive posture.
  • Curiosity – This appeal is most effective with so-called early adopters of products. Some people have a strong need to own, or at least know about, the newest products and services. If you have the task of generating leads for a new product or service, create the curiosity in your advertising by withholding a little information. A curiosity-seeker who is satisfied does not respond to advertising.
  • Anticipation – As noted marketing expert Jeff Walker explains, your prospect is always looking for ways to ignore your marketing message and you need to construct your message in such a way to override this impulse. Anticipation accomplishes this by getting the prospect excited about something that is coming in the future. Like curiosity, anticipation is a powerful inducement to early adopters.
  • Status or Exclusivity – People who have children know this as the reverse psychology approach. As soon as you tell your child he can’t have something, his interest in the forbidden object increases dramatically. Likewise, for many individuals, the desirability of a product rises in direct proportion to its difficulty of attainment.
  • Time Pressure – This appeal works better in a supporting role. Time pressure creates a sense of urgency by saying “buy me today because it will cost you more tomorrow” or “only the first 200 respondents can take advantage of this offer.”
  • Convenience – Most people (including me) feel a great deal of time pressure in their daily lives. Marketers who show people how their products and services will save them time and/or make their lives easier (at work or at home) have a significant selling benefit.
  • Financial – The financial hot buttons of your prospects can be pushed two ways: first, by demonstrating how your product or service will save money, and second, by demonstrating how your product or service will help generate more income.
  • Learning – Many people have a thirst for knowledge and this can be a strong appeal in your promotional copy. They want information on how to do their jobs better, make their companies more profitable, and have a successful business and home life.

One important aspect to remember about the two master motivation levers: While fear can be a strong short-term motivator, interest (positive rewards) is usually more effective for long-term changes. This is equally true whether you are trying to get your children to do the right things, or to get your prospects to make a purchase.

Note that this content is excerpted from my new book, Winning B2B Marketing.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Ryan
Christopher Ryan is CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, a B2B marketing consulting firm and interim/fractional CMO. He blogs at Great B2B Marketing and you can follow him at Google+. Chris has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.


  1. Chris, you made very good points on interest and fear as motivators and how they are used as incentives for marketing and purchasing. I agree the scare tactic is effective for short-term, but if you want to make a more positive long-term impact consider offering your prospects a carrot instead of the fear motive.Excellent blog!

    THanks, Josh


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