|Source: The Marketing Practice and B2B DecisionLabs|
One of the most difficult challenges facing B2B marketers is creating demand generation messages that will persuade potential buyers to act. The challenge is particularly daunting when marketers are attempting to motivate action by a "new" prospect - one their company hasn't already done business with.
Business professionals are inundated by dozens of business-related marketing messages every day, and the reality is they ignore virtually all of those messages.
For example, some recent data indicates that the average open rate for B2B marketing emails is between 15% and 20%. But the average click-through rate is only about 3%, which means that about 85% of the emails that are opened aren't persuasive enough to motivate action.
Clearly, B2B marketers need to improve the effectiveness of their early-stage (a/k/a "top of funnel") demand generation messaging. This improvement is vital because consistently acquiring new customers is essential for revenue growth at most B2B companies.
Fortunately, recent research by The Marketing Practice, B2B DecisionLabs and Dr. Nick Lee, a behavioral scientist and professor of marketing at the Warwick Business School, has identified three concrete steps B2B marketers can take to increase the effectiveness of their early-stage demand generation messaging.
How the Study Worked
This research was in the form of an "experiment," which is a research method that is frequently used in the behavioral sciences. The study involved 500 B2B professionals who were involved in making purchase decisions for their company.
The objective of the study was to test what combination of three messaging variables was most effective for early-stage demand generation. The three messaging variables were:
- The use of emotional vs. rational language to describe the business challenge and solution benefits
- The use of unquantified vs. quantified statements of business impact
- The use of contrast. In this study, contrast means describing both the current implications of the business challenge and the future benefits of the solution.
To test various combinations of these messaging variables, the researchers created five simulated early-stage demand generation emails.
- Email 1 - Emotional language-unquantified description of business impact-no contrast
- Email 2 - Emotional language-quantified description of business impact-no contrast
- Email 3 - Rational language-quantified description of business impact-no contrast
- Email 4 - Emotional language-quantified description of business impact-contrast included
- Email 5 - Rational language-quantified description of business impact-contrast included
Note: The report describing the study includes the actual text of these simulated emails. This text provides a richer picture of the messaging variables, so I encourage you to read the full report.
Each of the simulated emails was read by 100 study participants. The researchers then asked each study participant several "attitude" questions. Participants rated their reaction to the email on a scale of 1-9. The researchers also asked each participant "recall" questions to measure how well they remembered the information they had read.
And the Winner Was . . .
The research revealed that Email 4 - quantified emotional with contrast - outperformed all other email versions along several important dimensions. Specifically, this email:
- Made the business problem described in the email feel more impactful to the relevant study participants
- Caused the relevant study participants to feel a greater sense of urgency to address the business problem described in the email
- Made the relevant study participants more likely to say they are willing to investigate potential solutions for the business problem addressed in the email
Email 4 also outperformed the other email versions in terms of memorability. Ninety-seven percent of the study participants who read Email 4 accurately remembered the business problems described in the email, and 90% answered all of the recall questions correctly.
The research also revealed that Email 3 - quantified rational, no contrast - was the least effective email version tested. This finding is important because based on my experience, this is probably the most prevalent type of messaging used for early-stage demand generation.
One final point needs to be made. This study used simulated emails to test the effectiveness of different types of messaging. But the findings of the study are also relevant for other types of content used primarily for early-stage demand generation.
So for example, if you are writing a blog post or an article for a third party publication, or if you are creating an infographic, and if your primary objective is early-stage demand generation, you will want to include emotionally evocative language, specific numbers that quantify business impacts, and contrast.