Use B2B Buyer Scenarios as the Cure for FOMU


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Every B2B company has stories they can use in content marketing programs. The challenge is in how you frame them within your marketing content as helpful scenarios relevant to your buyers, to help them visualize solving the problem.

If you haven’t been under a rock, you’ve likely heard about The Jolt Effect – Matt Dixon and Ted McKenna’s latest book. It’s based on extensive research that highlights the lack of confidence buyers have and how they suffer from a severe case of FOMU (fear of messing up). Our content must address this very human experience if we’re to help buyers advance and choose to solve the problem. In a time when more than half of buying journeys end in no decision, humanizing the experiences we provide buyers is imperative.

Think about why you read a novel or see a movie. You want to escape or experience somewhere else for a bit. This “narrative transport” relies on the suspension of disbelief. If the novel or movie is well structured, the story moves you to believe its veracity for the time you’re involved.

With a novel, this means you can visualize the story in your head. Have you ever read a book and then gone to see the movie they made from it? If you did so in this order — book, then movie — it’s likely that the actors playing the characters don’t match the picture in your head. Why? Because you visualized them based on your worldview.

With marketing content, this is one reason knowing your audience is so important. In a perfect scenario, your content should intersect with their worldview. Which, from a marketing perspective, are the problems, issues, and challenges that your products and solutions address based on a segment of your buyers and their roles, responsibilities, and industry (aka a well-built, up-to-date buyer persona).

Scenarios Help Your Content Get Up Close and Personal

Marketing content is very evolved from a high-level perspective. We can list the litany of attributes that make our products worthwhile; discuss the features; and use the phrases we think our prospects want to hear about increasing efficiency, productivity, and revenues; or decreasing costs, time and missed opportunities. But that high-level perspective just keeps us at a distance.

The reason scenarios are important is that they take our content from 30,000 to three feet to help us get up close and personal. Scenarios don’t just help our buyers understand the concepts we’re sharing but relate to them by being able to visualize what they might mean in practice.

At the three-foot view, our buyers can get their hands dirty. They can transition from theory to what that might look like in practice. Like a “visual” try-it-on-for-size experiment.

I define a scenario as:

    The depiction of an experience your buyers or customers might have that relates to the problem your offerings resolve. Focus a scenario on a situation that exists either before, during (implementation), or after solving the problem.

Why Most Case Studies Don’t Qualify as Scenarios

You may be thinking, hey, we have these… sounds like our case studies.

Case studies typically follow the formula of discussing the problem, highlighting the company’s expertise and products applied to solve it, and then sharing results.

The reason they usually aren’t great scenarios is that they paint a high-level picture and make your company and products the hero of the story.

Imagine the power if, instead, the case studies you create invite and allow your buyer to visualize themselves going through the experience as the hero. There’s also no reason your company can’t look good in these — even better than you think — if you embrace the opportunity to give your buyers and customers the starring role.

Help Your Buyers Wade Into Solving the Problem

But let’s get back to scenarios. The way to get to the scenario level is to dive deeper into the details. Do you know how your prospects experience the issue? By knowing just what their pain points are, why they persist, and what they cost (not necessarily money but outcomes) you can create scenarios that address those concerns directly.

Let’s say that you think the problem is they’re hesitant because they think user adoption and training will be too difficult and disruptive. You can create a content asset that makes the point about why your solution and training process is easier and then insert a scenario that illustrates the point. Put a person like your prospect in the lead role, overcoming that obstacle. Give them an in-the-trenches example of how to do so.

    In preparation for implementing the platform, Chris had no trouble “reading the room.” He could feel the resistance and skepticism from teams across the company. He’d heard via the company grapevine that many end users didn’t want to change. They just weren’t seeing the path to the value he knew was possible. This wasn’t unexpected. It’s something he’d been concerned about while researching which platform to buy. But he also knew that making this change successfully would transform productivity across the company. If the rollout drew wide adoption. Chris was counting on the vendor’s approach to onboarding to help them get there.

    To get the implementation underway, he recruited power users from teams whose leaders had come on board most enthusiastically, voting to choose this platform. By taking a train-the-trainers approach, the power users drove adoption across their teams in three months. Chris felt validated but knew it wasn’t enough. To gain the results this change promised, he needed wider adoption…

    He invited the leaders from those teams to share the jumps in productivity, bottom-line impact, and increased morale during the company’s all-hands meeting. By the end of the week, six more teams requested training and the rollout continued to gain momentum. By Q3 there were only a few outliers left and they were coming around.

As you can see, scenarios don’t need to be novels. You can effectively illustrate them in several paragraphs and include them in articles, eBooks, customer success stories, or a minute or two in webinars, videos, and podcasts. In fact, you can use multiple scenarios in one content asset around the information you’re sharing to build the story — and your buyer’s momentum.

Note the structure of the example above. It starts with a problem, provides a solution but introduces conflict because it’s not a full solution, and then shows the next effort to finally achieve the outcome. It’s a mini-story.

Scenarios must be realistic. Everyone who’s ever rolled out a platform knows it’s not a slam dunk — not usually. There are always hiccups along the way. It takes longer than we think. But success is possible. That’s what you want your buyer to see. That they won’t “mess up” — and you’ll help them get there.

Scenarios Serve as Anchors for B2B Buyers

Using scenarios is a bold move. It takes work and creativity firmly grounded in the reality of your buyers and customers. This means you must know them well. And it’s something well-built personas should deliver.

Embedding a scenario with a buyer is like setting an anchor. Dan Ariely wrote about the anchoring effect in his book Predictably Irrational. The gist is that humans use the first piece of relevant information they find to make later judgments. Scenarios are a way to set anchors that draw buyers back to your company as they use your ideas to judge related ideas shared by other vendors. They’ll picture your scenarios in their minds in relation to everything else they read or see about the subject.

Just like you want the novel and the movie to match, your buyers want what they picture to help them visualize what it will look like to solve the problem. If you’re the one who creates that vision, you’ll be more likely to become the vendor chosen to help them get there.

How are you incorporating scenarios into your B2B buyer-driven experiences?


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