The Key to Blockbuster B2B Tech Sales…Even Though It Killed the Cat
Why do we explore? What drives innovation and technology development?
That same curiosity also drives the hunt for resources to pursue these goals.
If necessity is the Mother of Invention, then curiosity is Mother’s impulse drive.
According to the latest data from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 89% of B2B marketers are using content marketing.
But half of companies consider their overall content marketing approach as just moderately successful. Perhaps that’s because only 57% of B2B marketers believe they have a deep understanding of their audience’s persona.
Scientific and technical companies are great at problem solving. They innovate and translate ideas to design. But many fail to understand their prospects well enough to tailor their marketing campaign to their target customer’s buyer persona.
For sure, they are doing their best. But is it good enough?
Marketers unknowingly use conventional persuasion tactics based on buying psychology when dealing with tech-minded B2B consumers. This alone will fail disastrously without taking into account the mental modes of their target audience.
Scientists, engineers and technologists are the principle B2B consumers of technology-related products and services. Their buying behavior is atypical and requires a very special marketing approach with one trait in particular.
But failing to engage tech-savvy consumers with curiosity may be crushing your sales.
Do a high percentage of your leads disappear before you can convert a sale?
Let’s compare notes and address this.
The Tech Consumer Archetype
We must first consider the tech consumer archetype to define the audience and peek into the different mental modes at work that make up this buyer’s persona.
I know. Been there, done that. But please bear with me a little longer.
Scientists are motivated by discovery in a never-ending pursuit of understanding. They formulate hypotheses, which simply means that they make educated guesses as to how things work or came to be. Guesses are converted to a plan to verify the original hypothesis. Then they apply specialized tools to sample, monitor, analyze and translate their findings into answers.
Stop for a minute to think about how this translates to shopping for a piece of equipment to perform research. The same mental process is at work.
Engineers and technologists are troubleshooters and problem-solvers – always considering ways to improve things or processes. They push the envelope of what’s possible.
Although they are professionally motivated in slightly different ways, scientists, engineers, and technologists are intellectually stimulated by learning and strive to make ordinary life better.
For the purpose of this article, it isn’t necessary to differentiate between scientists, engineers and technologists. I’ll just refer to them collectively as “tech consumers.”
Tech-savvy professionals have similar critical thinking skills that they’ve honed during professional training. They look at the world with a critical eye and mental filters that ask ‘why,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what if.’
They evaluate information in an unbiased, factual, evidence-based manner and categorized it objectively according to relative degrees of value, importance, or credibility.
An intellectual’s mind has four “mental operating modes” – Creativity, Hypothesis, Filtering, and Validation – defined by how they process marketing information. Their minds are constantly switching among these four modes.
Creativity is pretty self-explanatory – wild, unbridled subjective curiosity and associative thinking about what might be possible. Need is the most powerful activator of creativity.
Hypothesis mode is measured objective curiosity – forming concrete ideas, usually with a personal frame of reference about how they can use a product or what it will mean to them professionally.
Filtering is triggered by emotions and intuition. It is highly subjective and can happen very spontaneously making it a marketer’s worse nightmare.
Validation is objective skepticism using critical analysis and logic to assess value and determine if the information they receive is biased or unimportant and should be filtered.
It is through this lens that tech consumers are scrutinizing your company’s content. Layer on top of this picture of mental functioning what we know about persuasion and buying psychology.
Tech consumers are human beings and exhibit all the behaviors typically associated with psychological motivation. Aristotle taught us that persuasion and decision making are influenced by three elements:
- Logos: an appeal to logic involving the head is where cerebral decisions are made through rational thought
- Pathos: an appeal to internal emotions and
- Ethos: an appeal to character, the outward sense of self-expression, or ego
Later, we learned that other factors are involved such as the impulsive, spontaneous intuition from the gut, and sex drive from which we base our least logical decisions.
As we’ve seen, the head is the basecamp for brainiacs where large amounts of logic, reasoning, and analysis take place. Tech consumers are rational thinkers and logos forms the basis of most decisions.
But this is not to say that tech consumers are without emotions or that emotions play little to no role in buying decisions. Logic and emotions simply play roles at different times in the buying journey.
Putting logic and emotion in the appropriate context is an important key to developing effective communications with tech consumers … and ultimately connecting with them.
Successful Marketing to Tech Consumers
The goal of marketers is to find openings in the minds of general audiences to pique their interest and effectively engage them. When they do, prospects become their leads.
In addition to being highly creative, rational thinkers, tech consumers are trained to be skeptical and every consumer purchase is processed through rigorous filters.
But they are also human beings with all the emotions that come with being human.
A marketer’s strategy must be to move the buying process from exclusively cerebral to include an emotional component. This can be challenging with technical products and services.
I mean, really? How emotional can one get about a box of electronics?
But this is where the magic has to happen. Instead of connecting with internal heart-felt emotions (pathos) that are often deeply suppressed, an easier path is to appeal to a prospect’s ethos or outward expression of self or ego.
Prospects are more likely to buy if they can see the benefits as bringing value or an improvement to their life, work, and business.
Value in this context pertains to such things as better work efficiency that translates to more time with family, promotion that translates to increased salary, career advancement or more authority among peers.
Purchasing decisions are the outcome of satisfying the dynamic conflict between curiosity and skepticism.
The key for marketers is to keep prospects engaged by stimulating their curiosity (creativity and hypothesis mental modes) and avoid triggering skepticism (filtering and validation modes).
Filtering and validation mental modes are what keep creativity and hypothesis in check with skepticism.
Traditional product attraction and awareness marketing prematurely engages the tech consumer’s validation mindset or, worse, activates their skepticism filter outright. If that happens, tech consumers will disengage and disappear.
Marketing content must compete against the validation mindset with strong credibility, objective feature and benefit information, and testimonial proof to support claims. Let the prospect be the judge. Don’t force it upon them.
The key is to avoid suspicion and keep prospects engaged in a state of curiosity.
As long as tech prospects remain curious, they will be receptive to your content and open to your company’s way of thinking.
If for any reason, your tech prospects get wind of hype or bias in your content, you run the risk of activating skepticism and derailing the sale.
Poor sales results by most traditional marketing efforts can be traced to marketing messages that invariably activate filtering and fail to get past this gauntlet in the prospect’s mind.
Although a large majority of B2B marketers are using content marketing, roughly half have a weak understanding of their audience’s persona. In turn, this leads to weak sales performance.
This is especially true of the B2B consumer of scientific and technical products and services.
Marketing must evolve to create product penetration into the technical market place. This requires insights that are seldom understood – insights into the mental and emotional battles that wage in a tech consumer’s head as part of the buying process.
The traits that characterize how these intellectual critical thinkers address the problems they are faced with, and how they go about identifying and considering solutions, translate directly to the inner voices they respond to during the buying process.
By their similar analytical and logic-driven mindset, tech consumers share a similar buying psychology.
It’s a delicate balance between stimulating and engaging their curiosity without hitting the skepticism tripwire. If that happens, all bets of a future sale are off.
The good news is that there are indeed strategies and tactics to walk this tight rope and succeed.
I would be interested in your thoughts or experience on this topic. Please leave a comment below.
 Ghanadan, H., Persuading Scientists: Marketing to the world’s most skeptical audience. Rockbench Publishing, Nashville, TN, 2012, 140 p.