In Part 1, we explored how B2B marketers try to read the minds of their buyers. In Part 2, we discuss how they might write those minds.
Stop Mind Reading, Start Mind Writing
As I said, the B2B marketer’s job is not about creating needs. It’s about finding potential buyers who already have a need and convincing them to buy what the marketer is marketing.
Now, these marketers end up going through the exercises outlined in Part 1 – interviewing customers to create buyer personas; collecting data to create profiles of buying behavior – for one simple reason: Buyers aren’t really thinking about their products.
This raises an interesting question: What if, instead of trying to figure out what buyers were thinking, marketers got them to think a certain way?
In other words, why bother reading minds when you could actually write them?
This is one instance where B2B marketers could learn something from B2C marketers, especially those B2C marketers focused on branding.
If you think about the literal meaning of “branding” – burning your mark into the hide of a living animal – you get a jarring but provocative image of what I’m getting at. Marketers need to imprint their brand, their company, their value(s) on the minds of potential buyers.
When buyers are already thinking about you, you don’t need to chase them down. They’ll come to you.
While most would put this advice in the “easier said than done” category, it’s important to recall that what I’m talking about is not impossible. Some B2B marketers have actually pulled this off.
Looked at from a fairly high level, to do effective mind writing, you need to have three things:
- A message/idea you want to inscribe in the minds of your audience.
- An engaging way to package/communicate that message.
- A place to publish/express your message.
Doing this effectively is not easy. It takes time, effort, resources, and skill. And yet, I believe that any organization can do this.
To illustrate, I’ll share a couple modest examples from my own experience.
For many years I worked for a creative staffing firm. One thing that staffing firms – and the recruiting industry more broadly – has to deal with is the perception that recruiters don’t really know much about the work that their clients need done.
One objective of our content marketing was to change this perception (at least about us). For example, a few years back, UX became hot. Unfortunately, as soon as a particular role such as UX becomes hot, hiring managers get bombarded with inquiries from staffing firms offering to “meet your UX needs.” Naturally, most hiring managers in this space, being design or development professionals, become immediately skeptical about a random firm’s ability to do so.
To get around such skepticism, in addition to offering courses on UX (to show that we knew our stuff) and publishing content to our site on UX, we pursued a contributed article strategy focused on getting our message in front of potential customers (and potential recruits).
One example was this article, “Why Your UX Designer Won’t Be the Next Steve Jobs,” which we got published on Wired.com. The beauty here was that, while we had originally published it on their community site, it got moved over to the main site (due to the click-baity title, I assume).
Another example was this article, “What to do when you don’t have UX unicorn money,” published on TheNextWeb.com. In both cases, we were trying to communicate that “we get UX,” and we were trying to do so in places where tech-savvy designers and developers hang out.
More importantly than trying to help people with niche hiring needs, our firm sold services to folks running internal creative services departments at Fortune 500 firms. Once again, people who work for large corporations and need to hire people with very specific technical and creative skills are very skeptical of staffing firms. For instance, these buyers are often looking for people who are not only talented but who are also used to working in large corporate environments. For this reason, they need to work with a staffing partner who gets that and who knows how to effectively navigate what can often be a labyrinthine hiring bureaucracy.
To get the message across that “we work well with Fortune 500 creative services teams,” one thing we did was contribute an article to the blog of the In-House Agency Forum (IHAF), the leading professional association for people working at in-house agencies (as the name implies).
Specifically, we wrote an article entitled, “Three Keys to Leading Strong Teams.” As you can see from the title, we were trying to speak to managers of in-house teams as peers (or at least as people who got it). At the same time, we wanted to impress them with our experience in this area. For that reason, we featured insights from three leaders of in-house teams, one from Harley-Davidson, one from McDonald’s, and one from GE Capital (all of whom were clients).
In other words, we had a specific message, an engaging package, and a highly targeted place(s) to publish it. We were writing minds.
Reading and Writing
Marketing is the art of influencing strangers.
What makes it challenging is the fact that, in addition to being strangers, you rarely have the opportunity to engage them face to face. Instead, you create artifacts (blog posts, videos, white papers, infographics, etc.), release these artifacts into the world, and hope that the right strangers interact with them.
Knowing what someone is (or might be) thinking is the key to influence. For this reason, marketers must be skilled at both mind reading (or mind guessing) and mind writing. Most marketers get this, but generally save the mind writing for a later stage in the process. That is, after someone has begun interacting with their content, they slowly present them with content that is intended to persuade them to a certain course of action.
What I am advocating is that marketers look at ways they can move their mind writing upstream with the aspiration of actually writing minds before they even know they need anything like your thing.
If you feel like you have already done this with your marketing, share your stories in the comments!