Bravery: when you’re faced with a task that seems impossible, “but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what”. – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

In the world of B2B marketing, or any marketing, bravery is going to market with a message, or delivering an experience to your audience that has made you uncomfortably excited at the outset.

You know your idea is a risk, but you do it anyway, because if it works, the results could be extraordinary.

How to be brave – what’s in this post?

  1. Why you need to be brave
  2. There’s more than one way
  3. Changing your mindset

1. Why you need to be brave

As marketers, it’s our job to change the behaviour of our target audience in favour of the respective business we work for.

i.e. choose our brand over the competition

And the need for cut-through starts right at the beginning.

Studies by Google have shown that B2B buyers are already 57% of the way along their decision path before they actually contact you. And 71% of B2B researchers start the process with a generic search. In fact, your prospects are making an average of 12 searches before they contact a vendor. And only two of those searches are for brands.

Sorry to break it to you like this, but they’re not looking for you. They’re searching generic terms for something that will suit their needs or solve their problem. So we need to be ready with our brand story much earlier, and articulate it more simply.

Winning the ZMOT
It was P&G who coined the term “First Moment of Truth” or FMOT. It’s defined as those 3-7 critical seconds when a shopper considers a product in-store in order to make their final purchase decision. The moment when all the advertising a consumer had seen for a brand will either pay off, or not.

With the internet, there’s now a “moment of truth” that precedes P&G’s first moment: the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT. In essence, it’s that online decision-making process, which isn’t even necessarily prompted by advertising (although it can be), where a customer does their own research, at the precise moment when they have a need, intent or a question they want answered.

Customers are increasingly making decisions at the Zero Moment – which is why you need to be sure your brand is already ahead, with strong brand recall, at the outset. You need to win the ZMOT over your competitors.

For most marketers, this requires a different way of thinking. Stop focussing on the mid and end points of your buyers’ journey. Focus on what happens before they even start.

Be disruptive. Be brave.

2. Be Brave – There’s more than one way

Stop making incremental change
Incremental changes, however frequent, don’t change behaviour. Tech and software companies in particular, are prone to this, habitually adding new features and functionality to their products to improve and refine them, make them faster and able to do more.

But Research from the Standish Group has found that 80% of software is either hardly ever or never used!

Marketers are prone to the same habits. We make incremental improvements to our communications and get incremental improvements in the results. Before we know it, it becomes a process.


While you’re busy making incremental changes and getting incremental improvements, you leave it wide open for a challenger to come in with something new and different. Your challenger could completely disrupt your market and leave you standing. Even if you’re the market leader.

AirBnB, launched in 2008, enables anyone to rent out a room, or an entire home to travellers around the world. The company’s different way of doing things means has turned it into a business that’s worth a reported 11-figure sum. It has had a serious impact on the hotel industry and its value is lower only than the largest of hotel chains.

The email industry has been completely disrupted by marketing automation. Hubspot tells us that marketing automation has seen the fastest growth of any CRM-related segment in the last 5 years, and that businesses using MA to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads.

Small is big
But all this doesn’t mean that every marketer has to find the big idea that will change the world – or even their marketplace. Big changes can come in small packages. Like at campaign level.

Take your email campaigns for instance…

If you were IBM and you had a new server to promote, you might send an image to your email prospect list. Images are eyecatching, right? And if you wanted to test how different versions of the email perform, you might experiment a little with the “Find out more” button – different colours, size, location within the email perhaps. All very valid tests and you may find that one type of button gets a better click through rate than another.

But wait a moment. Think about your audience for a second. CIO? CTO? CDO? These people may well be interested in the kind of features your server has to offer, and they may even be in the market for a new server right now, but if they don’t click on your button, that’s an opportunity lost.

So what will make them click? One thing is for sure – CIO, CTO or CDO they may well be by day, but that doesn’t mean they spend every waking hour dreaming about, or taking selfies with, servers. Outside of their tech buyer’s persona, they are also hot-blooded human beings and probably enjoy a drink down the pub, a laugh with friends, a bit of flirtation with the opposite (or same) sex – just like the rest of us. So let’s play with that thought. Let’s forget about incremental changes to our normal style of email, and let’s…

Add some sizzle…

Not quite done it for you yet?

Well how about some sex?

Let us rephrase that. What if we were to add a couple of models. Replace “Find out more” with “Reveal all”. Get some personalisation going, depending on gender preferences (should you have the right data!). Now ask yourself: which email version would you rather click on?

Stop thinking incremental change. Be brave. Make your changes polarising.

OK, we’re not suggesting that you put sex into everything you do, but it’s a great illustration of a brave change that you could test. It’s what testing is for.

Irrational, but true
Here’s another way to be brave with your comms. Get emotional.

Why do your buyers and prospects buy? Because the product they favour has the latest features and functions? Because the price is right?

No. It’s much more likely that a buying decision is made for a series of far less rational motivators. Like fear of failure, or wanting to impress the boss, or the safety of familiarity.

An IPA study has revealed that emotional campaigns are twice as likely to generate “large profits” than rational ones. So why, 3 years after emotional marketing in B2B came on to our radar, do so few B2B brands make use of it? Out of the 28 categories in the 2014 B2B awards, only 1.5 of the entries contained any kind of emotional triggers.

Find your buyers’ emotional triggers and play on them. And while you’re doing your research, bear in mind these campaigns from the only two headline brands brave enough to take on emotional marketing. Volvo Trucks and Adobe not only took it on, they won.

Van Damme’s Epic Split

Adobe’s Mean Streets

3. Be Brave: change your mindset to change behaviour

But here’s where we turn traditional change methodology on its head.

Do. Feel. Think.
Most marketing operates around a Think, Feel, Do model. We try hard to get our audiences to think about the benefits of our brand, to make a connection with it and, ultimately, buy, based on what they think and how they feel.

Maybe it’s time to get our audience to Do first, and Feel second. Then the thinking process becomes an attitude shift.

Adam Ferrier, author of “The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour” believes that actions change attitude better than attitude changes action. Think about that TV programme you wouldn’t have watched if your partner hadn’t been into it. And how much you now like it too. If you can get your customers to experience your brand, then they are more likely to bring their thoughts and feelings in line with that experience.

In his book, Ferrier discusses Action Spurs. These are the triggers that prompt an action from your audience. Ferrier lists some 10 Action Spurs that include:

Reframing – frames the existing behaviour in a different more appealing way
Evocation – stirring up powerful emotions to motivate behaviour
Collectivism – based on social norms; when people are influenced by the behaviour of others
Ownership – asks people what they think should be done, involving people in a solution
Play – embracing the power of play or gamification
Utility – offering something that is useful, helpful and life-enhancing
Modelling – using a high profile credible person to inspire or inform behaviour
Skill up – showing someone how to do the behaviour
Eliminate complexity – removing barriers
Commitment – asking for a small favour first to build up to a bigger agreement

“Think actions before message”

Think differently. Reframe
Sometimes, the brave change in your marketing can come down to something as simple as reframing. Reframe your product in a different context and it can put a whole different take on it for your audience.

What’s reframing? Try this simple visual experiment first. These two boxes are exactly the same shade of grey. Agreed.

Now let’s put a frame around each of them.

Chances are, that if you didn’t already know, it would be hard to convince you that the boxes are completely the same shade. Change the context, and you’re far more likely to change your point of view.

Reframing in marketing terms is also about context. One of reframing’s greatest exponents – and most entertaining commentators, is Ogilvy Group Vice Chairman, Rory Sutherland. Here, during one of his many TED talks, he gives three irresistible examples of reframing that either happened, or should have happened.

Eurostar: “Six million pounds spent to reduce the journey time between Paris and London by about 40 minutes. For 0.01 percent of this money you could have put WiFi on the trains, which wouldn’t have reduced the duration of the journey, but would have improved its enjoyment and its usefulness far more. For maybe 10% of the money, you could have paid all of the world’s top male and female supermodels to walk up and down the train handing out free Chateau Petrus to all the passengers. You’d still have five [million] pounds in change, and people would ask for the trains to be slowed down.”

London Underground: “The single best improvement in passenger satisfaction on the London Underground per pound spent came when they didn’t add any extra trains nor change the frequency of the trains, they put dot matrix display board on the platforms. Because the nature of a wait is not just dependent on its numerical quality – its duration, but on the level of uncertainty you experience during that wait. Waiting seven minutes for a train with a countdown clock is less frustrating and irritating than waiting four minutes, knuckle-biting going, ‘When’s this train going to damn well arrive?’”

UK Post Office: “In the UK, the Post Office had a 98% success rate at delivering first-class mail the next day. They decided this wasn’t good enough and they wanted to get it up to 99%. The effort to do that almost broke the organisation. If at the same time you’d gone and asked people, ‘What percentage of first-class mail arrives the next day?’ the average answer would have been 50-60%. Now if your perception is much worse than your reality, what on earth are you doing trying to change the reality? What you need to do is first of all tell people that 98 percent of mail gets there the next day, first-class mail. That’s pretty good.”
And here’s a hypothetical B2B scenario. Let’s take Marketing Automation again. As we’ve seen, it has the potential to completely disrupt the way organisations do their email marketing. But for now, its sheer scale makes it inaccessible to many small to medium sized companies.

So how about we reframe it in a way that potentially makes life easier for SME owners and decision makers? Here’s a few suggestions.

Get rid of lengthy forms that tell potential customers whether or not they are eligible for the service
Give a free trial
Get rid of the 80% of functions that will never ever be used
Make your fees outcomes-based – how about £5 per lead, rather than £500 a month?
Create the Million Dollar Lead Club Hall of Fame!
Frame your offering in a new way to a new audience whole new market could open up.

Remember, there are two key criteria when it comes to changing behaviours: Motivation and Ease. The more you have of both these factors, the easier it is to effect change. So combining any of Ferrier’s Action Spurs with an action that requires little or no effort is a winning combination to achieve a change in behaviour from your customers.

Be sure though, that the behaviours you are trying to change are in line with business objectives, and be realistic. And the harder it’s going to be to bring about the change you want, the more budget you are likely to need to do it.

Over to you

So if you’ve ever had a campaign idea that’s made you uncomfortably excited, that you feel is full of risk because it’s different, and not in line with your company’s or client’s normal processes, then we hope everything you’ve read here has given you courage.

Make “Be Brave” your mantra and:

  • Think differently
  • Win the ZMOT
  • Stop making incremental change
  • Be creative
  • Get emotional
  • Think Action before Message
  • Give your audience a reason to change – and make it easy.

Tell Me

Tell me how you’ve been brave with your marketing efforts, I love to hear your stories, especially what it took to make happen!