B2B Cognitive Marketing – Productivity That Makes Buying Decisions Go Your Way

This article is based on the BCM Agency webinar Cognitive Marketing – Segmentation, Emotion, Decision, with guest contributions from Professor Benedetto de Martino and Tim Hazelhurst. 

The world is experiencing tough times, and businesses are feeling the pinch.

In these conditions, marketing remains essential spend. But at the same time, your marketing productivity needs to get better to weather the downturn. Bluntly, in times like these your marketing needs to do more with less.

But how? This was the subject of our recent Cognitive Marketing webinar, from which we’ve condensed some helpful insights below.
Cognitive Marketing: the what and the why

First of all, it’s important to understand what we mean by Cognitive Marketing, and why we’re so sold on it. 

If it sounds somewhat psychological in nature, it is, but the premise is really very simple. It means understanding what B2C marketers have always known: that buyer behaviour is both rational and emotional, and is driven as much by wants as by needs. 

Therefore, to have compelling, convincing conversations with these prospects that move them along the buying timeline and towards a purchasing decision, you need to know what these wants and needs are, and use language, tone, and messaging that taps into them – efficiently, effectively, repeatedly - on a highly personal level. 

But the typical decision-making unit (DMU) in a B2B customer environment consists of seven or more people – so that’s seven different people with very different priorities whom you have to find, communicate with, convince about the value of your proposition, and align in a purchase decision position on the buying timeline.

Is this impossible for B2B marketers to navigate? Not a bit of it – as our webinar experts showed.
Not new, just done properly

Tim Hazelhurst, BCM Agency non-executive director and founder of marketing services giant IAS (now Stein IAS), took the webinar audience through seven core principles of B2B marketing he developed in the 70s that remain robust to this day - Process Efficiency, the 4 Cs, Relevance, Relationship Timeline, Creativity, Brand Strength, and the Sales/Marketing Disconnect.

None of this, by definition, is new – but what Tim emphasised over all else is that, then as now, successful brands are the 20% that know their prospects and customers better than anyone else.
This is where Cognitive Marketing excels. It’s not a revolution; rather, it’s a process of carefully researching decision-makers and their “hot buttons”  - and having the conversations that will push them - through accurate segmentation, targeting, and positioning.

In Tim’s words, it’s “the qualitative route to enabling the maximisation of marketing productivity through in-depth relationships”; in CEO Miriam Drahmane’s, it’s simply “B2B marketing done properly” – delivering better and quicker outcomes, and more of them.

So, how does it do it? The unique differentiator Cognitive Marketing brings to the table is that it is based on an understanding of fundamental human behaviour traits, and how these can be exploited through content, tone, and messaging to accelerate commercial outcomes.

What, then, do those traits look like?
Emotionality, bias, and framing: the Cognitive armoury

Webinar guest speaker Professor Benedetto de Martino, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at University College London, specialises in the science of human decision-making, and had some fascinating insights that were highly relevant to Cognitive Marketing to share with the webinar audience.

Far from the exclusively rational beings B2B buyers believe themselves to be, they are in fact (like the rest of us), Benedetto explained, subject to multiple inbuilt value systems and conflicts that, once understood, can be steered. 

These subconscious factors inform about 95% of the decision-making process, so getting a handle on them is critical for B2B marketers looking to do more with less!

As very simple examples, Benedetto cited the “framing” of a yoghurt as being 95% fat-free rather than 5% fat, thus tapping into humans’ deep-seated Pavlovian fear of the negative to achieve a buying decision.
Client Insight and Relationship specialist Sara Stephen also explained prejudicial bias, contextual bias, and experiential bias, all of which, if carefully researched and understood, can be used to inform choices of marketing theme, message, tone, and language that engage the prospect emotionally, and move them successfully along the timeline.

It’s not just what you say  - it’s how you say it!
Marketing productivity: the Cognitive integration

What all this boils down to is that Cognitive Marketing isn’t some silver bullet fired from a marketing technology stack. It has real potential to make your marketing many times more effective - a real selling point in today’s climate – but it can only do this when it is integrated with the existing cornerstones of good B2B marketing – strategy, research, technology, tactics, and measures and controls.

Think of it as the difference in resource and effort between having painful and random conversations with unreciprocating strangers at a party, and hitting it off with several guests one after the other, based on common interests that lead to further conversations. 

Nothing’s changed about the party – you’re just building more and better relationships, quicker - because you’re having the right conversations about the right topics, in the right tone of voice, on the right emotional plane, with the right people.

It’s about knowing your customers’ mind – and it’s why it pays to be Cognitive!
For more information about how Cognitive marketing can help boost your marketing productivity in tough times, get in touch today.

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