Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Do You Have Marketing Content for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt?

Most B2B marketers are naturally positive people. Professionally, they have an innate predisposition to focus on what's good about their company and its products and services. Most marketers are less comfortable dealing with any perceived "weaknesses" of their products or services or with the challenges that companies face when using them. So, most marketers have a built-in tendency to minimize, gloss over, or simply ignore those issues.

That's a mistake because fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) are part of every significant buying decision. In The Buyersphere Project, Gord Hotchkiss wrote, "B2B buying decisions are usually driven by one emotion - fear. Specifically, B2B buying is all about minimizing fear by eliminating risk."

Ardath Albee, author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale and the Marketing Interactions blog, includes a stage called "Step Backs" in her description of the buying process. This is where the concerns and fears of the buying group rise to the surface and stop (at least temporarily) the forward momentum of the buying decision. I agree with Ardath that a step back stage is probably present in most B2B buying situations, but I also contend that FUD permeates the entire buying process and can appear at any stage.

Your prospects' fears, uncertainties, and doubts usually involve concerns about your product or service or your company, and about their ability to do what is required to reap the full benefits of your proposed solution. Throughout the buying process, members of the buying group will be asking themselves or each other questions like:
  • Does the proposed solution provide all of the capabilities we need?
  • Will the proposed solution work as promised?
  • Is the supplier financially stable?
  • Will the supplier be able to meet our needs as they change and evolve?
  • What if our employees won't buy into and use the proposed solution?
  • What if we can't successfully implement the proposed solution?
  • What if we can't reengineer our business processes to maximize the benefits of the proposed solution?
There's no way to eliminate FUD from the buying process, so your only choice is to deal with it. Marketing content can play a major role in alleviating FUD. You probably already have content assets that address FUD indirectly.
  • White papers, webinars, and product/service specifications can reduce the FUD that's related to your product or service.
  • Analyst reports can show the financial stability of your company.
  • Customer case studies can show how companies have successfully implemented and used your solution.
You also need marketing content that directly and intentionally addresses FUD. This is especially important when the FUD involves your prospects' internal capabilities. For example, consider creating a few "expanded" case studies that describe customers' experiences in greater detail than your "regular" case studies. Describe the problems your customers faced in implementing and using your solution and how they solved those problems.

You should also consider creating a group of content assets (call them white papers, tip sheets, or whatever) that describe how customers can avoid the most common (and/or most serious) implementation problems and accelerate their ability to reap the full benefits of your solution.

How do you determine which FUD issues to address?
  • Ask your salespeople.
  • Talk with customers who achieved quick success with your solution - and with some whose path to success was more challenging.
  • If possible, interview some prospects who chose not to buy from you and find out why.
Remember, you can't stop your prospects from feeling fear, uncertainty, and doubt. But you can provide your prospects with content that will make the FUD easier to handle.

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