Curb appeal is the visual attractiveness of a house as seen from the street, and it is what creates that all-important first impression of a house in the minds of potential buyers. Real estate professionals know that curb appeal plays a huge role in determining how quickly a house will sell and what price it will bring.
First impressions are also critical in B2B marketing. And today, most of your potential customers will base their first impression of your company on the content you publish and distribute. We now know that business buyers are performing research on their own, and many are delaying conversations with sales reps until later in the buying process. Because potential buyers usually interact with your content before they interact in any other way with your company or your product or service, they form an impression of your company based on the content they consume.
If your content fails to create a good first impression, a potential buyer will quickly look elsewhere, and you may not get another chance to create engagement with that buyer. On the other hand, when your content creates a good first impression - when it has good curb appeal - a potential buyer will likely "come back for more" and be willing to continue his or her engagement with your company. Just as important, when one of your content resources creates a good first impression, a potential buyer is much more inclined to view the rest of your content - and your company - favorably.
That's because of a powerful cognitive bias known as the halo effect. The halo effect can be defined as the transfer of positive (or negative) feelings about one thing to another, without having a rational basis for the transfer. The halo effect can be found in a wide range of human judgments. For example:
- If I meet a person who is well-spoken and likable, I am likely to believe that the person is also intelligent, generous, and ethical.
- If I have a good experience with a Honda automobile, I will be inclined to believe that I'll also be happy with a Honda lawnmower.
- If I read a white paper produced by your company and find the paper to be useful and valuable, I'll be inclined to believe that other content resources produced by your company will also be useful and valuable. Just as important, I'll also be inclined to believe that your company is good at what it does.
The critical thing to remember about the halo effect is that it elevates the importance of first impressions, sometimes to the point that subsequent information is largely ignored.
Daniel Kahneman, a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, shared a first-hand experience with the halo effect in his best-selling book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman wrote that when he was a young professor, he graded students' essay exams in the conventional way. He picked up a test booklet and read all that student's essays in immediate succession, grading them as he went. When finished, he would compute the total grade and go on to the next student.
Kahneman eventually noticed that his evaluations of the essays in each booklet were very similar. He began to suspect that his grading exhibited a halo effect and that the first essay he scored had a disproportionate effect on the overall grade. In essence, if Kahneman gave a high score to the first essay, he tended to give that student the benefit of the doubt if the subsequent essays contained flaws.
Kahneman recognized that this created a serious problem. If a student had written two essays - one strong and one weak - Kahneman would end up awarding different final grades, depending on which essay he read first. As Kahenman writes, "I had told the students that the two essays had equal weight, but that was not true: the first one had a much greater impact on the final grade than the second."
As a B2B marketer, you can benefit from the halo effect if you consistently produce content that creates a great first impression with potential buyers. But the halo effect doesn't really make your job easier, because it's impossible to predict which of your content resources a potential buyer will encounter first. Therefore, all of your content resources need to be capable of producing great first impressions. In other words, all of your content needs to have great curb appeal.