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Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Precipitating Events and B2B Web Copy

By Jeff Sexton
April 22nd, 2009

A lot of us know we ought to do certain things but never get past preliminary research on it until something jars us into action.  I know exactly what type of exercise plan I should be doing.  I’ve researched my options, bought and read some books, and…sat on my increasingly fat ass.  And if you don’t think the same thing happens with organizations, you’re nuts; institutions generally have MORE neurosis than individuals, not less.

Here’s a few business examples:

  • Sales results slide a bit, but aren’t really bad enough to push management into real action.  They look around at some of their sales training and sales recruiting options, but sit on that information as long as times are moderately good.  Then, when a competitor starts stealing away key accounts or the market starts shrinking it suddenly becomes time to buy sales training.
  • A company’s e-mail hosting requirements grows increasingly more complex.  The in-house hosting becomes shaky at best and the IT manager knows it should be outsourced.  He takes a look at his outsourcing options, but he’s got about 10 other higher-priority items on his to-do list.  He might putter along like this for a year before suffering, say, a 2-day e-mail outage.  Now the IT manager/company is really in the market for outsourced exchange hosting.

What I’m talking about are precipitating events – the kind of things that move a someday/maybe aspiration into a firm resolve to buy.

Now here’s the deal: most companies involved with B2B and complex sales know (or at least the sales people know) exactly what their top 5 or so precipitating events are, but most B2B websites utterly fail to address any of the primary emotional concerns and questions of an individual or organization experiencing such an event.

As I’ve said before, B2B sales are far more emotional and personal than most marketers want to admit.  Failing to take into account how a precipitating event would effect your prospects emotions and concerns can utterly kill the sale before you’ve even acquired the lead.  My thoughts on exercise might look quite a bit different after a heart health scare than before.  I might well be less concerned about regaining my lost (and largely notional) athleticism than just plain fitting enough basic cardio into my routine so as to not end up a “dangers of sedentary lifestyle” statistic.

Think the very same thing doesn’t happen with organizations and the decision makers within them?

And if you want to go one step beyond the basics of relevant copy, you might even want to consider how you could take a visitor in the “faint signal” and someday maybe stage and seed them with messaging and a recall cue associated with likely precipitant events.  But that’s for another post…

For now, figure out your precipitative events and see how many concerns and questions your website leaves unaddressed and unanswered.

Add Your Comments

Comments (16)

  1. B2B sales feature all the normal human emotions and then some…

    In a business setting you can add:
    + Desire to impress colleagues
    + Fear of looking stupid
    + Wanting to do what other firms are doing
    + Fear of being the odd one out round the table

  2. Jeff,

    Great post. As a B2C copywriter who is now writing B2B as well, I’m amazed at how that basic copywriting principal of speaking to a person on an emotional level is left out of B2B copy. I’ve covered the industry I write for (nutrition) as a journalist enough to understand how many emotions are involved in running a business. In fact it seems that there is sometimes more emotions wrapped up in some B2B buying decisions because it’s not just the individual who faces the consequences of their purchase, but the individual plus the whole company. And thus the individual faces the decision on two levels as a representative of a lot of other people whose lives will be impacted by the decision. And as a person whose individual life will be impacted by how the decision affects all those other people.

    It can get pretty big.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Sarah. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s amazing that IBM – one of the titans of B2B sales – perfected the art of using emotions in B2B sales (remember the term FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), but no one else seems to take them seriously when discussing B2B copy.

  4. Good Post, I want to translate your article to Chinese.

  5. [...] start at the “precipitating event;” the spark that lit my desire to shop [...]

  6. [...] speaks to them about what matters to them.  Establish empathy with WHY they need your solution.  Figure out what has driven them to need your product or service, and make sure you address those felt emotional needs as well as ALL of their lingering, [...]

  7. Great article.

    Thank you.

  8. Nice to see someone talking about B2B web copy, its a relevant issue.

  9. Good article and useful needs our thanks. ตะกรุด

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  11. Nice to see someone talking about B2B web copy, its a relevant issue.

  12. Nice to see someone talking about B2B web copy, its a relevant issue.

  13. Thank you for this great post! I love this website!

  14. I haven’t given much thought to how precipitating events could effect prospective clients that much. You often hear the phrase that “this isn’t personal, it’s business” but business can be personal.

  15. In fact it seems that there is sometimes more emotions wrapped up in some B2B buying decisions because it’s not just the individual who faces the consequences of their purchase, but the individual plus the whole company.

  16. Happy to see someone talking about B2B web copy, its a relevant issue.
    Thanks for sharing this article

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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