2010-02-16_0013If you’ve ever been frus­trated and beaten down by this or that issue at work, was your out­look on that issue one of dis­pas­sion­ate, organizational-focused analysis?

Or was your search for a solu­tion to the prob­lem just as emo­tion­ally dri­ven as any con­sumer purchase?

The ugly truth about B2B Copy: most of it assumes that orga­ni­za­tions buy things.

But I’ve never heard of an orga­ni­za­tion get­ting on its com­puter, check­ing out a Web­site, fill­ing out lead forms, or meet­ing with sales reps.  The only peo­ple who do those things are, well, people.

And like all peo­ple, B2B cus­tomers gen­er­ally try­ing to do one of two things:

  1. Try­ing to get what they want
  2. Try­ing to get away from (or avoid) a problem/pain in the butt that they don’t want

In either sit­u­a­tion, emo­tions rule the day.  And so does the con­text of the sit­u­a­tion.  This is where even decent B2B copy goes wrong by assum­ing only pos­i­tive moti­va­tion from the buyer.  The copy acts as if only proac­tive cus­tomers exist in the marketplace.

Appar­ently, who­ever wrote the copy never lifted their head above the cubi­cle or observed much of the out­side world.  Yes, some peo­ple are aggres­sively proac­tive. But the major­ity?  They’re usu­ally mov­ing away from pain, typ­i­cally in the face of cri­sis. They get seri­ous about fit­ness after a health scare or humil­i­at­ing event. They avidly back-up com­put­ers after a hard drive fail­ure.  And so on.

And if you don’t think the same thing hap­pens with orga­ni­za­tions, you’re nuts; again, it’s peo­ple that are doing the buy­ing, and as impor­tantly, insti­tu­tions gen­er­ally have MORE neu­ro­sis than indi­vid­u­als, not less.

Here’s a few busi­ness exam­ples of this same behav­ior:

  • 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.

dominoesWhat 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. Yet most B2B web­sites fail to address the neg­a­tive buy­ing emo­tions stem­ming from those pre­cip­i­ta­tive events.

Last week I was invited to take part in a land­ing page cri­tique by Bryan Eisen­berg.  My first ques­tion was, “what was the pre­cip­i­tat­ing event?”  And based on the answers to that one ques­tion, the copy was totally transformed.

In the space of a short half-hour call, the clients them­selves were able to take copy that read like some­thing a Perl script might spit to mes­sag­ing that com­pelling addressed the real buy­ing moti­va­tions of the vis­i­tor.  Like magic.

You can do it too.  Just ask your­self, what are your clients’ pre­cip­i­tat­ing events? Ask your sales team if you need help.

Now go look at your Web copy while keep­ing those pre­cip­i­tat­ing events clearly in mind.


  1. P.S. Jones on 02.21.2010

    Oh, this totally makes sense. Although I’ve talked about peo­ple pro­cras­ti­nat­ing and then rush­ing to action when it’s almost too late, I’ve never thought about busi­nesses doing it to. And the sad part is that I’ve actu­ally seen this is in action! Great post and I’m def­i­nitely going to be ask­ing myself this the next time I’m called in to write copy.

  2. steven on 02.21.2010

    Gosh, your arti­cle and words are so pleas­ant for my eyes that I almost had read­ing orgasm. F**king good,thanks!

    Steven Wang
    MBA at Boston Uni­ver­sity
    twit­ter: @anqinglaowang

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