B-to-B Insights: The Power of Proof
I've noticed a dangerous trend in B-to-B marketing: a lack of proof in the copy for product claims made in advertising.
In the IT marketplace, for example, the most pervasive marketing document is the whitepaper. Many whitepapers are great at explaining how products work. But because they are educational, and not sales-oriented, they do not bother to prove the performance claims made.
Don't make this mistake in your B-to-B marketing communications. When you say your product is the fastest or most reliable, prospects are instantly skeptical because everybody claims the same thing.
All product claims in marketing copy and content should be backed by proof. Here are some ways to convince wary buyers that what you say is, in fact, true:
1. Comparisons. Comparison—showing how your product is different and better than others—engages the reader's attention. You can do a before-and-after comparison showing the change before and after the product was used—e.g., the dirty wastewater discharge vs. the clean water that has been treated with your filtration cartridge. You can also do a side-by-side comparison showing how your product outperforms the competition.
A very effective technique is to have a table listing all the features that your category of product could have. One column shows your product with a YES or check mark indicating you have all the features. The other columns have competitor's products with only a few check marks and the majority of spaces left blank or marked NO to indicate that they lack those features.
2. Tests. An extremely compelling way to prove performance is to allow customers to test your product, especially on their premises.
For instance, a pelletizer is a machine that presses powdered material into pellets. The main question is how well the pelletizer will work with customers' materials. Mars Mineral solves this problem by telling potential buyers, "We'll be glad to take a look at a random five gallon sample of your material. We'll evaluate it and get back to you with our equipment recommendations. From there we can do an exploratory pelletizing test, a full day's test run, or rent you a production machine with an option to purchase."
3. Samples. Let the prospect sample your product. This is an old tactic. Eateries in shopping mall food courts often have a person standing in front of the counter with a tray of free samples of one of their dishes, whether Chinese food or chicken nuggets. Tempur-Pedic offers a free kit, which includes a sample of its mattress material, in its commercials.
One company manufactures mist eliminators, which remove entrained liquids in gases exiting an industrial smoke stack. Its mist eliminator is a wire mesh that bends and twists much like a Slinky. In a direct mail campaign, the company mailed small samples of wire mesh to process engineers. The sales letter was printed on off-white card stock and affixed to the wire mesh so it looked like a shipping label.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.