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.
4. Visualization. When prospects can see how something works, they are more inclined to believe that it does work. The mist eliminator company described above also made trays that enhanced efficiency in distillation towers. Part of what takes place is the liquid rises through capped holes in the tray and bubbles on its surface.
Normally, distillation towers are made from brick or metal, so you cannot see the trays operate. For their trade show booth, the company made a simple model of a distillation tower out of Plexiglas so process engineers visiting the booth could see the bubbling action.
Gore-Tex manufactures (among other things) a putty-like sealant that is used to prevent leakage in piping connections. The front cover of its sales brochure showed a picture of a pipe flange. Attached to the flange was an actual sample of the Gore-Tex sealant. Not only could prospects visualize how to apply it properly, they could also remove it from the brochure to touch, feel and manipulate.
5. Dramatization. Years ago, to promote sales of its disaster recovery systems and services, U.S. West mailed an audio cassette to telecommunications managers. When recipients played the cassette, they heard the background noise of a busy telecom center. Then suddenly, the CD went blank and the noise disappeared. A voice-over narrator said, "This is the sound of a telecommunications disaster waiting to happen." They dramatized the danger in a meaningful way without actually cutting off the prospect's telecom system.
6. Description. A manufacturer of digital switches for wireless networks wanted to convince telecom managers that their switch was highly reliable. Here is what the manufacturer wrote in its product brochure: "The XYZ Switch is one of the most reliable digital switches available for wireless systems today. According to the FCC's ARMIS report, the XYZ switch has the least down-time of any switch used in U.S. networks, exceeding Bellcore's reliability standards by 200%. With an installed base of more than 2,300 switches, the XYZ switch currently serves over 72 million lines in 49 countries."
7. Demonstration. We know from all those direct response TV advertisers for cleaning products that demonstrations work. And they work in B-to-B, too.
My favorite ad of all time was from a company manufacturing a fireproofing compound. The ad was printed on paper treated with the compound, bound into the magazine, and had a coupon for requesting a brochure. The headline of the ad was, "Try Burning This Coupon!" The coupon told the reader to remove the ad from the magazine, and hold a lighted match to it. The paper burned as long as the match was there. But when the match was removed, the flame went out.yy
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of more than 75 books, including "The White Paper Marketing Handbook" (Racom). He can be reached at (201) 505-9451, firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.bly.com.
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.