The Importance of Behavioral Science in B2B Marketing

There is a common misconception in B2B marketing that businesses are rational entities—meaning that they respond to rational marketing messages—as opposed to consumers who respond to emotional messages. In thinking this way, marketing teams forget about the humans behind the businesses. 

The B2B Institute calls this the “objectivity trap”—people generally assume that buyers are simply rational, profit-seeking entities that don’t suffer from the same decision-making biases as consumers.

A new phrase seems to be catching on, “there is no such thing as B2B or B2C, only H2H” (human-to-human). This phrase is a reminder that regardless of the target audience (companies or consumers), we’re always working with and selling to human beings.

B2B sellers can greatly benefit from applying behavioral sciences to their marketing. Behavioral science takes into consideration the various decision-making defaults that people rely on that push them to take a desired action. It’s the science behind what makes a prospect open an email, click on a call-to-action, or make a purchase. 

Sellers that have fallen into the B2B “objectivity trap” are missing valuable opportunities to put behavioral thinking to work. 

One large area of focus in behavioral science is cognitive biases, which are systematic patterns of deviation from rational judgement. By identifying the main biases that may affect their prospects, sellers can frame and present their products in a way that better deals with those biases.

For example, sellers that are marketing new, innovative products will need to address the status quo bias. People can be generally averse to change and may prefer to stick to the systems they know well. The status quo bias may make it extremely difficult for sellers to market their cutting-edge products if they don’t take it into account when marketing.

To counteract the status quo bias, sellers can address common concerns they think their prospects will have. For example, maybe prospects are concerned about how their roles will be affected by this new system, rather than considering the vast benefits of this new solution. Taking these concerns into account will help sales teams craft an appropriate strategy.

Another important bias that behavioral sciences has noted is the false consensus effect. This effect indicates that people tend to overestimate the extent to which other people are similar to them, leading sales teams to project their own lifestyle and beliefs on audiences. As a result, sales teams tend to focus on channels and tactics that may not align with their target audience. One way to counteract this effect is to base marketing decisions on data, and to test value propositions and messaging before going live.

By taking the false consensus effect into consideration, sales teams can also use it to their advantage. Sales teams can make prospects feel that others in their industry are making smart decisions and encourage their prospects to make similar decisions in order to keep up. 

Clearly, cognitive biases can have a huge impact on the efficacy of marketing efforts. Behavioral sciences have identified nearly 200 cognitive biases that can affect how people make decisions, and these biases have significant implications for the way sellers design and run their marketing campaigns. 

When sellers fall into the “objectivity trap” and prefer the convenient idea that business are merely rational agents, they are leaving vast amount of economic value on the table by undervaluing the importance of behavioral sciences. Behind businesses are humans, and by understanding the biases that shape peoples’ decisions, marketing leaders can build effective campaigns that will drastically impact their contribution to their company’s sales growth.