Why Marketing Content Must Both Convince and Persuade

In a blog post last November, Seth Godin described something that occurred in connection with the publication of his new book. It seems that a copyeditor changed each usage of persuade in the book to convince. Godin says he had to change all of them back.

Godin explained why he thought this was necessary:  “Marketers don’t convince. Engineers convince. Marketers persuade. Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device. It’s much easier to persuade someone if they’re already convinced, if they already know the facts. But it’s impossible to change someone’s mind merely by convincing them of your point.”

Seth Godin is one of the most insightful marketing thought leaders around, but I disagree with him slightly on this point. In the B2B world, marketers must be prepared to both convince and persuade. Let’s look first at the need to convince.

The Need to Convince

Survey results by IDC have revealed that, on average:

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  • Ninety percent of companies require quantifiable proof of economic/financial benefits for most potential investments.
  • Almost two-thirds of business buyers (65%) say that they do not have the knowledge or tools they need to perform business value assessments and calculations.
  • More than four out of five business buyers (81%) expect prospective vendors to quantify the business value of proposed solutions.

These research results clearly show that B2B companies must be able to demonstrate and prove the value that their products or services will create for customers. In essence, you need to be prepared to help your buyer build a compelling business case for investing in your solution. Several kinds of marketing content can be used to perform this function.

  • White papers or eBooks that describe how your solution creates value and explains how to calculate the value delivered
  • Online assessment tools that enable prospects to obtain a preliminary estimate of the financial benefits your solution will provide
  • ROI calculators that your sales reps can use to provide credible proof of the value your solution will deliver

The Need to Persuade

Marketers have traditionally believed that B2B buying decisions follow a rational, step-by-step process and that emotion has little effect on the process. We now know that this view is, at best, incomplete and that B2B buying decisions are far less rational that we like to think.

The reality is that emotions – particularly fear, uncertainty, and doubt – are part of every significant B2B buying decision. In The Buyersphere Project, Gord Hotchkiss wrote, “B2B buying decisions are usually driven by one emotion – fear. Specifically, B2B buying is all about minimizing fear by eliminating risk.”

In an earlier article, I discussed why it’s important for marketers to have content that directly and intentionally addresses fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The main point I want to make in this post is that B2B marketers must be ready to address both rational and emotional issues.

The bottom line? To succeed at B2B demand generation, you need marketing content and sales enablement tools that will both convince and persuade.

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