What role does our brain play in making B2B buying decisions – and why should businesses care about it in their B2B content and communications?
According to neuroscience, the way we get each other’s attention as human beings – and, by extension, the way businesses communicate with customers and prospects – is very much about the memories we create. And this determines whether someone will do something we’d like them to do.
In a recent B2B Marketing webinar, Dr Carmen Simon – Cognitive Neuroscientist and Chief Science Office at Corporate Visions – said: “The only way to get people to act in your favour is to get their attention and leave a memory trace.”
So, how can businesses do that via their B2B content and communications activity?
Create a mental model
A mental model – or schema – is a type of script that the brain uses to understand and process information quickly.
For example, we all have our own mental models for regular activities such as how to run a business meeting, go shopping or catch a flight at the airport. And, says Simon, any changes to our mental model causes unrest.
Therefore, giving your audience something familiar in your communications helps them save brain power and gives them a strong indication of what happens next. The mistake in business communications, Simon adds, is to “fill every moment with something new” which requires the listener, reader or viewer to create a new mental model every time.
So, creating content that the audience recognises and can detect some repetition of previous content has a better chance of being committed to memory, being recalled later and – above all – trusted.
Simon added: “When things not clearly repeated in a consistent way people are confused, often forget and are less able to make decisions.”
But what about when you want to communicate something genuinely new to your customers or prospects?
“The brain can’t detect something that has changed unless it can see what is consistent,” Simon explained, adding that the best approach is to avoid extremes of variety and consistency.
She said: “Not everything you do has to be memorable! But there are moments that you want to be memorable as they influence decision making. Pick the moments that should become memories.”
One of the all-time great masters of attracting and keeping people’s attention – the film director, Steven Spielberg – once said: “When the movie is working…the audience is just galvanised, almost hypnotised, all watching the same things, all knowing where to look at the exact same time…”
Similarly with business communications, you can increase the chances of people remembering the same thing and taking a decision. In fact, with B2B business, it often requires multiple people to make a buying decision – so, how can you shortcut the process to them agreeing?
Carmen Simon described the way communications activity such as sales presentations can be choreographed to maximise the audience’s attention through elements such as colour, size and animation – attracting the eye with motion and movement in general.
“A lack of animation/annotation confuses [both] experts and non-experts,” she said. “When creating materials, don’t assume things will be obvious to the viewer. You need to provide enough stimulus for the brain…with sufficient annotation and animation to beat boredom and be willing to act on what they see.”
But – as one webinar viewer asked – isn’t some B2B business information just too boring to bring to life for the audience?
“There’s no such thing as inherently boring stimulus,” Simon said, “so it’s up to you to add some movement, motivation [and build memories]. Regardless of your content, you can still motivate someone.”
Offer B2B content the brain likes and wants
The content you create for your audience is not just about embedding memories but driving them to seek out your content again, to like it and consider it worthwhile.
In the brain, that means activating both the systems for “liking” and “wanting”.
Simon explained: “Anything beyond your reach, the brain needs to make plans to go and get it. For example, looking at the sky, seeing a plane, and thinking of a holiday.
“If you want an audience to move and make a decision, you have to clarify the potential for what exists in the future for them. So, illuminate the future.”