3 psychology principles that are influential to B2B marketing

Will Homden avatar
Will Homden

Sep 23, 2015


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Understanding the psychology principles of reciprocity, authority and social proof will enable you to optimise your B2B marketing for greater returns.

It’s no secret - marketing and psychology go hand-in-hand. Good marketers, either wittingly or unwittingly, utilise psychology principles that influence human behaviour – and to great effect.

However, the appliance of psychology to marketing is typically considered in a B2C sense only, but just as B2B buyers are essentially still consumers, psychology principles are just as pertinent to B2B marketing.

In fact, some psychology principles are arguably more influential in B2B marketing.

Here are three principles that are significant to B2B marketing and how you can apply them to boost your marketing efforts.

Read our Introduction to B2B Inbound Marketing here and learn all about this  powerful approach to generating leads and sales.


1. Reciprocity

If someone does something for you, you’re naturally inclined to do something back for them. This is reciprocity.

Reciprocity is highly relevant to the inbound marketing approach. By providing value to people through the content you create, in return you receive contact details (leads!), a share on Twitter, a sale, etc.

The important word here is value. In order to receive something back you need to offer something worthy. Some examples of the wide applications of reciprocity include:

  • Ensuring the amount of contact information you ask for on your landing page forms matches the value of the content you’re offering

  • Adding social sharing buttons to your blog posts to encourage sharing

  • Partnering with a relevant industry website to exchange guest blog posts

  • Sending personalised emails to suggest relevant content to leads

In B2B marketing, reciprocity is especially important, as the sales cycle tends to be longer due to the high value of a B2B purchase. Therefore, relationship building through offering helpful content is crucial to keeping your leads alive and moving them down the funnel.

2. Authority

Perhaps one of the most iconic and controversial psychology experiments ever was Milgram’s electric shock study, where volunteers were instructed by an authoritative figure to administer what they were lead to believe were powerful shocks to unseen subjects.

Of course, electronic shocks are not the answer to your B2B marketing, but this study did unveil the influence of authority signals on human decision-making.

You should include authority signals on your website and blog to exhibit your expertise and credibility in your field, and thus your authority. For instance, create an author bio on your blog or link to your LinkedIn profile to demonstrate your credentials and experience. Or hold a webinar or conference to educate potential customers.

Demonstrating authority and thought leadership is a real advantage in B2B marketing. Whereas B2C audiences are typically interested in being entertained by brands, B2B audiences seek expertise and education, so establishing your position as a credible, seasoned veteran in your field is a highly influential trust-builder.

3. Social proof

We look for social proof when making decisions, particularly when faced with many choices. We’re savvy enough to know, especially in the age of the Internet, that claiming expertise doesn’t actually guarantee it. Instead, as social animals, we look for signs of social approval.

To leverage the influence of social proof, show off some positive feedback from your customers. This could be in the form of testimonials on your homepage, reviews on your Facebook business page, social sharing counters on your blog posts or client showcase sliders.

Got a well-known customer? Utilise the social proof and authority principles by displaying a testimonial from them on your website. There are many possibilities.

As B2B buying is often a big, multi-faceted decision, decision-makers are highly likely to seek social proof. And what’s important to remember in B2B marketing is that your visitor or lead isn’t always the decision-maker. They often need to ‘remarket’ your product or service to their superiors to persuade them of the value of your product or service. Providing social proof gives these visitors or leads a ‘persuasion tool’ to acquire the buy-in from the real decision-maker.

Inbound Marketing

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