In marketing, particularly B2B marketing, you are always trying to get your prospects and customers to take some sort of action. But prospects can be a fickle bunch and you are sometimes left wondering why you aren’t generating leads from a campaign or why no one is clicking on an ad, or signing up to read your beautifully written and engaging newsletter.
What if there was a way to subtly influence the type of behaviour you want from your prospects, and do it ethically? Well, there is a way, and that is nudge theory. It forms part of behavioural economics and helps us to understand what people do and why they do it and subtly helps them make different choices.
“A nudge is an intervention that maintains freedom of choice but steers people in a particular direction.”1 It is closely linked to the concept of ‘choice architecture’. This is essentially how the context or environment around us affects what we choose, want and ultimately decide to do.
Most of us as B2B marketers are probably already doing this or, at least, some version of this. But codifying it and making it part of your business’s overall strategy can help turn the tide of declining marketing returns. It pays to think about how nudge theory and behavioural economics can be implemented into the overarching marketing strategy as well as in the actual execution tactics used.
Accepted nudge theory says that a nudge has to be in the best interests of the prospect and they must have a choice. They should also feel good after they make their choice, without any pressure or concern that they may have made the wrong decision.1
As humans we find decision making hard and it helps if we are guided towards an option that is in our best interest. This principle also applies in B2B marketing - at the end of the day, it is a person making the final decision, and if you can help influence that decision it is a win-win situation.
There will always be a large human element in any decision-making process, so it makes sense to frame your marketing in a way that appeals to the person who will be making the decision. Yet, so many B2B marketing campaigns don’t do this, and as a result they are bland and lifeless. Then companies wonder why their audience isn’t engaged and why they aren’t generating any leads.
How to Use Strategic Thinking to Nudge Customers to Behave in a Specific Way
So, how do you actually implement nudge theory into your marketing campaigns to try and get your prospects to behave in a different way? The first way is to use it in your overarching strategy across your entire marketing mix.
Using Nudge Theory in the Overarching Strategy
A great way to use nudge theory in your overarching strategy is to tie your marketing to an emotion. Fear is a good emotion to pin a strategy on; the fear of missing out, the fear of lost revenue. Joy is another one; the joy of succeeding, of beating the competition, of having lifelong customers.
Being a partner and not a supplier:
Another way is to become your customer’s partner and not just a supplier of products. By becoming a trusted advisor and someone whose opinion your customer values, you can nudge them to take different actions or try your products and services in a consultative way.
The other angle that can be taken with nudge theory is using it in your marketing campaign tactics and implementing it there. You can look at the different tactics used and the different channels and see if using a subtle nudge would work well with each of those.
Using Nudge Theory in the Tactics Used
Using language in paid advertising that talks about the fear of missing out on a deal or adding social proof from businesses similar to your prospects can have a big impact on clicks and conversions
Having vertical, industry-specific or even persona specific content can nudge someone to take action and read it because it will resonate with them. Sending someone generic content will be treated as any other unsolicited piece of marketing and probably end up in the bin
Infographic targeted at the Financial Services industry
Having images of people who look like your target audience can help someone engage with your content more. Make important pieces of text larger and in bold to help it stand out. Highlight the CTA in a way that is non-intrusive but not easily missed
Highlighting the CTA in an interesting way
Having a defined website architecture where the pages and next steps are set up as a journey to lead a prospect down a defined path can help with conversions
Opt-in vs Opt-out:
Explicitly asking someone to opt-in versus automatically opting them in can have a big impact on conversions, and trust in a brand. For example, having a pre-ticked ‘sign up to our newsletter’ checkbox on a website can increase conversions, but it may leave prospects feeling cheated that they were signed up to something without their knowledge
Precision Engagement strategies3:
This is a fancy term for personalising nudges for different persona groups. In the same way, you shouldn’t treat all your prospects as one homogenous group, you shouldn’t nudge them all in the same way either. A motivator for one group may not work for another
Examples of Ways Nudge Theory Have Been Used in Business
There are many examples of nudges in marketing but when experiencing them out in the wild, you may not realise ‘ a nudge’ is what you are seeing.
B2C Retail eCommerce Example
A very popular retail brand uses a clever trick to nudge customers to buy a product they are looking at by invoking a sense of urgency in them. A little banner appears over the image of the product saying things like, ‘28 people are currently looking at this item’ or ‘This item has been bought 5 times in the last 24 hours' or ‘Only 3 left in stock’. Some eagle-eyed marketers might question the truth behind these statements, are there really only 3 left in stock? Regardless, it is a very effective way of encouraging someone to buy.
B2B SaaS Example
An example from B2B can be seen in the way SaaS packages are marketed. Going onto the packages page of a SaaS website, you will often see a highlighted option, it is usually the middle package, sat between a Basic package and a Premium one. Highlighting a preferred option and recommending that similar accounts in the prospect’s industry also choose this option is a great way of nudging an account to choose it. Similarly, a way to encourage someone to buy add ons is by saying that other customers have found them essential.
Strategically Adding Nudge Tactics
Most businesses already employ nudge tactics within their marketing, but by consciously adding them to your overarching strategy you can have a real impact on getting prospects to choose a specific option and can help increase conversions. It is important to make sure they are done ethically and in the prospect’s interest, so they can provide long term benefits to your business’s growth. Really understanding your customers can help you nudge them on a journey and help them to make the right choice for them and for your business.