Let’s Steal From Mother Teresa

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Cameron Williams

02. 08. 2022 | 5 min read

Let’s Steal From Mother Teresa

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Mother Teresa once said: “If I focus on the masses, I will never act. If I focus on the one, I will.”

Now look.
Normally the Venn diagram of sainthood and marketing is two discrete circles. But in this case, I don’t think you have to squint too hard to find a pretty valuable lesson for marketers.

“Buyers are people too” is a common refrain in B2B that’s shaped resonant, human stories for numerous companies. 

But it’s often forgotten (or intentionally jettisoned) once prospects leave the top of the funnel. 

Consciously or not, conventional B2B thinking still regards playfulness, humanity and feelings as categorically unserious selling mechanisms.

They’re seen as cheap tricks for brand building – wholly unsuited for cultivating and activating buying intent as people progress down the prospect>lead>opportunity>customer pipeline. 

And to that we say phooey. It’s a fallacy to pit facts and feelings against each other. Both are capable of galvanizing someone to action – and actually, as dear old Tessa makes clear, individual human moments are where some of the best ideas live.

Zooming in on human moments can outperform even the hardest of hard numbers, analytics, or industry statistics.

And now we’re going to show you why. Watch us go.

Emotions vs. Data: Put to the test

It’s 2004 at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, and two researchers are trying to test what kind of messages will prompt people to take action: statistics or stories.

They gather a group of participants to fill out a survey on how proficient they are with technology for a $5 reimbursement. 

The survey is irrelevant. The real test comes afterwards.

Each participant is handed an envelope with an opportunity to donate some of their $5 reimbursement  to Save the Children, a charity that ensures children around the world have access to medicine, food, water, and education.

One half of the group are given a letter detailing the dangerous extent of the famine in Southern Africa with shocking statistics like “food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children”.

The other half are given a letter with the story of Rokia, a seven-year-old girl from Mali. Rokia is desperately poor and faces the threat of severe hunger or even starvation. The group is told how their financial gift could help change her life.

On average, the first group donated an average of $1.14.

The second group donated an average of $2.38. Nearly twice as much.

The two researchers had uncovered a snapshot into how, when it comes to our hearts, stories resonate with us more than the most moving of numbers, and emotional messaging will lead us to take more action.

Why emotions can actually serve B2B complexity

Look, we know B2B is never that simple.

A typical B2B buyer wants to satisfy different needs and overcome different obstacles compared to the average B2C customer. Obstacles like:

Education hunger

“The stuff I buy or partnerships I make are rarely cheap, so naturally I’ll want to know the facts over anything else.”

Stakeholder evidence

“I often need buy-in from the whole C-Suite before a decision is made, so I need the numbers to make my case.”

Commitment phobia

“I can’t throw this new CRM away like a can of fizzy drink. If my company doesn’t like it, that has consequences like wasted time and money, and makes me look bad, so we need analytics to prove it works for us.”

The trouble is, marketers often default to a limited range of rhetorical tools to overcome these obstacles. Stuff like:

  • Appeals to what’s possible (like the glossy capabilities and business benefits laden with nitty gritty tech jargon)
  • Appeals to evidence (like big picture stats, granular, results-oriented data and fancy schmancy customer logos) 
  • Appeals to authority (like insights into macro-level industry shifts and market changes)

These tools are often credible and persuasive. But they can also stifle some of the best opportunities to emotionally engage with your audience.

Because deep down (I’m going to say that thing B2B marketers say) we’re all still humans. And we’re all driven by the same psychology that made the second group in the Carnegie Mellon University study donate $1.24 more than the first group.

The answer isn’t for emotion-led messaging to displace evidence-led messaging. It’s to challenge the assumption that evidence-led messaging is inherently more real.

How we do it: Velocity creative roughs

Now, we want to tell you our own story.

At Velocity, one of our favorite things to do for clients are creative roughs. They’re a powerful, not-so-secret weapon for testing how big picture thinking feels for the people it’s aimed at.

We lead with an idea that tells a story to an ideal prospect, using a headline, a few lines of copy, a logo, a strapline, and a photo or illustration.

(We’ll do a future blog on why we love these, because we do, and the secret moves we use to make them beautiful, because it’s our blog and we’ll do what we want.)

They’re also the perfect place to prove authentic human moments are more effective as an anchor than the B2B numbers game.

Here’s an example from a recent pitch to one of our clients:

The aim was to get businesses to recognise workplace stress as a problem their employees face every day, and show them that our client’s product offered a way for them to de-stress.

We showed them two different creative roughs.

The first:

The second:

Which one do you think the client jumped at?

While we still quite liked our stat-based creative rough, it just didn’t butter the same amount of parsnips as our focus on Jana. 

By focusing on Jana’s very human experience of stress, rather than the entire workforce, we got our client into an emotional mode instead of analytical mode straight away – it gave their story empathy.

Maybe, down the line, we could use our stat to bolster our argument, as long as the emotion struck by Jana is still our anchor. 

So, what can marketers do next?

The next time you’re writing a blog, eBook, social post, PPC ad, or video script, think of what Mother Teresa said: “If I look at the masses, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

Is there a story you can lead in with about a human moment instead of a big statistic?

Can you put your audience in the shoes of the people affected by the problem you’re trying to address instead of looking at the big picture?

If you can, do it. We promise it’ll pay off.

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