Marketing Needs Science, Not Surveys

Marketing might be data-rich, but it’s theory-poor.

That’s because despite being surrounded by millions of bits of insightful data points and years of meaningful behavioral studies, marketing “best practices” still depend largely on anecdotes and opinion-based surveys, not science. Companies tend to rely on “anecdata”—what customers say they think they’ll do—instead of real data depicting buyers’ actual behaviors or rigorous buyer decision-making research.

People have commonly argued that they wield art over science in marketing like it’s a badge of honor, but the art of best practices, marketing gurus, and influencer rhetoric is often full of good intentions but wrong instincts.

You can describe a program that worked for you, but that falls way short of actually pinpointing the how and why. And when you have so much actual data available, relying on anecdata is unacceptable.

Here are four ways to start using scientific research and data rather than influencer hot air to inform your B2B marketing strategy:

1. Look for legitimate resources

Marketing teams get used to looking in the same popular places for information, but there are many science-driven sources out there.

Look for lab-based studies rather than just surveys. People say things in surveys based on what they want to think about themselves and want others to think of them (their declared preference). But when you put those people in a research study or watch their actual decisions in real-world field trials, it often reveals something totally different (their revealed preference).

So use sources and stats that stem from legitimate, academically rigorous testing. Not surveys but testing that starts with a hypothesis and puts decision makers into real buying scenarios. Only then can you establish quantitative and qualitative data that you can use to craft more effective messages and content.

2. Use the psychology of change management

Marketers are change agents. You’re trying to convince somebody to do something different tomorrow than they’re doing today. Tap into the psychology of overcoming “Status Quo Bias” to help people see the need to change and choose you.

Years of behavioral studies have validated that people have a natural aversion to changing from their status quo. You need to provide powerful, disruptive messages when you want them to consider your solution.

Looking at marketing best practices and trying to mimic what other people have been doing for a long time isn’t necessarily going to make your prospects change to your way of thinking or doing.

3. Introduce Unconsidered Needs

Customer needs are important, but they’re not a reliable source of research. That’s because the inputs you get from your customers are similar answers they might give to every other vendor doing “voice of the customer” research.

Because you and your competitors rely on similar inputs, every vendor ends up telling a similar marketing story, answering the same pain points with indistinguishable solutions.

So when you’re talking to new prospects, don’t try to address your customer’s needs. Instead, introduce Unconsidered Needs—missed problems or opportunities they didn’t know about or haven’t addressed.

Leading with Unconsidered Needs makes your message significantly more persuasive because it makes their current situation seem unsafe and unsustainable. Their mindset shifts from simply exploring their options to needing to solve an urgent issue.

4. Find your Value Wedge

Most marketers build messages that unwittingly put them in a similar position to their competition. This area of value parity is the overlap between what you and your competitors can offer your buyer. But focusing there won’t communicate any real value for the buyer—you just end up saying a lot of “me too” statements about your offerings that sound like everyone else.

Your best opportunity for differentiation is to find what you can do for the prospect that’s different from what the competition can do. This is your Value Wedge—this is where you find your distinct point of view.

You win by introducing Unconsidered Needs that your buyer now must prioritize, and then position your product’s unique strengths as a solution to those needs.

Think science, not surveys, for marketing success

Start looking critically at the so-called marketing best practices that surround you. Too many of the strategies you’ll see have been plucked out of thin air or other less-than-reliable sources. They might sound impressive, but they won’t lead to verifiable differences in your marketing results. Stop relying on anecdata and start leading with a scientific mind to create messages that persuade people to change and choose you.

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Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions, is dedicated to helping companies improve their conversations with prospects and customers to win more business. A visionary researcher, thought leader, keynote speaker, and practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and sales management, Riesterer is co-author of four books, including Customer Message Management, Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, The Three Value Conversations, and The Expansion Sale.

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