Challenging Customers Reduces Effectiveness of Renewal Messaging, Study Finds

November 1, 2016

New research reveals provocative messaging at “renewal time” makes customers more willing to shop around and even switch providers

PLEASANTON, Calif., Nov. 1, 2016 — Corporate Visions, Inc., the leading marketing and sales messaging, content and skills training company, announced the results of an experiment showing that provocative messaging approaches can put you at a significant disadvantage in a renewal selling context, and actually increase customers’ willingness to shop around and even switch to an alternative.

For the experiment, Corporate Visions contracted with Dr. Zakary Tormala, an expert in persuasion and messaging who conducted the study. Separately, Tormala is a social psychologist at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The study, which tested two provocative selling messages against a message that reinforced the known causes of status quo bias, found that participants in the provocative conditions were 10 percent more likely to switch providers or shop around than participants in the status quo reinforcement message.

“At a time when challenging the customer is all the rage, this research stands as a strong rebuttal to the idea that provocative messaging is universally applicable,” said Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer of Corporate Visions. “As this study shows, messaging that challenges the status quo can actually backfire in a renewal selling scenario, putting you at a significant disadvantage when you’re trying to protect your status as the incumbent.”

The study also found that participants who experienced the status quo reinforcement message, which documented success, reported a:

  • 13 percent boost in intentions to renew, relative to the two provocative messages.
  • 9 percent boost in positive attitudes, compared to the two provocative messages.
  • 7 percent lift in credibility perceptions, relative to the provocative conditions.

“There’s a time and a place for a disruptive message that injects urgency into the conversation, and it’s when you’re the outsider looking to defeat the status quo or introduce a new concept, not when you’re the insider trying to maintain a service or subscription,” Riesterer said. “So many customer conversations revolve around the question of ‘why stay,’ and to answer that question effectively, marketers and salespeople need to be great at reinforcing the causes of the status quo bias in their messaging, content and skills.”

For more information, please check out the research brief.

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