New Corporate Visions Research Reveals Most Effective Message for Upselling Existing Customers

PLEASANTON, Calif., April 17, 2018 – In collaboration with Dr. Nick Lee, a professor at the Warwick Business School, Corporate Visions has published a new study revealing a tested and proven messaging framework for delivering the most effective upsell message to existing customers. The study—covering what study authors dubbed the “Why Evolve?” situation—was done in partnership with the International Journal of Sales Transformation, a publication that features research by academics and sales thought leaders.

The study, which involved 426 participants placed in a hypothetical business-to-business decision-making scenario, tested a range of different message conditions designed to convince existing customers to upgrade or migrate to a higher-value solution.

The winning marketing message, as validated by the study, was a combination of emotional “Why Change” messaging with “Why Stay” relationship reinforcement content. This mixed approach outperformed both stand-alone frameworks that had proven most effective in previous tests for new customer acquisition (“Why Change?”) and existing customer renewal messaging (“Why Stay?”).

“The best upsell message is something of a hybrid, in that it borrows some of the provocative elements needed to disrupt status quo bias, as well as some of the techniques that are best for reinforcing the status quo,” said Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Research Officer at Corporate Visions. “It’s not strictly provocative, nor is it straight up protectionist. You’ve got to find the middle ground between these approaches to get customers to ‘evolve’ their solution.”

The hybrid “relationship reinforcement and emotion” condition outperformed the other test conditions in overall message performance; how unusual or unexpected the message was; how important the new solution seemed to success; how convincing the pitch was; how willing the story made customers to move to the upgraded solution; and how likely they were to make the purchase.

The winning message framework was structured around the following pillars:

  • Document Results – Quantify the tenure and impact of your partnership. Recap the goals you’ve helped them achieve to date.
  • Highlight Evolving Pressures – Describe shifting internal and external pressures as a logical progression or evolution, not a surprise or disruption.
  • Share “Hard Truths” – Describe the potential missed opportunities both internally and externally from your vantage point as a trusted partner.
  • Risk of No Change – Emphasize the potentially harmful risks and repercussions of not evolving or keeping up.
  • Upside Opportunity – Use personalized “you” language to transfer ownership of the solution and all of the internal and external benefits for making the change.

“It makes sense that a hybrid message emerged as the most effective approach,” Riesterer said. “This message is about getting them to evolve—to convince them of the value of progressing their vision and their buying habits.”

To view the research in full and get in-depth analysis of the findings from the authors, check out Corporate Visions’ latest State of the Conversation Report.

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