How to Persuade Customers With Disruptive Content

By Rowan Noronha

When it comes to content creation, you can’t win using the same strategies as your competitors. You have to stay ahead of the curve.

If you’re developing content to promote a product, the key is to make it stand out. Otherwise, you’re liable to get lost in the shuffle. Even worse, you may lose customers to competitors who are able to create more compelling content.

The way you avoid this is by deploying disruptive content. But what does this mean, and how do you do it?

Sea of Sameness

Your customers see so much content, everything they consume begins to blend into one giant “sea of sameness.” They see so many case studies, infographics, blog posts, videos, and ebooks, that nothing looks unique. They may contain different information or argue opposing viewpoints, but it doesn’t matter much.

Your content may be well written. It may be backed up with statistics and other evidence that proves your point. It may even have a sleek-looking colour scheme or logo for branding purposes. But unless it can stir up some kind of emotion from your audience, it’s going to get swept away along with all the other unpersuasive content they’ve seen.

Being overexposed to content from your industry can lead your customers to be fatigued by the sheer amount of it. It creates a feeling of repetitiveness, where all the content runs together.

It’s your mission as a content creator to escape the sea of sameness to the point where your content is resonating with its intended audience. The best way to do that is to disrupt your customer’s mind.

Disrupting the customer’s mind

The word “disrupt” can have a negative connotation, but in this context, it’s very much positive. Disrupting your customer’s mind means you are exposing a flaw in conventional wisdom and not only sharing why it’s wrong, but what the cost of their current behavior is that is rooted in what they’ve got wrong.

To disrupt the customer’s mind, you need to understand what types of drivers cause a customer to shift their perception. These are the levers you push to move them from disinterested to engaged. A Gartner customer survey found that there are six primary drivers that can change a customer’s direction. Two of them were statistically significant, and they were:

Teaching the customer something new about their own business needs or challenges

The reason why your customer (or a prospective customer) is buying (or going to buy) from you? You solve one of their problems. In some cases, this is a very straight forward exchange — the customer has a problem and looks for a solution.

Where your content can disrupt the customer’s thinking is when it presents them with a problem they didn’t know they had. If you can teach your customer something new about their business, they’ll see you as an authority in their field.

Business leaders seek certainty and value brands as a source of vetted information and insight because the brand is putting its reputation on the line — so there is a high cost for being wrong. This imparts authority to the brand as a trusted source of information.

Providing the customer with compelling reasons why it was necessary to take action

Your customer may not feel the need to buy your product at the moment they come across your content. That’s why you want to create something that stirs an emotional reaction in them. Ideally, this will compel them to understand why they needed to partner with you.

For example, let’s say you create products for customers in an industry with heavy regulations and compliance. Creating a piece of content that shows your customer all the ways in which the government can penalize them for not being compliant might be effective. You could outline the fines and other penalties they may face and how it can impact their bottom line.

Table stakes

It is important to understand all of the drivers that change your customer’s direction, including those that aren’t easily quantified:

· Representing a smart/expert perspective.

· Being easy to understand.

· Containing interesting facts or anecdotes.

· Being accessible or quick to find.

Driving your customer to the desired mental model

If you want your content to maximize your disruption, focus on the first two approaches as opposed to the last four mentioned. Think of it in terms of a mental model.

Your customer’s current mental is represented by the “A” statement. This is what they believe to be true. Your content explains why the assumptions and beliefs held by the customer’s “A” statement are no longer acceptable. Finally, you arrive at the desired customer mental model, or the “B” statement. This represents what you want the customer to believe instead.

Disruptive content changes the model in the customer’s way of thinking.

Driving to, not with

Too much content is feature-centric, telling the customer all the great things it can do. These feature-centric interactions aren’t nearly as effective as insight-led interactions. This is where you inform the customer about the product’s ultimate impact.

For example, take a hypothetical pitch from a company like Xerox. They can discuss how their leading-edge cartridge technology cuts waste by 90%. They can talk about how they can create vibrant, smooth images. Or they can talk about their multiple software options. This information is nice, but it begs the question: so what?

Contrast that with a different approach: a Xerox sales rep stating, “I’d like to talk with you about the impact of colour on student performance.” This addresses the customer’s problem as opposed to checking off features. It ties the product to the solution.

Help your sales reps

Think of your content as leading your customer through a three-step process, with different emotions displayed at each point. On the first step, you identify the customer’s business problem and what they’re currently doing. Here, the customer feels warmer to you as you display empathy and build credibility.

As you highlight what the customer is missing, you reframe the problem and gradually intensify the problem’s closeness to the customer. You begin to humanize the problem, giving it an emotional impact.

Finally, you present the customer with a new approach. You demonstrate that they need a new framework and that your solution, linked back to the key teaching points you established earlier, is what they need.

By creating a through-line for your customer, you enable your sales rep in explaining how you fit into the customer’s story. That’s how you create content that disrupts — in the best way possible — in a way that will drive customers to your product or service.

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