How much does behavioural style matter in marketing?

I’m sat on a train eavesdropping on nearby conversations. I’ve been listening to a young woman opposite me talking on her phone about finishing up her sociology and psychology degree. When she’s finished, the stranger next to her says “are you going to analyse us all now?”

My answer would be ‘yes’. And in the world of marketing and sales, your answer should be yes too.

Different people like different things. And they like to be communicated with in different ways.

I’ve been in situations with certain types of people where I can’t understand what they’re saying. When I was younger, I just thought I was mad (or they were), and just muddled on.

Likewise, some people would email me lots of wordy paragraphs and others were far more concise. This wasn’t about job function, it was more about people, how they understand information and communicate.

At one time, I remember working in an agency and my boss had insisted that we have a copywriter with us at a meeting with one of our clients. Their reasoning was that neither of us could make sense of what the client was saying, but the copywriter got it. They were simply aligned and we were not. They were a completely different communication and personality type to us.

My degree was in communications, so I’ve always recognised different personalities, and how meaning, information processing and understanding were open to interpretation, but until recently, I hadn’t applied it to my craft.

What might be beautiful design and crafted copy to one person, might be complete fluff to another. Likewise, how a message is communicated might be misunderstood, or worse ignored, because it’s not in the right format. The impact of this on marketing communications can be hugely detrimental.

Matching the appropriate language and style is critical for effective communication, whether visual, written or non-verbal. With most campaigns though, it’s not possible to identify a person’s profile without making sweeping broad-brush assumptions and applying that to a database. But when you’re working on niche campaigns with very small audiences, matching a communication style to the behaviours an individual exhibits is a great opportunity and something marketers don’t often consider.

Relationship-based sales people are adept at matching

I’ve met some fairly smooth sales people. They’re subject matter experts, adept at working with C-level prospects and they’ve mastered relationship styles. They adapt their behaviour to match the person in the room – sometimes referred to as mirroring, other times simply ‘adaptive’ behaviour.

These sales people get what they need and excel at their jobs, bringing home millions of dollars in sales.

So why is this important?

Adapting styles in marketing can improve campaign performance. For example, we know bullet points work – we use them in emails all the time. It makes for easier reading and better responses. It’s a simple technique.

In individual, one-to-one communications, style matters.

I’m not talking about mirroring, it does play a part, but only one part in a bigger process.

I’m talking more about the language you choose, the style and layout of the documents you present and the body language you use.

A simple tool we use to identify people’s behavioural style is Marston’s DISC theory. Whilst the behavioural traits he listed were dominance, inducement, submission and compliance (which sound like something from Fifty Shades of Grey), more modern interpretations use friendlier language. What’s more, Marston was the creator of the Wonder Woman character, so he’s in my list of top 10 heroes!

DISC is a simple personality profiling tool, which when understood can be applied immediately in one-to-one situations. We use it when considering copy and design for certain audience groups within campaigns, and we use it for communicating effectively with our client’s sales teams, who tend to avoid wordy marketing emails for their prospects.

We find it makes a difference. We also find when you switch from your default behaviour and actively adapt your style to meet the needs of others, it makes a huge difference to how they respond.

You can find out all about Marston, DISC and Wonder Woman on Wikipedia, or you can talk to me about how we use it as part of our profiling for client’s key accounts, social influencers and in account based marketing programmes. Tweet me, or message me on LinkedIn.

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