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How to Use Construal Level Theory in Your Buyer’s Journey

Olin Hyde

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Follow-up sequences: Are you getting the yield you'd like from your lead generation efforts, or do you feel like your conversion numbers are never quite up to par? Follow up sequences can help, and Construal-level theory is one way that we can craft effective follow up sequences. Our guest today is Jon Powell, a top-rated speaker and email marketing consultant. LeadCrunch[ai] uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the performance of B2B demand generation campaigns through account-based "lookalike" modeling. Click the link for more information. https://leadcrunch.com/solutions/

Posted by LeadCrunch on Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Hosts: J. David Green and Jonathan Greene

Guest(s): Jon Powell, Sr. Director, Research and Education, NextAfter



[0:00:06.0] ANNOUNCER:Live, from deep in the heart of Galveston, Texas all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene show. Here are your hosts, Dave Greenand Jonathan Greene, ready to unlock the mysteries of scaling demand gen. The Green & Greene show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which has reimagined how to find B2B customers at scale.


[0:00:29.7] JG:All right, it’s the Green & Greene show. We’re not doing episodes anymore because that junk is confusing. We’ll just call it the Green & Greene show Wednesday edition. I’m here with my cohost and mentor and coworker Dave Green. Thanks for being on, as usual. I’m lucky to have Mr. Jon Powellwith us today. He’s a very sought-after speaker, email marketing expert, all-around genius egghead-type. We’re thrilled to have you on the show. Thanks for being here with us.

[0:00:58.4] JP:Thanks.

[0:00:59.9] JG:What we wanted to talk about today, specifically, were follow-up sequences. We really wanted to nerd out on something called “construal level theory”. Let’s just start from the beginning. Jon, tell us what you perceive the benefits of a follow-up sequence to be. Why should marketers care about talking about this to begin with?

The Benefits of a Follow-up Sequence

[0:01:19.9] JP:Follow-up sequences are really important. Maybe either somebody’s made their decision right then or they haven’t, and that’s very black and white. But, as you know, human beings get busy. We get interrupted. We take time to make decisions sometimes and sometimes maybe we don’t feel 100% comfortable. We need that time. Follow-up sequences allow somebody to become comfortable. It allows you to catch them at the right time and the right place.

Sometimes, they just don’t make the connection. “Why should I care?” Through a follow-up sequence that maybe focuses on a number of different facets, you can connect with them. You can find it’s like a light finally goes off. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to let go. In fact, I do a lot of research on the nonprofit level with NextAfter, and one of the things we discovered is that, even after 12 emails, a follow-up sequence on the year-end, which is the big time for nonprofits, you might get maybe 70, 80% to open up one of those. People are super busy. That’s why, oftentimes, sending more email can actually get you more. It’s not just for nonprofits; it’s for-profits. It’s everybody. It’s human nature, so that’s why you should care

Listen to the podcast, “Five Secrets for Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy.”

[0:02:48.0] JG:Dave, we work in a business where we deliver leads to people. Sometimes we’ll get comments to the effect of, “These are not performing as we thought,” and then we follow up. We see there is absolutely nothing going on the back end of that delivery which would nurture or move those leads through any kind of mental process towards becoming a customer. Would you say that’s pretty important from your perspective as a marketing sales guru?

[0:03:13.6] DG:I liken it to when you go do car shopping, or any kind of shopping, and a sales person comes up and tries to jam you into a test drive. You’re not ready. You just wanted to walk through the lot and see if you like the colors and the prices, but you’re just not at that stage where you’re ready for that kind of a commitment. That’s what I think happens, a lot of times, when people take leads prematurely and throw them over to a sales team. Sales is there to close them. That’s their job, and the customers aren’t always ready. You have to do something, as Jon was saying, to warm them up a little bit more and get them to that stage with some kind of sequence of things that help them see what they didn’t see before.

[0:04:08.1] JG:Jon, would you say that the purpose of the follow-up sequence is mental preparation or conditioning? How would you characterize what the sequence is actually supposed to do?

What is the Purpose of a Follow-up Sequence?

[0:04:22.5] JP:You can do a lot with it. For some people, it’s going to be framing. For some people, it’s going to be priming. If you’re talking specifically about leads that aren’t ready, then absolutely you’re going to warm them up. You’re trying to find them at that time and place when they’re ready, or you’re trying to get them to that place where they are ready. That’s the purpose of the sequence.

[0:04:48.1] JG:Absolutely. I think that’s a good segue into the bit of nerdery that we talked about that is Construal level theory. I’m going to make an amateur attempt. I’ve spent some time studying this myself, and I know you have as well. I’m excited to chop this up for a few minutes,  as a general definition for laypeople who perhaps don’t spend all day in Google Scholar like we do.

Construal level theory is this idea of psychological distance. The farther you are away from an object, the different construals you will need in order to psychologically fulfill your needs at that stage. You need to say different things to people at different times depending upon how far they are away from a purchase decision.

In the beginning, the construals are very high level, which might be something like, “What is your product and what does it do?” I think the gist of that line of questioning would be to figure out if it’s a general fit, if I even need what you’re offering. Then, if you move closer toward that locus of conversion, those construals become more low level. “What will this solution look like in my business? What does a day in the life of somebody who is using this look like? Is it for me?” It’s not just, “Does it work?”

Am I pretty close there? What would you add to that?

What Will this Look Like in My Business?

[0:06:14.3] JP:As you know, a lot of people have written about this and spoken a lot about this. In fact, I can think about a guy named Simon Sinek. I don’t know how many books he’s written now, like three or four. He’s the Start with Whyguy.

What he’s getting at is the same thing. People don’t just make decisions based off features and stuff. They need to see how it connects to them. When you talk about distance, I don’t think it’s necessarily restricted to how they understand a product.

Think about an organization, especially organizations that don’t necessarily have product, but they have services or they work on behalf of somebody. What you need to do is help them understand how you and they are similar. In self-construal theory, it’s all about the different social identities that they have, that they’ve chosen. As an organization, you want to say, “I am like you in this area that you’ve chosen to be. We believe in the same thing. We’re going after the same thing.”

When we talk about construal, I don’t want to limit it necessarily to maybe how far they are just in general versus specific to my situation,n but also think about it in terms of, “Who is this organization to me, do I like this organization?” Somebody once gave me a really good piece of advice. They said, “If you want to manage somebody’s money, they’ve got to like you first.”

If you think about it, it’s the same thing. It’s very similar. They need to be able to connect with you at some level. As it gets closer, it might get more specific, again, riding along what you were saying.

Listen to the podcast, “How to Use B2B Video throughout your Funnel.”

[0:08:16.7] JG:Their pain point or something like that?

[0:08:18.9] JP:Right. They have to like you. Especially in the not-for-profit world, I see this often, where they almost need to like you first. They need to have that general connection, and then you can get more specific with a particular campaign or something you’re trying to do.

It’s the same thing with organizations and Simon Sinek’s whole thing. Think of the way Apple describes itself, “Apple is all about people with passion, different people, changing the world and oh by the way, we sell computers.” They want to make that connection with you on that general level before they start talking about bits and bytes, megabits, how big it is, how fast it is. As you know, Microsoft or any other tech company, or if you want to talk about phones, might even outplay them when it comes to features, but when it comes to the values, when it comes to that general, before you get to the specific, it’s necessary.

When we talk about construals, think about it like that as well. At what point can we make what connection?

[0:09:24.7] JG:I think it’s really important to conversion. I always feel like there’s pressure to get to conversion right away. Sometimes the best play is really building rapport, establishing the value of the brand and why it matters and how it relates to people. That probably sets you up for greater conversion ultimately on the back end.

[0:09:46.8] JP:I think that’s why the nurture sequences are so important. In fact, you ask a lot of for-profit companies about welcome series. For somebody who’s not running one, that’s the first thing that any expert email marketer is going to say, “Why aren’t you running a welcome series?” There’s so much engagement and so much to be had by that because, again, you’re deepening that relationship. You’re setting them up, if you want to use manipulative terms.

You’re helping them to identify closer to you; you’re helping to bring them closer. When those specific decision opportunities come, whether it’s a sale or whatever, because you have that connection already, that general connection, you’re going to imply more positive things when it comes to this specific opportunity. Those sequences help you do that.

They help create that connection that’s necessary for them to be able to act on that something specific in that positive manner. It’s better than them saying, “Oh god, they’re trying to sell me again!” That’s a thing. I promise you. If my wife didn’t have a really strong connection with a particular brand, then she wouldn’t have the reaction she does when she sees a sale.

She’s like, “Oh my god, there’s a sale! I’ve got to do it.” That’s because she has a belief. It’s because she has the connection with them, she believes. If she didn’t have that, she’d be like, “So what? Who cares?” I’ll say to her, “Hey, you want to watch that movie?” “Who cares? who wants to watch that?”? It doesn’t have that connection for her. It’s just not there.

[0:11:21.7] JG:Dave, what is the difference, from a sales perspective, when you get a sales qualified lead, for instance, who’s a believer, who’s been through this sort of brand affinity versus somebody who perhaps filled out the same form? They’re still a sales call, but if they’ve not had the benefit of this type of nurturing engagement, what’s the difference in terms of trying to sell?

[0:11:48.0] DG:It’s interesting. Just so everybody knows, all three of us worked for the same company, the brand that you might know as Marketing Sherpa. We had another brand from MECLABS called Marketing Experiments. Marketing Experiments and Marketing Sherpa have their own fans, and when you would get one of those people, they like you. They just like you.

You didn’t know them. You’d never met them before, but it made a complete difference in their willingness to be candid and to explore whether they were going to do business with you. I think you can’t understate that enough. For example, I love Rand Fishkin. I read his blogs and his Whiteboard Friday. I have seen a lot of those, and you know, if his organization ever reached out to me and said, “Hey, you know, we might be able to help you,” I’d want to talk to them because they’ve already helped me. I think that’s what you need to do, you need to give a little bit before you ask.

[0:13:01.0] JP:Absolutely.

[0:13:02.5] DG:That’s just human nature. That’s been true for a million years or however long people have been conscious. That’s what you do with people. You give a little before you ask for anything.

[0:13:13.8] JG:There’s an overarching principle here. We’ve been fancy. We’ve used construal level theory, but we’re talking about value exchange basically.

[0:13:21.5] DG:Yeah.

[0:13:24.4] JG:Do you have any parting thoughts, Mr. Powell, on value exchange as it relates to this entire conversation?

Thought on Value Exchange

[0:13:33.6] JP:Think of it like this: You can take Tylenol or aspirin to get rid of a headache, but if you want to increase its effect, then you add caffeine to it. Therefore, you get Excedrin Migraine, right? These sequences, these follow-ups, are like the caffeine that you’ve added. You’re going to take the pill, but it’s going to be far more effective and it’s going to have a far greater effect if you combine those things together.

When it comes to these sequences, when it comes to construals and all that, you want to make that connection, give a little, however you want to put it, so that when it comes time to pop the pill for the headache or whatever campaign you have, you get that increased effect. Without it, you’re still going to convert some people who are ready right then and there, but you’re not going to get the maximum benefit because not everybody’s feeling that connection.

Use those sequences. Use that opportunity you have to build that connection to get them to like you, to give a little, to reciprocity, whatever that is, and watch, when the opportunities come, how people act differently, basically more favorably, toward you.

Listen to the podcast, “The Psychology of Lead Nurturing.”

[0:14:50.7] JG:Fantastic. Guys, that was a great discussion. Listen, ladies and gentlemen, we’re delivering value here. If you don’t think this is valuable, I don’t know how to help you. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to call it an episode. We like to try to keep these at 15 or 20 minutes, but I can promise you, we’re going to have Jon Powell back on to talk some more about follow-up sequences and email in general. The guy’s a genius. You can’t afford to not listen to what he’s saying.

That’s it for this episode. Thanks, Dave. Thanks, Jon. We’re going to catch you guys on the flip side with some more amazing content and we hope you start liking us. I know I have the Viking thing going on with the bald head and the beard, but I’m friendly. I’m a likeable guy.

Anyway, that’s it. I hope you guys have a great day. This has been another episode of the Green & Greene show.


[0:15:42.0] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning into the Green & Greene show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and want to start a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an email to David.Green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides. www.leadcrunch.com