Sometimes as marketers, we’re faced with selling an audience not on a product or service, but on the very notion of change itself.

Selling change is really tough – and even more so when the audience is conservative.

think hard

So it was for me recently when my client, First American Equipment Finance, needed to convince its clientele to make a technological change from a paper-based documentation system to an electronic documentation system. First American firmly believed that embracing this new technology platform would transform their entire industry, and I agreed with them.

However, First American knew their clients weren’t all familiar with the ins and outs of electronic documentation (or “e-documentation,” as it’s commonly called). And their clients are C-suite executives who have concerns about the potential risks of the new technology. So before First American could make the change, they needed to convince their clients that e-documentation is a great – and a safe – idea.

I’m happy to report that in the end, our campaign was highly successful, and First American is proudly at the forefront of this major industry paradigm shift. So how did we get their clients on board with this?

Step 1: We identified the nature of the challenge

In a regular marketing campaign, you explain the benefits of your product or service and let them speak for themselves. But in this case, explaining the benefits of the new technology wasn’t going to be enough. The banks and lenders perceived e-documentation as less secure than traditional paper documentation, and they were highly concerned about exposing themselves to undue risk.

We knew that throwing a bunch of information at them and simply arguing the opposite point would get us nowhere.

Step 2: We chose the strategy

We decided instead to show them that we were as skeptical as they were – perhaps even more so.

We knew that if we could meet the audience where they were – in a place of uncertainty and resistance – this would help them realize that we understood (and even shared) their concerns. They would no longer feel the need to convince us of the dangers and pitfalls of the proposed changes. In fact, we’d sidestep the whole mentality of “us vs. them” entirely. We’d show them we were on their side and just as concerned as they were.

Step 3: We wrote a white paper

For this group, a white paper felt like the right marketing tool. It needed to be official, respectable, and credible – and the white paper is the most “academic” of our marketing options.

B2B white papers are marketing communications documents that use selected facts and logical arguments to build a case for a particular course of action. B2B white papers are often used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, or inform and persuade prospective customers, channel partners, journalists, analysts, or investors.

Step 4: We sounded the alarm

But it couldn’t just be a straight outline of the need for change. Instead, we closely examined each potential obstacle that might prevent us from implementing e-documentation.

  • We walked them through the new technology with clear, compelling infographics. This brought the issue down to earth and made it easier to consider and discuss.
  • We referenced legal opinion from an industry expert to outline how to ensure e-documentation will stand up to legal challenges. We made sure to give the name and firm of the attorney, and we included details on every applicable legal risk.
  • We referred to state and federal commerce regulations affecting security and confidentiality. We cited the code names and numbers (“According to Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) section 9-105…”), and then we explained in plain English how the regulations impacted e-documentation.
  • We made it easier to perform due diligence when shopping for e-documentation vendors by including a checklist of questions to ask. Here we were not only agreeing it made sense to be concerned, but also taking it a step further by turning those concerns into “action items.”

Step 5: We reached the only possible conclusion

After detailing the variety of possible obstacles we might encounter with e-documentation, we were also able to explain how each obstacle could be overcome – or why it wasn’t really an obstacle in the first place.

By convincing ourselves, in the course of the paper, that e-documentation is safe and secure, we compelled the audience to agree.

Then . . . We Won!

 

Not only did the white paper win the 2012 APEX Award of Excellence, but, much more importantly, First American received very good feedback. Clients appreciated the methodical way First American raised and defused possible challenges of the new technology. They particularly appreciated that First American “spoke their language.”

As a result, First American has been able to smoothly transition to the new e-documentation platform, without the push back they had anticipated.

The next time you need to “sell” change, try this: Get more upset than they are, and then patiently explore the reasons why the change is actually for the better. I believe there is no better vehicle for this than a white paper that’s stuffed with facts, figures, and authority. It worked for us!