How to Successfully Engage Out-of-Market B2B Prospects: The Information Gap Theory

Cognition Agency
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How many recent B2B marketing strategies have you seen that focus on ‘demand generation’? We’re betting quite a few… 

It’s no secret how important generating demand has become for capturing leads. This is especially true when we consider that the vast majority of prospects aren’t ready to buy, as demonstrated by a 2021 report published by the B2B Institute coining the 95:5 rule. That is, a staggering 95% of business buyers are not actively seeking to purchase at any given time. 

Unsolicited pitches simply won’t cut it anymore. Understanding how to trigger and sustain the curiosity of these prospects is crucial, even when they are months (or even years) away from a buying mindset. 

This is where the Information Gap Theory comes into play. 

What is the Information Gap Theory?

In 1994, economist George Leowenstein introduced the ‘Information Gap’ theory. It proposes that curiosity is triggered when individuals recognise a lack of desired knowledge, creating an ‘aversive feeling of uncertainty’. 

This level of uncertainty is enough to rival hunger in terms of intensity, making it strong enough for individuals to actively seek resolve. 

The power of fMRI scans

A 2008 Caltech study used fMRI scans on participants engaging with trivia questions. Findings revealed an inverted U-shaped curve of curiosity that peaked when participants had some degree of knowledge, but remained uncertain about their concrete answer. 

The lowest level of curiosity was revealed when participants reported extreme confidence in their answer, or no confidence at all. These findings strongly support the idea that we are most curious when we know a little about a subject - as opposed to knowing nothing, or too much. 

Picture1In fact, moments after engaging with their first question, participants’ fMRI scans revealed increased brain activity in the left caudate, prefrontal cortex, and parahippocampal gyri. 

The left caudate, linked to the dopamine reward pathway, showed a strong dopaminergic response. This highlights an almost instant desire for more information, showcasing that the root of curiosity is deeply ingrained in this primal pathway. 

How Can the Information Gap Theory be Used?

Understanding the intricacies of the ‘Information Gap’, and its links to our primal dopamine pathway, is a hugely powerful tool for marketers. 

By revealing just the right amount of information to prospects, you’ll create a deliberate sense of curiosity that compels action and bridges the gap between what audiences know - and what they desire to discover. 

Here’s how you you can utilise the Information Gap Theory to successfully engage out-of-market prospects: 

  • Curiosity-based headlines: Employ headlines that trigger curiosity across multiple formats. Whether blogs, articles, organic social posts or paid ads, focus your headlines on bridging the curiosity gap. 
  • Hyper-personalised emails: Spark curiosity in email content by combining a desired outcome with something brand-new. As an extremely effective ABM tool, conduct research to establish a relevant ‘desired outcome’ for your chosen prospect - and frame your services as their solution. 

For example, the desired outcome might be impressing the prospect’s new incoming CMO (as identified by your research), while the brand-new revelation how you can help i.e. a tool that’s been proven to save ‘x’ hours per month. The prospect’s curiosity is triggered by your prior knowledge of their company and they will want to learn more about the possibilities of the desired outcome you have presented. THIS is your Information Gap. 

  • Avoid clickbait: Eye-catching headlines that pique curiosity run the risk of falling into the clickbait trap. Ensure all curiosity-based headlines still align with the content and directly address the topic promised - or you’ll lose the trust and respect of your audience. 

Keen to learn more?

See the Information Gap in action in our new guide: ‘4 Big Challenges for Brands in 2024 and How to Solve them Using Psychology’. 

Delve deeper into how this powerful theory can help you engage out-of-market prospects by creating truly unique demand that compels action. 

Download your free copy.unnamed-1


Contact the team at Cognition Agency for all your digital marketing requirements.