I was watching TV the other night and a commercial for Dyson, maker of suction-based vacuums, came on. The ad was mostly forgettable, but the tagline stuck with me.

“Only a Dyson works like a Dyson.”

This is a great tagline.

It’s great because it’s true. But not in the “duh, of course only a Dyson works like a Dyson” kind of way. Rather, it’s true because it echoes how people (who aren’t customers yet) talk about Dyson vacuums. Particularly when they’re talking about a competing vacuum. As in:

  • “Look at this vacuum cleaner, it’s like a Dyson but cheaper.”
  • “Check out this Shark vacuum, it works like a Dyson.”
  • “Got a new vacuum, it’s just like a Dyson but I got it off Alibaba.”

This tagline demonstrates a useful tool in the B2B marketing world: Plagiarism.

I’ll explain.

This isn’t the bad kind of plagiarism where you steal somebody else’s idea.

Dyson is plagiarizing their target audience. They studied how people talk about the brand and what words they like to use. And then they took those words and fed them back to their audience.

So, while the tagline is true (which is great), it also seems true to their audience (which is even better). And it’s all because of a psychological concept called “mirroring.”

Man using a mirror to illustrate mirroring psychology in marketing.

What is Mirroring Psychology?

In psychology, mirroring refers to the subconscious imitation of another’s gestures, speech patterns or any other kind of verbal and non-verbal behavior. Humans learn mirroring in infancy as a way to understand the emotions of others. (This is otherwise known as empathy.)

In marketing, mirroring is used to connect and build rapport with an audience. This time it’s a conscious effort, so it comes across as manipulative (and it is). But the thing about mirroring is that it works:

“Retail salespeople who were told to mimic the nonverbal and verbal behavior of customers sold more products and left customers with a more positive opinion of the store, according to a 2011 study of 129 customers by French researchers.”

What does this mean for content marketing? If you learn to use mirroring, your messaging and content will resonate more with your audience.

Let’s look at how to do that.

How to Use Mirroring in Your Messaging (3 Steps)

Alright, here’s a simple three-step process our content pros use.

I should clarify first. Internally, we never actually think of this stuff as mirroring psychology. It’s just a normal part of discovery and trying to understand a client’s audience.

But even though we don’t use the word, the concept behind what we’re doing is absolutely mirroring.

Step 1: Identify your customers’ problems

Figure out what specific problems your target audience has and list them out. The best way to get this info is to interview them. That could mean current or prospective customers.

But if you can’t do that, then pay attention to these things:

  • Questions your sales team gets (through your website or over the phone)
  • Google queries that bring people to your site (found in Search Console)
  • Reviews users write on third-party sites (like Capterra)
  • Website pages (of yours) they engage with the most (found in Google Analytics)
  • Comments on articles posted on industry trade sites

What you want are pain points – symptoms of an underlying problem. And you want them in your audience’s words. This will help you use mirroring psychology later on.

Here are a few examples from companies in the same industry: materials testing. Each pain point is matched to an underlying problem:

  • “We make too many errors in the lab.” (Accuracy)
  • “It takes three techs to run tree machines. That’s too slow.” (Efficiency)
  • “It’s hard to prove we’re telling the truth.” (Accuracy/Compliance)
  • “In our experience, human hands add bias in a testing workflow.” (Accuracy)
  •  “Everyone still writes everything by hand on paper.” (Accuracy)
  • “I need to get 50 tests done per day. I’m maxing out at 30.” (Efficiency)
  •  “We trust our process, but people get in the way.” (Accuracy)

This is a short list. In real life, 15-20+ pain points would be better. The more you collect, the more the speech patterns will reveal themselves.

Regardless, you’ll notice some of the pain points share the same problem. This is good because it will help us in the next step.

Step 2: Figure out which problem is the biggest

From our list, we can deduce these companies have issues with efficiency, accuracy and compliance. But which one of those is most important? What is the hierarchy of problems for these organizations?

Based on the above, the order looks like this:

  • Accuracy
  • Efficiency
  • Compliance

So, if accuracy is the biggest problem our example audience has, we must lead with it in our messaging. If we make it all about efficiency or compliance, we’ll miss the mark.

But it’s not just the hierarchy we need to get right. It’s also the language. Using familiar words will help us mirror how this audience thinks about their problems. And that will help us build rapport and earn their trust.

Let’s look at how to do that.

Turn their words into messaging

Once you’ve figured out what your prospective customers need fixed, mirror it. Put pain points in their language.

What words do they use? What specific details do they stress? How would they describe it if they were standing in front of you?

Based on our example pain points above, we can start to build messaging that addresses each problem. All in language that uses mirroring.

  • Keep errors (and auditors) out of the lab.
  • Three machines. one technician. Improve your odds with [OUR SOLUTION].
  • With [OUR SOLUTION], you never have to tell the truth. The data does it for you.
  • Humans add bias. [OUR SOLUTION] subtracts it.
  • Because right now the only thing keeping you compliant is good handwriting.
  • You already have everything you need to triple productivity. Now just get rid of everything that doesn’t. With [OUR SOLUTION].
  • Good labs trust their process. Great labs verify it. With [OUR COMPANY].

Try running this exercise with your own audience in mind. See if you can come up with 5-10 key messages that mirror how your prospects think and talk about their problems.

Last point I want to make: Don’t leave out the details. Especially if your audience provided them. Without details, your content will be broad and too abstract. This could hurt your website traffic.

Mirroring Psychology in B2B Messaging: Conclusion

It’s easy to be cynical about a concept like mirroring, especially in marketing. But doing what you can to understand the people who make your business possible is vital to growth.

If your business is the best chance a customer has to solve a specific problem – and mirroring psychology helps connect you faster – it’s a good thing.