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Why Emotion Matters in B2B Marketing

Editor's Note: Today's post comes courtesy of Chuck Green, a marketing and business writer for the past 30 years. His work has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and more.

From LEGO's heartwarming father-son moment to Dove Beauty's touching ode to female self-esteem, B2C marketers know there's no better way to pluck the heart strings than through good, old-fashioned emotion. But when courting B2B audiences, marketers too often forget to factor in the human side of decision-making. And industry experts agree: B2B customers respond just as strongly to emotional appeals as their B2C counterparts, if not more so.

In fact, to most effectively reach customers, emotion should be a central tenet in the sales pitch of B2B marketers, says Bob Leonard, owner of B2B marketing agency acSellerant Studios. "The world changes around us by the hour, [but] human nature doesn't really ever change," he says. "A trigger causes people to pay attention and remember. When emotion's attached to an idea, event or argument, it makes an impression."                     

To stand out, B2B marketers must create anticipation of both professional and personal rewards, according to a study by Google and CEB's Marketing Leadership Council, working with marketing research firm Motista. How? By building emotional connections with their customers, which can drive important purchase outcomes like purchase intent and pricing power. B2B purchasers are almost 50% more likely to buy a product or service when they see personal value in their business purchase decision, the study found. Additionally, they're eight times more likely to pay a premium for comparable products and services in light of personal value.

Of the nine B2B brands studied, seven forged emotional connections with more than 50% of their customers. And surprisingly, results showed that B2B customers are, on average, significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.

Tap into desires — and fears
When speaking to people, it's essential to tap into their "concerns, needs, desires, [and] fears, so you convey an understanding of their personal situations, like their demographics and knowing who they are; what keeps them up at night," Leonard says. "That way, you can deliver messaging that tells them, 'yes, I understand what you're putting up with and what's important to you.'"

Understanding personas — of buyers, customers and end-users — can provide the insights necessary to trigger emotional connections, says Ardath Albee, B2B marketing strategist and CEO of Marketing Interactions, a B2B e-marketing strategy firm. In B2B, emotion is often based on confidence, professional aspirations and risk, meaning that marketers should effectively leverage content to generate better connections based on the "humanness" of their target markets, she continues. Behavioral analytics can help add context, Albee says, "but personas will help infuse meaning into your marketing." 

Stimulate an emotional connection
Eliciting an emotional response doesn't have to mean going straight for the heart, however. Sharing expertise and new strategic ideas in which your target markets can invest their confidence also stimulates an emotional connection, says Albee, whose new book, "Digital Relevance," debuts in January. "Expertise makes you credible as a company that they believe can deliver the value promised."

Ultimately, Leonard suggests B2B marketers rely on emotion at the beginning of a sales cycle to capture the attention of buyers and let them know that you understand their plight. Marketers should then shift their focus to the logical aspects of completing a deal, such as demonstrating what an item does and how, along with its features and benefits. Then it's back to emotion to close the deal, he says: "Reassure them they've made the right choice and that you'll return to help manage a project and minimize potential disruption to operations. It's a lot of hand holding." 

How do you work emotion-based engagement into your marketing communications?

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