Understanding the Role of Emotion in B2B Marketing
Your buyers may seem cold and dispassionate, but there are strong emotions that you can tap during a B2B sale.
I’ve looked at the website for pretty much every MSP in the United States, and I can tell you with confidence that there is ample room for them to market more effectively. This has a number of dimensions, from better written web pages that clearly articulate the expertise and value of the company, to graphic design that doesn’t muddle readability and impede conversion.
I also see people in the IT services field wasting the opportunity to build an emotional connection with their prospects. To a degree, I can understand why.
All companies in the IT services industry want to appear as a trustworthy expert and earn the respect of their prospect with a clear dollars and cents analysis. Most of these companies are run by engineers, after all.
This thinking is reinforced by the orthodoxy of B2B marketing that says purchase decisions are based on logic and good data, which further justifies a conservative approach to marketing.
But is there really harm in allowing your business to have a nuanced image, one that includes appeals to your buyers' emotions? No, there isn’t. In fact, it can be the very thing that sets you apart from the competition, especially when that image and voice targets the particular emotions that drive B2B purchases.
Resolved: There Are Feelings Involved in B2B Purchases
Research has shown that it’s not whether or not feelings are involved in the buying process that differentiates B2C and B2B purchases, but what feelings are involved. Here are some studies that point to which feelings those might be:
According to Gallup’s “B2Bs Win Building Relationships Not Selling Price,” 48% of B2B customers have wanted to buy a new solution but failed to pursue the idea out of fear. (Gallup)
A study from global marketing firm gyro and the Fortune Knowledge Group found that, “More than half (52%) of [executive] respondents feels that positive feelings such as ambition, hope, and desire for admiration are the most motivating to decisions in all business contexts.” (gyro)
Gartner found that 71% of buyers who see a personal value in a B2B purchase will end up buying the product or service.
We want to mitigate fear, avoid risk, and are motivated by positive emotions? It turns out we don’t have a separate B2B brain after all, we just have the regular human brain that makes all our decisions for us.
Another key finding from that’s derived from that same Gartner study (illustrated in the infographic) says that only 14% of B2B buyers see a real difference in B2B supplier offerings. Wait, if only 1/8th of your buyers can differentiate your company’s solution from others based on the data, then what are they going to base their purchasing decisions on? All things being equal, they will make a final decision about which vendor or solution to purchase based on their feelings — which one they like more.
The savvy B2B marketer understands this truth, and is able to communicate the quantifiable value of his or her solution, while also gently tugging on the right heartstrings. Here are some great examples.
CISCO uses humor and charm to advertise an industrial IoT solutions. (link)
Slack highlights their success bringing diverse, international teams together. (link)
Juniper Networks promotes its security solution with a playable game based (link)
GE plays with deep emotion to promote an innovative treatment. (link)
Become the Trusted Partner (Don’t Just Call Yourself One)
But what does this mean for your average IT services firm who aspires to the position of “trusted partner”? Although it’s a great term that encapsulates the relationship most services providers (not just IT ones) should have with their customers, it does get a bit overdone and can start sounding vague, unless you work hard at defining it and making it real.
How do you do that in your marketing? Well the first and most obvious way would be to proactively help them understand the problems you solve, and how you solve them. This could mean doing webinars where you discuss topics or developments that would appeal to your target audience. It could also mean creating marketing content that tackles their (very) specific pain points, or else keeps them in the loop of any new technologies or applications on the horizon that you think might interested them.
But even broader than that, it means helping them confront the emotions that lurk behind their IT problems and buying decisions. They’re terrified of serious network downtime, of cyberattacks, of making the wrong technology decision and looking like a fool. At the same time, they dream of finding the right IT solution to perfectly complement their operations, of finding a true trusted partner who has their best interest at heart and that they enjoy doing business with. Tap into those emotions, and you’ll stand out from the vast majority of providers who speak in only 1s and 0s.
A B2B Content Marketer who Understands the Considered Purchase Sales Cycle
Businesses that want to build both a logical and emotional case for their products and services walk a delicate line. Without the help of a skilled copywriter who can help them navigate that territory between emotional and flakey, it's can be even harder.
Want to imbue your brand voice with just the right amount of empathy and passion? Reach out any time at email@example.com or 215 392 0750. I'm here to help.