March 17, 2014 Amanda Hurlburt

As B2B marketers, we look at our audience differently. Our decision makers aren’t choosing a brand of chips for lunch – they’re deciding which customized software solution is right for their entire department or company.  Now, I know that’s a bit of an exaggerated comparison. But let’s assume the purchase is larger. Maybe I’d like to buy an expensive camera for hobby use.

It’s a big commitment, so I am asking some of the same questions that I would if I was making a business decision:

  • Is this product worth the investment?
  • What are competitors offering?
  • Do I know anyone else who has purchased this? Did they like it?

But this is a personal decision. So I am also thinking about how the product will make me feel. I am remembering an ad I saw recently where a couple was hiking in the Himalayas with their camera and their photographs were perfect. Not only that, but they seemed really happy. I can see myself happier with this product. I will travel more. I will be more creative.

If I were purchasing this for business use, my emotions wouldn’t factor in to the decision, (or so the traditional thinking goes). I’d skip right from bullet three above into asking how others in my company would use the camera, how it fit into our overall budget for the year, etc.

In B2B, we are very comfortable focusing marketing efforts around product benefits and case studies, and not so much on triggering client emotions. However, in a recent Ad Age article, Keith Navratil highlights the importance of remembering that company decision-makers are not simply businesses incarnate.

“…though you’d never guess it from trade ads, the b-to-b purchaser has emotions. In a business setting, his emotions are more outward-facing. He’s concerned with appearances, even if he’d deny it forever in a focus group or interview. He wants his colleagues to think that he is making rational and informed decisions that will directly benefit bottom-line financials. The key is this: emotion can work in an at-work setting, if the emotions focus on feelings about the benefits accruing to the company.”

Navratil goes on to point out that emotional connections to B2B brands can actually run deeper than connections forged by consumer marketing. A CEB/Motista Survey presented during Google’s ThinkB2B event in 2013 showed that 40% -70% of customers felt emotionally connected to brands like Oracle, Accenture, FedEx, SAP, and Salesforce, compared with 10% -40% for CVS, L’Oreal, and Wal-Mart.

But how is this achieved? Watch this example from Adobe. The product is their Marketing Cloud. They could have structured their message a lot of different ways, but the method they chose was highly successful, so much so that it was selected by TED as one of 10 Ads Worth Spreading.

Point being – just because you work in B2B, doesn’t mean you should discount emotional factors. In the above ad, Adobe’s uses humor and creativity to reach not “important prospective clients,” but people.

Ask yourself, are you person-to-person marketing?

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