Why B2B Marketing Still Lacks Emotional Appeal

MKTG

Today we bring you a guest post by Jon Mowat, managing director of content marketing company Hurricane Media.

When a consumer makes a decision to purchase a product from a certain brand, whether consciously or subconsciously, the emotional connection they formed with that brand is always a deciding factor in their decision making process. Most marketers accept this statement as orthodoxy, without requiring detailed studies or statistics to back it up. So why then, is this emotional appeal so apparently lacking from most B2B marketing?

According to a recent study conducted by the CEB in conjunction with Google and Motista, about 71% of buyers who see some personal value in a B2B product or service will end up buying it. In fact, emotion seems doubly important for B2B purchases when compared to B2C. One possible explanation for this is that B2B purchases are risky — if they go wrong, there is a lot of money at stake, as well as, potentially, the job of the buyer.

Therefore the buyer needs a powerful motivator to finish the transaction, and emotion is a more powerful driver than logic for most people.

The Principles of Persuasion

Aristotle taught that there were three key elements to persuasion: Pathos, Logos and Ethos. Pathos, or emotion, is what makes people invest in an idea to begin with. Logos is the logic that people then use to support their emotional instincts and Ethos is credibility and what makes people able to persuade others.

In an ideal world, everyone would rely on logic alone and practice their own due diligence. Traditionally this has been the approach to B2B marketing, with the emphasis placed firmly on stats, facts and professional competency and it is often the reason that so many B2B campaigns seem dry and boring. B2B marketers have long been missing out on the power of effective brand marketing because they are failing to understand the important role emotional association can play when it is backed up with hard data and track record.

As important as facts and figures are in B2B marketing, the CEB study shows that emotional drivers like professional image, pride and even identity to one’s own company ideals, play a massive role in the decision making process.

Organizations Contain People

We like to think that the organizations we serve are above the irrational, emotive decision-making processes that most consumers fall prey to, but this is not the case. Organizations are only as effective as the sum of their parts when it comes to making important decisions and that means that to a large extent they have the same propensity towards personal bias as individuals. Whilst business decisions have to go through the process of corporate governance, executive control, budgetary consideration and any other number of checks and balances, the process is ultimately still designed by and made up of people. It could even be argued that the checks and balances of any corporate procurement process merely represent a physical manifestation of the reservations and discretion present in any individual consumer’s thought process and should therefore be treated in the same way.

However you want to approach it, the Google and CEB paper shows that decision makers in business respond to emotional marketing. When asked about perceived business value, only 14% of respondents said that they perceived this value between leading brands and would pay a premium for it. With so little differentiating the big players in any given industry, aspects like technical expertise, track record and business value in general are tablestakes and yet so much B2B marketing focuses on these elements. By pushing at the emotional with appeals to brand values, vision, integrity and an individual’s sense of professionalism and pride, B2B marketers can elevate their brands above the rest in terms of getting real attention.

The fact that there are multiple decision-makers and a series of technical expectations to most corporate purchasing decisions may negate a purely emotional approach but when the technical lines between businesses comes down to the minutiae, it can be emotional associations that win the day; what entrepreneurs and business leaders might call a ‘gut feeling’.

The key to bringing emotion into B2B marketing is to ensure that the more personal and emotional aspects of your content drive action by anchoring themselves effectively to the logical arguments and technical aspects of your presentation. It’s no good having brand values that matter, if it drowns out your message of technical competency, but conversely that technical competency needs to be established in the first place and to do that requires concise communication of facts and figures.

There is always going to be a small window of opportunity to persuade buying managers to act when they are at their most interested. If you wait too long, the incentive will be gone and buyers will choose something else — either based on price or because “that is what we have always done at this company”. Business owners will always tend to be risk-averse, and that aversion is another powerful emotion that is difficult for sellers to overcome.

Making That Connection

One of the best ways to make a connection with a prospective buyer is through video content. Brand marketing with video content (both on television and online) is something that B2C companies have got very good at over the decades, but it is still underused to any great effectiveness in B2B. More and more studies however (such as this recent one form the Content Marketing Institute) are showing that the tide has already changed, with many big companies now waking up not only to the power of content marketing, but to the fact that without a good online video presence across social media, they may very well get left behind.

In the age of YouTube, video is an integral pillar to any B2B content marketing strategy and doesn’t necessarily require a huge budget or set. Online video can take many forms, from simple promo videos, diaries, testimonials to architectural flythroughs, timelapse, animations and more. A written testimonial may not ring true with a reader, but a testimonial from a ‘talking head’ is infinitely more convincing.

Some of the best examples of B2B video marketing include case studies that are clearly identifiable. Messages that are conveyed in video are much more memorable than messages conveyed in text or even images, and it has long been established that people tend to retain information for longer in this format. The associative power of video is something B2C brand marketers have long exploited both on television and online. Harnessing it, and the emotional connections it can engender, is something every B2B marketer needs to get to grips with if they are to stand out from the rest.

Click on the link to download the PDF of the entire CEB Marketing Leadership Council whitepaper.

About the Author: Jon Mowat is a former documentary film maker for the BBC but now runs British video production and marketing company, Hurricane Media. You can follow Hurricane and join in the discussion on Twitter.