You're irrational. So are your customers.
Of the various research that's been done, virtually every decision we ever make — fast or slow — has been shown in large part to be driven by emotion. We're talking in the 90%+ range.
However, most of us are world-class when it comes to post-rationalizing our emotion-fueled decisions. We did this or chose that because of “reasons.”
B2B marketing and sales, far from being the outlier of rationality one might expect, is just another hotbed of turbulent emotion.
Of course, given more than a moment's thought, this should be obvious. If I'm about to drop five or six figures on a “solution” of some kind, I'm likely to be a little concerned about whether I'm doing the right thing or, just as importantly, will be seen to be doing the right thing by my colleagues.
After all, my standing in the organization and even my job may depend on it. And, particularly in today’s economic climate, very few businesses have money to waste through poor decision making.
What should businesses do with this knowledge?
There's a tendency to go all-in on emotion in your marketing, just as consumer brands might do, but B2B requires different treatment. After all, we don’t strike six-figure SaaS deals like we might buy a subscription to a dating app, or a pair of shoes.
Such purchases tend to be high-cost, high-risk endeavors involving lots of people playing multiple roles, each with different agendas. They may happen over extended periods of many months and, sometimes, even years. If the people involved get it wrong, the results could be serious for everyone concerned.
Revealing your brand purpose and attaching your company to a virtuous mission and a strong set of values can be appealing to a customer. But it’s not enough.
While the addition of a purpose-related element can help a brand position against poorly differentiated competitors, if any of those competitors can position themselves in a way that is more intensely relevant to their customers’ concerns, they will win. Every time.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself these questions:
- How many B2B brands do you buy from because of their brand purpose?
- How many have you switched to because they’ve made you feel included in their wider vision and mission?
- How many would you stick with even if a less purposeful competitor launched a clearly superior product?
I live and breathe this stuff every day and I can’t think of a single B2B brand that I buy from, let alone am loyal to, for any of these reasons.
And that’s the key to great B2B marketing: To sell our product or service, we don’t need to tug at the heartstrings, we just need to show our customers that we understand what it’s like to be them.
So, once we’ve taken the necessary steps to actually understand and know our customers and their pain points (which involves actually talking to them) we can begin the task of doing exactly that.
How? With content and communications that balance an authentic, human connection with the tools to help buyers post-rationalize their emotional decisions.
That content must address all the legitimate questions and concerns a buyer might have before they’ve had them, and in whatever order they think of them. In doing so, we can remove a lot of the friction that slows or stalls a purchase, helping to avoid never-ending zombie sales and accelerating demand.
A marketer’s job, then, is to know a customer better than the customer knows themselves (in all their emotional glory), to understand how their product is critical to success on multiple levels, and to create content accordingly. Armed with that content, they will be able to assuage last-minute concerns or crises of confidence, and not only to help close the sale, but support new customers in the onboarding process too.
Jason Ball is the founder of B2B marketing agency Considered Content, whose clients include Google, Oracle, AT&T, EY and Microsoft. Jason is also behind Prolific, a first-of-its-kind managed content service created for the B2B sector. He helps ambitious marketers differentiate their brands, generate demand and reduce friction from the buyer journey.