Can you use emotion in B2B marketing?

Posted in Marketing and social media.

B2C marketing long embraced the idea of building a brand image through emotionally driven content. On the other hand, B2B marketing seems to tend towards a more rational and transactional approach.

The B2C buyer’s journey often only includes one decision-maker. The consumer generally does not need to consult others for the majority of their purchases. Consequently, they are more prone to making an emotional decision when deciding what to buy.

The B2B buyer’s journey generally involves multiple decision-makers. Since a purchasing decision does not only affect one person but rather the business that they are affiliated with or a part of, B2B buyers are representing something larger than themselves. The purchasing decision is often not left up to one individual and requires consensus. It would then appear that B2B buyers may focus logically on what would benefit the business as a whole.
Does this mean that emotion has no role in B2B marketing?

There is a need for B2B buyers to act logically

There is a lot of responsibility on business decision-makers to make sound and practical decisions due to the high costs of consequences involved such as brand damage and poor ROI. As such, B2B buyers may prefer cold, hard facts such that they can rationally evaluate and compare their choices.

Emotional thinking is often associated with gut-feelings, irrationality, and impulsivity. Therefore, we can see why the business environment may preclude acting based on emotion. As a simple rule, the greater the cost and complexity of a decision, the greater the responsibility, and therefore pressure, that a decision-maker feels. Focusing on specifics, features, and the finer practical details are needed to minimise failure.

But B2B buyers are still human…

B2B buyers are not purely rational

It is easy to think that B2B buyers are well-oiled machines who only compute quantitative and functional facts. These decision-makers are human individuals at the end of the day. They cannot evaluate every single bit of information. They do make mistakes. Now that we’ve established that B2B buyers are human and not infallible logical machines, what else can we learn?

A purchasing decision is still influenced by individual desires and needs. While decision-makers affect the business as a whole, humans are still driven to serve their own needs and desires. If a B2B buyer believes that a specific purchasing decision will benefit them, they are more likely to go for that option. According to Google, they are 50% more likely to buy a product or service if it offers personal value – including career advancements or a sense of pride in the decision.

B2B buyers are more comfortable making a purchasing decision when it benefits them and the business. This is why a brand that shares values with their buyer’s – B2B or B2C – are more likely to connect with them and form relationships.

Emotions work, but not in the way you think

So, yes, B2B buyers are more logical than their B2C counterparts, but they are not immune to their own personal feelings. So why don’t more B2B businesses utilise emotions in marketing? Studies find that techniques that work for B2C marketing don’t necessarily work for B2B marketing. Purely emotional marketing generally comes off as manipulative to B2B buyers who are wise to such techniques. B2B buyers still require the facts and specifications. A purchasing decision needs to also seem practical, and the absence of this rational side in B2B marketing is going to backfire.

Furthermore, regular emotions found in evocative B2C marketing does not always work in B2B marketing. Capitalising on the fear of missing out, nostalgia, sadness, and humour generally falls flat in B2B marketing whereas it is a staple of the B2C marketing sphere. The problem here is that B2C marketing focuses on individual lifestyle and the suite of emotions used complement this strategy.

In the more corporate environment of B2B marketing, emotional content needs to evoke the feelings of trust, reliability, credibility, and a sense of partnership. These are the same emotions a B2B sales team may use in their work. In fact, since the world of B2B marketing is often concentrated with only facts, B2B buyers may feel bombarded by an endless collection of practical information, making it an arduous task to sift through each and every purchasing option.

What makes it easier for B2B buyers to narrow down their selection? First impressions. First impressions are not often gained through meticulous comparison of details. Instead, it relies on surface-level information and the feelings evoked by them. Studies show that people will generally narrow down their selections based on gut-feelings and justify them later with rationale. A B2B business that can instill positive emotions in a B2B buyer within the first few minutes of contact will surely stick out from all the other businesses solely focusing on boring hard facts.