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Tapping the emotions of B2B buyers

Effective lead generation requires an understanding of the buyer's journey. Both in the business-to-business and business-to-consumer worlds, marketing revolves around demonstrating the value of the company's products or services. While consumer brands often aim to highlight the emotional appeal their offerings, B2Bs tend to focus more on showing potential clients their products' business value. However, recent research suggests B2B marketing professionals can learn from how B2Cs target leads, as buyers who see a personal value in a potential purchase are more likely to go through with it.

How B2B buyers perceive branding, business value
"From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands," conducted by Google and the CEB Marketing Leadership Council, surveyed 3,000 B2B buyers from 36 different brands to shed light on their decision-making and purchasing behaviors. The report explains that in an increasingly competitive market, B2Bs are striving to set themselves apart through branding initiatives. Creating a unique, standard and recognizable personality for the company is crucial to standing out to B2B buyers. According to the study, 79 percent of respondents who said they have a strong connection with a brand considered it for a purchase, compared to just 15 percent of buyers who didn't feel such a connection. A strong relationship with a brand also correlates to high purchasing rates and willingness to pay a premium on products or services. If companies can establish an identity for themselves on their websites and blogs as well as across social media and other channels, they're more likely to influence buyers' decisions.

The report acknowledges that brands that can demonstrate their offerings' business value are four times more like to be considered by buyers than brands that cannot. However, many companies are finding it difficult to differentiate the financial and operational benefits of using their product or service from those of their competitors. As such, they need something extra to truly stand out in their industry. Just as a recognizable brand image positions a company as a unique product or service provider, businesses can further distinguish themselves by taking their relationship with prospects to the next level by highlighting the personal gain clients achieve by working with them.

B2B buying: An emotional process
While B2B buyers may represent an organization that operates on rational and time-tested business practices, these individuals take more than financial gain and efficiency into account when making decisions. Career advancement, social and professional networking and personal image are among other factors buyers keep top-of-mind, making the purchasing process quite an emotional one. Fears of wasting time and resources, seeing their credibility diminish for making a bad choice and losing their jobs or opportunities to ascend the professional ladder influence how B2B buyers evaluate potential purchases. In fact, the Google and CEB study found the more personal risk a decision may involve, the more emotional the process is for these professionals. Additionally, buyers are more likely to feel an emotional connection to brands that can help mitigate personal risk. 

The study also pointed out that while relationships between consumers brands and their customers are often seen as heavily emotional, clients of B2B organizations like certain consultancy companies, delivery services and software providers demonstrate a greater personal emotional connection than fast-food, retail and electronics consumers.

Demonstrating personal value through content marketing
B2B buyers are often loyal to their favorite brands because these companies meet their personal needs. However, Google and CEB suggest B2B marketers aren't persuading non-clients of the personal value of their offerings. This suggests businesses have the opportunity to fine-tune their Internet marketing strategies to improve lead generation strategies.

Recent search engine algorithm updates have made content quality even more important than it already was. B2B buyers want fresh information that's relevant their industry and needs in a format that's easy to digest. Covering topics in innovative ways, like by using multimedia, and offering advanced insight make brands more reputable. There are several other factors B2B marketing professionals should consider to tap the emotional needs of buyers:

  1. Know the audience: Reaching prospects and customers on a personal level requires knowing more than just about their business. Understand their position within the organization, career paths, aspirations and purchasing behaviors is critical. With the right research and analysis of a business's target audiences, marketers can better choose topics to cover in white papers, case studies, blog posts, webinars and other content, as well as what types of discussions to lead on social media. 
  2. Demonstrate value and lead buyers to action: Content shouldn't just speak to buyers' unique fears, goals and expectations. It should demonstrate how the business can eliminate risks and help its target audience accomplish something. Additionally, adding specific calls to action throughout content and across channels takes the brand-prospect relationship to the next level.
Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.