Marketing to emotions can be an effective way to influence business-to-business purchasing decisions.
Business-to-business companies are coming to terms with the power of emotions in branding and communications.
It's something soft drink manufacturers and washing powder marketers realised decades ago; simply put, facts and figures don't sell things, it's the evocation of feelings that leads to loyalty and purchase.
A good test to prove the power of emotional connections in B2B is to take a moment to think of Western Australia's best accounting firm. Now think of the best law firm.
What did you base that 'best' ranking on?
I'm willing to bet it was a general impression, a gut instinct that gave you the feeling they were the best accounting or law firm in WA. Unless you happen to work for a leading accounting or law firm, it's doubtful you were able to make an assessment on facts, data and rational measures.
It's easy to think that emotions don't count when making B2B buying decisions.
However marketing science has been able to determine that making decisions with our emotions actually outweighs the importance (and sometimes value) of making business decisions with tangible information.
A study by the Corporate Executive Board in the US, in conjunction with Google, sought to find the impact of emotional decisions making in B2B purchasing decisions. The study, titled 'From Promotion to Emotion, Connecting B2B Customers to Brands', surveyed 3,000 buyers across many categories.
The first part of the study identified that strong brands, which had high trust and industry leadership status, led to higher consideration, purchase and willingness to pay a higher margin.
This isn't surprising, but having a strong brand isn't a good enough reason to buy, because your company's good reputation doesn't necessarily equate to what your brand will do for me.
As a client said recently, 'No-one cares who you are. They care what you can do for them'.
What you can do for clients is to provide value. Value falls into two categories – business value and personal value.
Many companies are experienced at marketing the business value they offer prospective clients. Business value includes functional benefits based in logic and reason – exactly the attributes that people seek to compare by conducting tender processes. In business-to-business proposals it's a scope of services, credentials, quality and service levels.
The problem is that a lot of companies offer business value.
So how do prospective clients decide on a firm when they are pretty much all the same? The study identified 'personal value' as the factor that really mattered most in B2B purchasing decisions.
Personal value includes emotional appeals in areas such as professional benefits, social benefits, emotional benefits, and self-image benefits.
The study found that personal value has twice the effect of business value across several measures of success, including the important ones like consideration, preference, purchase, willingness to pay a premium and likelihood to recommend.
Emotions, therefore, can be a valuable tool when deciding on B2B proposals.
The challenge for marketing communications in the B2B category is to encourage people to use their emotions and intuition to make a decision, rather than get bogged down in prices, stats and facts – the brief is to use marketing communications to make people feel something in choosing your company or brand.
When it comes to communications and advertising, it doesn't work to simply list your rational attributes. Just as you wouldn't go on a first date and list all your vital statistics, a successful basis for a continuing relationship is good rapport, empathy and compatibility.
There are B2B companies already exploiting the opportunity to communicate personal value over business value in their advertising.
A huge winner at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year was a video for Volvo trucks. The one in which John-Claude Van Damme performs the splits with one foot on the side mirror of two reversing semi-trailers.
The remarkable thing about this wince-inducing video is that it is selling trucks to businesses. They do not convey any factual or rational information about the main features of the truck – Volvo dynamic steering. What they are relying on to drive sales is the incredible emotional impact of watching a truly amazing feat.
Many companies are focused on what they can tell people about their brand to increase sales. Only the best companies focus on what they can make people feel to increase sales.