B2B emotional marketing is an interesting subject. We’ve spoken quite a lot about the powers of establishing an emotional connection with your potential customers via emotional marketing over recent weeks on this blog – covering everything from storytelling to the role cute animals play on purchase decisions. But, the large part of our focus has been on emotional marketing use cases in the B2C realm.
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The reason being, of course, is that it is within B2C that emotional marketing (also known as emotional advertising) finds its most natural home. When marketing or advertising to large swathes of consumers, it is often only through the creation of emotionally engaging campaigns that brands can differentiate themselves and their products. After all, toilet paper is toilet paper is toilet paper – but there’s only one Andrex Puppy that melts our hearts as he tumbles around the bathroom.
The key to building these emotional connections is understanding your target audience and ensuring they are a central part of the design process when developing the marketing strategy.
However, not all businesses sell to consumers. And so, the question is: Can an inbound marketing agency create B2B emotional marketing campaigns as effectively as it can B2C ones?
The short answer is, yes, of course they can.
However, there are some additional elements that must be taken into consideration.
B2B Buyers Have Different Priorities to Everyday Consumers
Emotional marketing works on consumers because, as numerous studies have found, emotions play an enormous role on how people make decisions – including buying decisions – in everyday life, and this is not limited to positive emotions. By being strategic you may also target emotions like sadness, anger, and despair. Despite them being negative emotions, they are to be considered.
To give you just one example from a Psychology Today article: “Advertising research reveals that emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on a consumer’s reported intent to buy a product than does the ad’s content – by a factor of 3-to-1 for television commercials and 2-to-1 for print ads.”
What this essentially means is that ads that go for the gut and arouse an emotional response are far more likely to lead to greater sales than ads that are simply factual.
But does the same hold true in the world of B2B?
Far from being driven by emotions, B2B buyers have to make their purchasing decisions based on logic. When considering signing up to a new service or deploying a new piece of software on their company’s system, they need to think in terms of long-term profitability, productivity improvements, ROI (return on investment) and how the purchase will affect margins.
Indeed, they need to think rationally about the product or service they are buying. They need to think about the facts, and not be swayed by cute little Labrador retrievers.
B2B and B2C Buying Cycles
Social media management provider Oktopost recently ran a survey across LinkedIn Group Marketing Communication –a group for marketing teams and professionals containing over 650,000 members. They asked one simple question: “Should B2B marketing appeal more to our emotions?”
Here’s how they summarised the results:
“The idea of increasing the emotional appeal of B2B marketing didn't receive a warm welcome from most commenters. Some even believe that an emotional factor may be viewed as ‘manipulative’ by prospective B2B customers, since it diverts their attention from the facts.”
In consideration of these findings, they produced the following table, comparing B2B and B2C buying cycles against each other.
(Image source: oktopost.com)
How Effective is B2B Emotional Marketing Campaigns?
We think the above table is pretty accurate in terms of what it reveals about how B2B buyers make purchasing decisions. There’s a lot more at stake when a business decides to buy from another business compared to when a consumer is deciding what toilet paper, biscuits, jewellery or smartphone to buy for themselves and themselves alone.
And so it’s no surprise that a large focus for many an inbound marketing agency working with B2B clients is placed on producing and promoting factual content marketing that educates prospects about the business value of their product or service.
However, this isn’t the whole story.
Rational thinking is not the main reason why customers develop brand loyalty. Rational thinking is not the main reason why customers develop brand loyalty. Despite the fact that many of the Oktopost survey respondents were somewhat cold towards the idea of B2B emotional marketing, there were some “commenters [who] strongly argued that emotional appeal does matter, but in the context of building a credible and trustworthy brand.”
Here are some of the words that appeared frequently in the comments.
(Image source: oktopost.com)
Credibility. Relationship. Reliability. Trust. Stability. Partnership.
These are the B2B emotional marketing factors that inbound marketing agencies must hit upon when working on their marketing strategies for their campaigns.
They differ considerably from those in the B2C realm, which tend to focus on emotions such as happiness, sadness, desire, excitement, anger, fear, or spontaneity. But, emotions do play a key role B2B purchasing decisions nonetheless – it’s just a different set of emotions that must be targeted.
So let’s now take a look at three B2B emotional marketing campaigns that successfully inspire the feelings that matter most to B2B buyers.
3 Examples of Powerful B2B Emotional Marketing Campaigns
Cisco is the largest networking company in the world and makes for a perfect example. In the above video, the company builds a B2B emotional marketing narrative by making the case that only Cisco can be trusted with its “simple, secure, automated and intelligent” solutions to spearhead businesses’ digital transformation initiatives.
It talks about how successful businesses and marketers of the future will be those that have the ability to “empower employees to be more innovative and efficient” and “create cool new experiences for customers”.
The overall message is that a strong partnership can be built when a business chooses Cisco, and that the future can be shaped together. “Imagine what that will do for your customers.”
It’s a powerful B2B emotional marketing message, and one that goes for the gut as much as it does the thinking mind.
Here’s an interesting B2B emotional marketing campaign from social media management platform Hootsuite.
The company’s “Mean Tweets” video is essentially an announcement about its platform update, but the approach is to use humour to poke fun at itself as Hootsuite employees read out some rather damning tweets from customers who were quite clearly frustrated about the old interface.
The light-heartedness shows that this B2B company values transparency, and also that it listens to its customers and strives to improve based on their demands. Ultimately, senses of trust, partnership and relationship-building are forged – and the humour delivers a feel-good factor, which only serves to enhance these feelings even more.
Cision is a PR software company that delivers media intelligence services for communications and PR professionals.
Hugely valuable, though of course not particularly exciting or engaging stuff. And yet, they managed to inject some real fun and excitement into their Public Relations Manifesto eBook.
They enlisted Gapingvoid to produce the artwork and digital analyst and influencer Brian Solis to provide the copy, and together they transformed what would otherwise be a pretty ordinary educative eBook into something much more emotionally engaging than is normally expected from these types of PDF publications.
A big focus of the eBook is about the human elements of digital marketing; how it’s always people not computers through which connections are made – and that’s what good PR is all about.
The message itself builds trust and credibility in the company, but leveraging the influence of both Solis and Gapingvoid amplifies and strengthens these factors even more. A really solid B2B emotional marketing campaign.
Back to You
It really is possible for an inbound marketing agency to create B2B emotional marketing campaigns. What must be remembered, however, is that logic and reason play a far greater role in B2B purchasing decisions than they do in the B2C realm. B2B buyers need to know the facts, the business value, the ROI – but that doesn’t mean that the emotional connection factor doesn’t come into play at all.
The emotions that B2B buyers rely on are those primarily of trust and credibility, and so the inbound marketing agency must create B2B emotional marketing campaigns that strike these chords and instil a sense that reliable long-term relationships built on stability can be forged.