Feelings, B2B

Could the right emotional twist lure your dream customer to your landing site?

Many years ago I overheard a rather illuminating discussion about the use of emotional content in "industrial advertising", as B2B communication was commonly known in those days.

"A consumer ad should talk directly to your heart", one of the parties said, "but an industrial ad must support a rational buying decision."

"You've got that all wrong," argued the other party. "To begin with, all B2B decisions are not rational. Yes, shareholders rightfully expect all their managers and employees to make rational decisions. Decisions that – directly or indirectly, immediately or in the long-term – contribute to their company's bottom-line. That's what they are being paid to do – but it doesn't always work that way. In fact, we may very well be more rational after office hours than nine to five."

Rational or emotional?

He continued to vividly describe a person buying food in the local supermarket. That person knows exactly what each family member likes or dislikes. The cost-conscious consumer looks out for special offers, and might also consider sugar content, artificial flavoring and other health-related, ethical or environmental issues. Completely rational buying behavior, right?

So what about the same person at work?

In the office his or her buying decisions may be affected by emotional factors, like avoiding novel ideas that could backfire and endanger future chances of promotion. Which in a dynamic, innovative company may not be rational at all. Many of us remember the old saying: Nobody can be fired for choosing IBM. Whether or not that was the most rational choice to be made. 

Furthermore, people tend to identify with prestigious brands, also during business hours. Apple and BMW are just two of many valid examples. Some may also consider the extra work involved when replacing a solidly ingrown supplier and business partner. Breaking up the comfortable relationship with the one you already know.

Naturally, the buyer doesn't want to be known for taking such non-professional factors into account. Oh no. So, to help him save face professionally, the seasoned marketer may well play along, pretending that the decision-maker acts 100 percent rationally.

In terms of commercial messages, that contradiction could, for example, evolve into rational copy or editorial content – abundant with sound arguments, facts and figures and spiced with attractive pictures, exciting stories and other emotional elements.

Emotional communication may allow you to fly in “below the radar”, efficiently bypassing any resistance toward such unwarranted influences. In addition, emotional impact may last much longer than any logical sales arguments. And I fully agree with those who suggest that people buy the emotion, and then justify their decision with facts.

For good reasons, most companies also strive to be perceived as ethically sound and environmentally responsible. Good citizens of the world, and attractive employers. Your driving forces to drive sustainability issues may be truly heartfelt, but they can still be totally rational from a sheer business point of view.

Dare to step out of your selling shoes

More often than not, the people exposed to your content or messages are not in the buying mood, at least not at that very moment. But first impressions count, and they instinctively tend to like real people, with a heart and soul, better than cold, rational corporate messages. 

Sometimes you may be better off offering some food for thought, mirroring the target person’s concerns and perspectives. And simply start building the image of a pleasant, knowledgeable and trustworthy company that would be nice to have around, should needs arise.

Establishing your own media space. With intriguing editorial banners, leading the right people to a customized landing site, you can achieve all that. There you can expose them to all kinds of relevant stories – rational and emotional; offer more heavyweight info in the form of whitepapers or scientific reports; and continually monitor the depth of their interest in, and response to, various topics.

That’s not a bad way to start a mutually rewarding business relation.

Rolf Andersson
Senior Writer & Strategist at Freya News

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