Philip Kotler said brands help people make decisions. In a world of oversaturated supply, they are the fastest, simplest and most effective way to link a name (and what’s behind it) to a meaning that provokes a particular emotion. The temptation is to believe that B2B brands lack emotion because they are subject to very logical decisions. But it’s not like that, B2B is bought both emotionally and rationally, although the emotions for buying in B2B are very different from those of consumer brands.

To a large extent, B2B brands need to focus on mitigating risk-on sentiment. This means that they need to focus on generating emotions based primarily on peace of mind, both professionally and technically, financially, legally, and of course, personal for those who make the decisions.

Companies that sell to other companies are made of people, and people have emotions.

When a consumer makes a bad purchase, the stakes are relatively small. On the other hand, company purchases can pose a huge risk. Take, for example, the responsibility of a million-dollar acquisition of software that does not achieve the desired objectives, could lead to poor business performance and even the loss of a job. The business customer will not buy unless there is a substantial emotional connection that helps them overcome the feeling of risk, reinforcing all rational arguments.

A Google study shows that B2B buyers are nearly 50% more likely to purchase a product or service when they see personal value reflected in the purchase – such as the opportunity to advance their career or pride in their choice. The same report notes that they are 8 times more likely to pay extra for similar products and services when personal value is present.

Another analysis, in this case from McKinsey, shows that the motivations for choosing a brand in B2B are strongly inclined towards risk reduction (45% weight in the decision), followed by information efficiency (41%) and the feeling of added value in third place (with only 14%).

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To have emotions in our favor, we should start by understanding the customer well. Analyzing the customer journey and buyer persona will be as useful as it could be in B2C. It’s time to start seeing customers as people, identifying their goals, needs, wants, challenges, obstacles, and opportunities, both in relation to their expectations and in a broader business context.

Once you have a real vision (not mere assumptions), what remains is to determine which emotions matter, and at what stage of the customer journey they develop.

Main emotions that drive B2B decisions:

  • Anxiety: Caused by the consequences of a “bad” choice, by facing or having to deal with a conflict, and by the pain of change.
  • Uncertainty: Hesitation after you’ve agreed to move on; the well-known restlessness of the buyer until he obtains what he has bought.
  • Indifference: When the offer is not relevant to the customer; or it’s not strong enough to justify the pain of change.
  • Confusion: Lack of clarity in the approach. The customer feels that everything is too complicated.
  • Frustration: It is due to a more difficult approach than expected; it does not correspond to expectations.

Obviously, these negative feelings must be counteracted in a positive way by finding ways to arouse curiosity, generate emotion, gain trust and achieve commitment.

To achieve this, it will be necessary to provide the value of reward versus risk. Although the risk of what could happen if the problem is not resolved is a big deterrent, the reward at the end of the trip can be much better. The trick is to understand the buyer’s context so you can use the right content at the right time. Relevance is key. Make sure that the emotional cues you provide are relevant to your customer and work in your favor in their decision-making process.

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Telling a B2B customer that our product or service will generate cost savings, integrate seamlessly with other systems, or be compliant is not inspiring at all. On the other hand, based on how it will generate a sense of personal pride and ultimately transform the company, the entire industry, or even society at large, is much more promising.

Brand purpose can help you as it derives from emotion. Purpose is linked to its own meaning for the brand, associated with a positive impact that extends beyond the sale of products and services. Therefore, actions and relationships stemming from purpose will elicit customer excitement and help attract those who feel an affinity towards the same concept.

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In the business world, no one will openly accept that something as “banal” as emotions drove a purchase decision. Everyone assumes that business decisions are based on data related to business goals. The idea is not to give up talking about the business benefit, but to connect customers with that benefit in an emotional way. The only way to change someone’s mind is to connect with them from the heart.

 

Carlos Puig Falcó
CEO of Branward