Walter Landor said that “products are built in factories, but marks them in the heart”. The B2C sector, where emotions play a fundamental role, quickly understood this. However, the B2B world has started from the origin of different premises that have made many believe that they did not need to think about what branding could bring to their business and, in the best of cases, they stayed in the world of marketing trying to sell their products through their unbeatable technical qualities.

The reality is that brands help people make decisions and, in a world of oversaturated offerings, they are the fastest, simplest and most effective way to link a name (and what’s behind it) to a meaning that elicits 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. A McKinsey report 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%).

When a consumer customer makes a bad purchase, the stakes are relatively low. On the other hand, purchases in a company can be 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.

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: Triggered by the consequences of a “bad” choice, by facing or having to deal with a conflict, and by the pain of change.
  • Uncertainty: Doubts after you have agreed to move on. The well-known restlessness of the buyer until he obtains what he has bought.
  • Indifference: When the offer isn’t relevant to the customer or isn’t strong enough to justify the pain of the change.
  • Confusion: Lack of clarity in the approach. The customer feels that everything is too complicated.
  • Frustration: It is the result of an approach that is more difficult than expected or that 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.

The Human Side of Business

A Google study shows that B2B buyers are almost 50% more likely to purchase a product or service when they see personal value reflected in the purchase, or even translated into the opportunity to advance in their career.

While the B2C segment has learned to speak to consumers in an increasingly human and authentic way, B2B has been slower to realize the value of this approach. B2B businesses still have a tendency to speak to buyers in transactional terms that don’t inspire the necessary trust from buyers. If they want to earn that trust, which transcends the product or service, they must follow the example of the B2C sector and humanize their approach. In fact, there are more than a few voices calling for the end of B2B and B2C, since the two converge in something common: people. Welcome to H2H (Human to Human).

Businesses, just like consumers, want to do business with someone they trust. They want to know “who” the business is and “what” it values, not just what products or services it can provide.

Brands in B2B

Leaving aside the unquestionable power of emotions, we are also experiencing big changes in the market that are intensifying the value of brands in B2B. Data from a recent study shows that B2B brand buyers would consider products with a high brand load 5 times earlier than those without. But in addition, this would multiply their possible purchase by 12 times and by 30 times more they would be willing to pay more for the same product. If we keep this in mind, it is clear that the brand factor is also very important in B2B and today it is directly affected by the following factors:

  1. Digital transformation. When talking about digital transformation in B2B, we must not only focus on the disruption of technology. Digital transformation involves much more than technology, it’s about strategy, culture, organization, business models, and market approaches. It represents much more than simply digitizing parts of the company’s activities and processes. It involves a total change in the way companies do business with each other. It’s about how they buy and sell from each other; how they partner and collaborate; and finally, how they reach their customers/end-users.
  2. Sustainability well understood. Talking about sustainability is not just talking about taking care of the planet, that is something that is no longer optional for any company. In reality, the concept of sustainability becomes synonymous with an organization’s ability to adapt to the potential impacts of large global demands. In this sense, adaptation can be interpreted as an opportunity to improve day-to-day operations and also to focus business transformation for the future, whether with new products, a new purpose, or a new business model.
  3. The power of millennials. Millennials already hold important roles in business decision-making, many of them being responsible for B2B purchases on behalf of their organizations. They expect B2B brands to deliver great experiences, value personalization, and trust data. They believe in values, and 78% would work with and in a company where they saw their respective values represented. Therefore, consciously developing the brand purpose will have the ability to provoke emotion from those customers and help attract those who feel an affinity towards the same concept.

A Matter of Weight

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. But telling a B2B customer that our product or service will generate cost savings, integrate seamlessly with other systems, or comply with regulations is anything but inspiring. 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.

The B2B environment needs to stop focusing on the product and start thinking seriously about the power of a strong, emotionally connecting brand. B2B buyers are also people.

 

Carlos Puig Falcó
CEO of Branward