Psychology of Choice for B2B Marketing

Addressing personal values matters in B2B marketing — more than most might think. In fact, research from Motista and ThinkGoogle shows that B2B brands have more emotional bonds with their customers than B2C brands. Their findings showed that B2B brands had emotional connections with around 50% of their customers.

Addressing personal values matters in B2B marketing — more than most might think. In fact, research from Motista and ThinkGoogle shows that B2B brands have more emotional bonds with their customers than B2C brands. Their findings, which involved researching more than 3,000 brands, showed that B2B brands had emotional connections with around 50% of their customers and B2C brands had that coveted connection with only 10% – 40%.

So how do you get someone emotional about buying accounting software? Ordering a machine repair? Paper supplies and other products and services that are not known for creating warm fuzzies?

Its actually really simple: You don’t.

You get them excited about what really matters? Self actualization.

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? And that little tiny part at the apex of the pyramid he labeled “actualization”? Well, whether we get there or not, we aspire to be there. One way or another. Down deep, we aspire to do something greater than our parents did. Greater than most think we can do. Greater than our current routine?

We want to be that next great writer. Artist. Rapper. Comic. Or top-achieving business executive.

We think about these things, and then we go right back to the moment at-hand. Being the best we can be at what we are doing day-to-day. This is what we marketers need to focus on. First.

If we can provide customers and prospects with the hope that we can help them succeed at their jobs, get a promotion, maintain stability to provide for their families, achieve their short- and long-term goals, we will capture their attention.

And if we can provide more than hope, such as actionable advice that helps them refine their skills, do something better than before, we will trigger that very important response — dopamine rushes — that creates emotional bonds and passion that will be hard for anyone to break.

How do you go about doing the above? Ask your customers. Instead of asking about ways you can better serve them, keep their business, and so on, ask what they need help with beyond your products.

Start with:

  1. What are your greatest challenges each day?
  2. How are you being evaluated for your job performance?
  3. What skill gaps do you feel are holding you back?

Then create materials and activities that help them overcome these challenges. If you can do this, you will create emotional bonds that are much stronger than price, and even convenience to some degree.

It’s true that whomever provides the guidance, insights and confidence that make a difference in our world becomes a partner, not a supplier. And that distinction is what creates those bonds that secure loyalty, sales and marketing ROI.

What B2C Marketers Can Learn From B2B

There’s a lot of talk in the B2B world about what we can learn from consumer marketers. But did you ever think about what consumer marketers can learn from us? I have a couple of ideas.

There’s a lot of talk in the B2B world about what we can learn from consumer marketers. Like treating business buyers as individuals, with their own personas, analyzing their digital buyer journeys, and using social media to communicate with them. And how to speak to buyers like humans, with messages that both inform and entertain. These are useful lessons. But did you ever think about what consumer marketers can learn from us? I have a couple of ideas.

The first is about prospecting strategies, and the second is about building relationships.

Offer Problem-Solving as a Way to Attract Prospects

Much of B2C prospecting is about deals and discounts. In business markets, on the other hand, the proven prospecting model involves offering a solution to a business problem.

In practical terms, this means content marketing. Preparing educational, objective. non-sales-y material that addresses a customer problem. In business markets this might be a white paper, research report, infographic or case study. In consumer it might be a recipe book, a blog or a how-to video.

It can be used as a motivational offer to generate a lead, or it can be used to establish thought leadership, and to stimulate viral sharing.

This way, you establish yourself as a helpful resource, expert in your field, and trustworthy enough for a business relationship.

You also tend to attract a more qualified customer than you do with a deal. A buyer who really needs the solution, and will appreciate it, and appreciate you. And will turn into a loyal buyer, and an advocate.

This is an approach that consumer marketers can use successfully. Look at YouTube, which is filled with how-to videos for consumer products.

Nurture Your Customers (and Prospects) Until They’re Ready to Buy

B2B marketers are really good at this. We recognize the power of the Rule of 45, which says that 45% of business inquirers in a category will eventually buy in that category. And when they become ready, we need to be there. Otherwise, we may just as likely lose the deal to our competition.

So, B2B marketers have elaborate systems of outbound contacts designed to stay in touch until they’re ready. Known as lead nurturing, it’s a key component of the B2B demand generation process. With a nurturing program, we can expect to triple, possibly quadruple, the productivity of our campaigns.

Consumer marketers already understand this principle. Look at the retargeting banner ads that follow us all around, weeks and months after we’ve stopped by a website.

But I think there’s additional opportunity here for consumer marketers. Nurturing needs to be personalized, acknowledging the relationship, and building it over time through two-way communications. It’s one-to-one, not mass advertising.

Perhaps it’s about developing a different attitude. Consumer marketers enjoy prospect universes that are something like 10x those of B2B marketers. Maybe they have the sense that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and instead of nurturing, they are tempted to move onto the next prospect. But maybe it’s time to treat every inquirer as your last.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Up Your Price Potential by 8X

It’s easy to assume that B2C is more emotional than B2B — as more consumer goods have hedonistic appeal, while B2B products have utilitarian appeal. But that’s not true.

B2B Influencer Marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Thomas Malyska

It’s easy to assume that B2C is more emotional than B2B — as more consumer goods have hedonistic appeal, while B2B products have utilitarian appeal. But that’s not true.

Research by Google and Motista shows that 10 to 40 percent of B2C customers feel emotionally connected to a brand while 50 percent and higher of B2B purchasers feel emotionally connected to the brands with which they do business. And when you create the right emotional reactions, you can increase your chances of getting a premium price by eight times. Strange, but true.

Think about it. When we buy that $30,000 luxury handbag, we are emotionally connected to how we feel having bought a luxury brand item that few people can afford. We feel superior, awesome and like we’ve arrived at a place in society where others have not. Yet, in time, that wears off, and you replace that “uber awesome” handbag with another one which often puts the first one on the back shelf and the back part of your mind.

Yet when you buy that $30,000 CRM system to automate your email campaigns, analyze customer behavior — and are thus able to sort customers according to propensity to buy sooner than later, and thus get higher response and results and sales on a marketing campaign — that feeling lasts a lot longer. It hits much deeper chords in our emotional vessel — security, actualization, and aspirational fulfillment, and a sense of comfort that we will be able to maintain what we have earned vs. lose what matters most: our ability to survive and provide for our families.

The coolness factor of the handbag doesn’t add to our sense of security or help us achieve higher goals, like a job promotion, praise and recognition that lead to job security, potential end-of-year bonuses and so on. These outcomes from a wise business purchase can help us achieve outcomes that last far longer and have much stronger applications for our long-term wellbeing than a trendy luxury item. When you can strike these emotional chords among B2B purchasers and then deliver customer service and products that fulfill the implied promises, you are far better poised to generate sustainable sales and increase existing customer value.

To achieve success in B2B marketing and up your chances of getting a premium price by eight times, think of daisy chains. Big choices that are associated with big outcomes are often made up of decision daisy chains of which the purchaser is not even aware. Back to purchasers of marketing technology or marketing services, such as consulting or agency work. It is not as simple as buying the coolest brand, trendiest design or the lowest price. The choice is complex and influenced by a chain of “what ifs.”

  • What if I buy something that doesn’t work or takes too long to implement?
  • What if I waste my budget and can’t buy what else I need to perform and reach goals?
  • What if the agency doesn’t deliver new ideas that beat past programs?
  • What if I look bad to my bosses?
  • What if I don’t get recognized for doing a good job?
  • What if I lose my job because I didn’t reach my goals?
  • What then will happen to my job security, income, ability to pay my mortgage, car payment and support my kids’ dreams?
  • … and so on.

While you don’t want to craft messaging that creates the fear of the “what ifs” happening, and position your brand as the fear monger or a manipulator, you do want to subtly project your brand’s ability to dismiss all the unconscious and conscious “what ifs” that come to mind during any B2B purchasing process that has substantial implications and outcomes.

You can do this by tapping into psychological drivers and influencers such as:

  • Authority: Who are the authorities who support and align with your category and/or brand? How can you use their allegiance to attract others? Better yet, who are the authorities within your brand and how can you elevate their voices?
  • Social Proof: Share case studies as part of your “thank you” follow up after a sales call. Showcase brands that reflect your prospects’ brands and show results that you can help new clients achieve, as well.
  • Actualization: Tell a story about how your brand helps clients’ achieve the emotional goals they strive for within their jobs. Whether they are purchasers of marketing technology, IT, educational systems or medical devices, there’s always a deeper purpose or “why” behind what they do. In most cases, it is not about the products they buy for their companies, but their ability to influence positive outcomes for the people they serve, like a better education, smarter way to work, or medical devices that deliver an accurate diagnosis the first time.

When you can do even just the above, you take price out of the equation, and put partnership in the process, which lasts a lot longer than the joy of a quick sale for low price, and much much longer than the joy of having a beaded crocodile handbag that will be forgotten in a few months’ time.

The Power of Focused Direct Mail

Direct mail can be a great way to generate sales for both B-to-B and B-to-C companies — when it’s done the right way. All too often, however, it’s not done right. From overcrowded postcards to too-much-information self-mailers, the vast array of bad direct mail is disappointing. True focus is the key to direct mail success. Here are four key areas to focus on:

focused direct mailDirect mail can be a great way to generate sales for both B-to-B and B-to-C companies when it’s done the right way. All too often, however, it’s not done right. From overcrowded postcards to too-much-information self-mailers, the vast array of bad direct mail is disappointing. Don’t let your next direct mail campaign fall into the bad category. Start your planning now.

Direct mail used to be pretty simple — just send a piece to everyone! However, nowadays it requires much more planning to be effective. Too many times we see direct mail pieces that have scattered messaging — that’s just a confusing piece is trash. Don’t waste your money on trash!

True focus is the key to direct mail success. Here are four key areas to focus on:

1. Targeted

Your product or service is not right for everyone. Don’t waste your money sending to people who will not respond. Take the time to find the right people for each campaign. You will not only save money, but decrease the frustration level of people who didn’t want your offer.

2. Personalized

Start by identifying the key pain points of your customers and prospects, then design your offers to address those points in order to increase responses. When you can solve a problem for them with your product or service, your offer has more value to the recipients. It becomes a requirement for them to respond to you.

3. Message/Offer

You must be clear and concise with your message/offer. Start by writing out everything you want to say. Then pick only the most important thing. Build your text around that one thing with the use of bullet points to highlight only the key information. Then use bold to draw attention to important words the reader needs to know. Your offer needs to be easy to understand, short and appealing. Usually the message/offer planning will take the most time — it’s very important that you build that time into your schedule. You should also enlist the help of someone outside your organization to make sure the messaging is understood the way you intended it to be.

4. Graphics/Images

The best use of graphics and images we’ve seen have been able to convey the message without anyone actually reading the words. This is very hard, and in some cases, impossible. However, your graphics and images must support and enhance your message to be effective. This focused approach will give the reader reassurance that you understand their problem and you can easily solve it. The selection process can take time, so build that into your schedule as well. One pitfall can be when images are able to be interpreted in more than one way. Make sure to consider any unintended references before you use an image.

When you create a direct mail piece where all 4 elements above are synchronized, that is powerfully focused direct mail. It draws attention and elicits a response. So many times we see poor planning lead to bad direct mail — don’t fall into that trap. It is better to have your campaign mailed later than you wanted with your focused message, rather than to mail a bad mail piece on time.

One more important consideration when designing your mail pieces is postal regulations. Postage is your biggest expense, so making sure a design meets the USPS requirements before you print will ensure that you do not pay any more postage than is necessary. Penalties can be two or more times your original postage amount and in some cases you may not be able to mail at all. Your mail service provider can help you spot any problems that may cost you more money.