4 Tips for Tapping Into B2B Buyer Emotions

Did you know that for B2B buyers, personal value actually has 2x the impact of business value? CEB’s Karl Schmidt shares four ways to adapt your marketing accordingly by pushing the right emotional buttons.

At some point, we’ve all made emotional impulse purchases. A candy bar in the checkout line at the grocery store, a fancy new putter at the golf store, or a flashy red sports car with the gas mileage of a three-ton semi-truck — whatever the item, very rarely do we actually need these things.
Yet, while frivolous, we’re able to justify those purchases because they don’t often cause financial ruin. For growing B2B companies in the market for new business solutions, however, the same can’t really be said.
After all, purchasing those products and services often requires navigating a complex buying process, and choosing the right solution can sometimes make or break the business. With so much riding on that decision, there’s no room for emotional, impulse decision-making, right?
Or maybe there is.
According to a new whitepaper from respected business insight firm CEB in partnership with Google, when it comes to making purchasing decisions, the personal value a B2B solution offers has twice the impact of the business value it provides. In other words, B2B customers do become emotionally attached to the brands they work with — more so, in fact, than their B2C counterparts.

“It’s quite clear that B2B buyers are emotional purchasers, and if you’re not tailoring your marketing to that accordingly, you’re missing a huge opportunity to really resonate with your buyers.”

Karl Schmidt, CEB 

4 Tips for Tapping Into B2B Buyer Emotions

With all of that said, does this mean you’re going about your B2B marketing all wrong? It’s certainly possible.
As CEB’s Karl Schmidt recently explained in this podcast for OpenView Labs, most companies underappreciate and underutilize the power of emotion in B2B marketing. As a result, they miss out on a huge opportunity to resonate with their buyers and guide them more effectively down the path to purchase.
To change that, Schmidt recommends businesses heed these four tips as they re-evaluate how exactly they market to B2B buyer’s emotions:

1 Appeal to the Elephant, Not Just the Rider

One of Schmidt’s favorite analogies as it relates to the importance of appealing to both the rational and emotional sides of B2B buyers is the metaphor of “winning the elephant and the rider,” which originated from the works of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and bestselling authors Chip and Dan Heath.
If you look at a man riding an elephant, you might presume that because the rider is holding the reins that he’s in control — that’s the rational side in all of us. But forgetting about the influence of the elephant — the emotional, visceral, and almost automatic force that actually performs the action — is a mistake.
“While the rider and the elephant, the rational and emotional, won’t necessarily be in constant, open conflict, there’s also no guarantee that the two will agree,” Schmidt explains. “This is where we maybe know what we should do, but we don’t necessarily do it. And that’s where the analogy is very powerful. You have a very small rider and a very big elephant. And if the two disagree, who’s your money on?”

2 Address Buyers’ Fears

Think for a moment about the potential risk any of us are willing to take as B2C consumers. If you’re buying an iPad, it might do all of things you want and your spouse might disagree with the need to purchase it, but the relative risk is pretty low.
As executives, however, the risk of making a large investment in software or technology — say, a CRM solution — is significantly higher. It could be a multi-million dollar purchase and that’s a potentially career or business-altering decision.
“If we don’t think about what it takes to overcome that risk from a personal, emotional perspective, then we’re missing where we as marketers should really be focusing,” Schmidt says. “Ultimately, if you don’t overcome buyers’ fears and you fail to address those risks, then you can pull on the reins all day and the elephant still won’t go anywhere.”

3 Highlight Personal Benefits, Not Just Business Benefits

Going back to CEB’s whitepaper, it’s important to remember that personal value has twice the impact on a B2B purchase that business value does.
According to Schmidt, marketers have been successful at proving business value to their prospects and customers over the last few years. That value can be demonstrated through statistical or financial analysis, or easily enumerated via tools like an ROI calculator. But as CEB’s study shows, B2B buying decisions are about much more than dollars and cents.
“Personal value matters, and those attributes include the emotions we’ve already talked about, including aspects of confidence, excitement, and happiness,” Schmidt says. “And there are even some social benefits companies should consider, like whether their product might make the buyer more popular with their team, or whether it will allow the buyer to be viewed as a stronger, more successful leader.”

4 Tie Value Back to the Bigger Picture

When Xerox wanted to communicate to teachers the fundamental role that color plays in helping children learn, the company personalized its core insight for that audience by emphasizing the impact having more engaged, exciting students could have on teacher motivation and performance. Xerox even created a video that served as a case study of that impact.
“We found that it was an impressive example of not just how Xerox delivers business value to its buyers, but also how it really nails the value that we all care about from an education perspective — successful outcomes for individual students, their ability to learn, and what that means for the teachers,” Schmidt says. “It’s a really powerful way to package the emotional and the rational connections together and deliver a much more impactful message.”

Are You Doing Enough to Emotionally Connect with Buyers

All too often, businesses focus exclusively on sources of business value as their basis for differentiation. And while that business case will remain important, Schmidt argues that marketers must stop ignoring the potentially enormous opportunity that appealing to personal value presents.
“That’s where we see a great opportunity for marketers to expand where they seek opportunities for differentiation,” Schmidt says. “It’s quite clear that B2B buyers are emotional purchasers, and if you’re not tailoring your marketing to that accordingly, you’re missing a huge opportunity to really resonate with your buyers.”
Photo by: Ben Smith

Karl Schmidt
Karl Schmidt
Practice Manager

Karl Schmidt is Senior professional with 20+ years of experience including expertise in Strategy Consulting, Marketing, Risk Management, Finance, Technology, Program Management, Operations and Trading. Currently he is the Practice Leader at CEB. Previously, he was the Profitability Strategist and Advisory Lead at QRM.
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