In its simplest terms, branding is having the courage to stand for something, ensuring, of course, that the target market both wants it and, preferably, is not currently getting it. This is the basis for a long-term relationship that the most successful brands understand connects on both a rational – “I want it because of what it does” – and emotional – “I want it because of how it makes me feel” – basis.
In moving between the B2C and B2B product categories, I’m always struck by the B2B marketing contention that connecting with their consumers on an emotional basis is not only irrelevant, but virtually impossible. They invariably tell me the basis for purchase is 100% rational as the products being purchased are simply widgets that fulfill some functional duty that it either does better or more cheaply. That’s wrong and an opportunity for these marketers’ competitors, and I want to explain why.
From the research I’ve done with B2B consumers as well as direct experience marketing to them, I’ve found that, while the emotional benefit may be a bit more subtle, it is there and can be uncovered with a little detective work. To do that, you need to analyze your target market applying the same principles as those used in B2C marketing.
The difference is that in B2C, the emotional benefit is most often based on how a product fits into the personal lifestyle of the purchaser and makes them feel about themselves. In B2B marketing, however, the emotional benefit is related to how the product makes the purchaser feel about their ability to perform their job and the impression they want to convey to the key people in the company in which they work.
So the key detective work for the B2B marketer to determine the emotional contact points is to learn as much as possible about the purchaser and their surrounding group. Here are some questions that will help you find that out:
1. Who is the purchaser in terms of title?
- What are their responsibilities and how are they judged within the company in terms of how they handle those responsibilities
- How does the decision they make on what you’re offering reflect on their ability to perform their responsibilities
- What is the next position they may be eyeing in the company and how does the decision they make on what you’re offering impact their ability to move to that new position
- What is the procurement process and how many different people are involved in the decision? What level of influence does each have, and how might what you do or offer make their role in the purchase process reflect on them in a positive way
- Is this person the final decision-maker or must they present their recommendation to someone else within the company
2. How will this decision be recognized in the company?
- This can be key: in some companies, they may be looking at working with brands that offer the best value, or the highest quality
- Does the decision show that the purchaser is on board the company philosophy and a strong team player
3. What is the underlying rationale behind the decision?
- Is it about pricing and the purchaser needs to show they’re a good negotiator
- Is it about ensuring the company has the best possible product
- How will their superiors view the decision: how is the purchaser trying to impress them in terms of how they want to be perceived – is it as a great negotiator or some other factor
To find the answers, don’t hesitate to take the purchaser out of the office and talk about their job and what makes them happy, what they find challenging and how they hope to move up within the organization. This will not only help you better provide what they need, but start the basis for a relationship of equals.
Establishing an emotional connection with your B2B customers can be your competitive advantage. It really does all boil down to who knows the purchaser best and helps them fulfill their goals within the company.