B2B Marketers Need To Step Up Emotional Connections

Emotional connections are much more "intense" for business-to-business clients compared with B2C. Marketers need to win over the horse and the rider -- not just the rider, as in consumer products. The findings from a Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study presented at Google's ThinkB2B event suggests that emotional connections across the organization strengthen business relationships.

The study suggests that a higher level of emotional connection exists between B2B brands and their clients, compared with businesses and their customers. The results from the study should serve as a wake-up call for businesses that have other business as clients, according to Karl Schmidt, practice manager of CEB marketing and communications. The relationship now requires the business to fulfill the personal and the emotional needs of the client, he said, which should also change the focus of advertising and marketing campaigns.

The study focuses on the processes and requirements behind supplier promotions and the emotions behind the business relationship with clients -- not just the one client, but across the entire organization.

B2C companies have used this approach for years. Now it's time to move the same thought process to B2B marketing. A good portion of a room with 100 B2B suppliers talking about their brands would argue that the idea of "brand advocate" has no value in the B2B world. Another portion would believe "brand" becomes useful only to reinforce general ideas of quality. Some B2B brands are moving further to a model seeking to build emotional, personal connections with users. Companies like Xerox, Grainger, and Edwards Lifesciences have moved to this model with success, Schmidt said.

Businesses selling to other businesses have more stakeholders in a purchase to win over. Edwards at one time only needed to convince surgeons it had the best heart pump. With the consolidation of hospitals, procurement and administration functions the surgeon's role in the purchase diminishes. It became a challenge for Edwards, as they previously had invested heavily in developing relationships with surgeons.

"B2B companies now need the surgeon to stand up and fight for the buy," he said. "The integration of ecommerce, procurement and other technology requires an emotional connection from many more people within the organization." 

Between 40% and 70% of customers feel emotionally connected to brands like Oracle, Accenture, FedEx, SAP, and Salesforce, compared with between 10% and 40% for CVS, L'Oreal, and Wal-Mart, according to the CEB/Motista Survey. Success means teaching customers something new about their business, and providing customers with compelling reasons to act by providing them with a unique value.

Professional benefits, social benefits and emotional value from an Edwards campaign had a higher aggregate impact on perceived brand benefits -- 41.6%, compared with a perceived business value benefit of 21.4%, per the CEB survey. Similar results occurred from a Grainger campaign, which highlights current pains rather than future gains through a get-it-done message. Campaigns offering personal value tend to garner twice the lift as those that do not.

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