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Dialling up the emotion: putting meaning into B2B engagement

As the expression goes: people buy on emotion and rationalise with logic. It’s a powerful idea, and one heartily embraced by B2C marketers. Watch any TV and it’s all about emotion, alongside generating that certain ‘feeling’ that leads to aspiration – and ultimately to a sale. But this enthusiasm has for the most part been noticeable by its absence in the seemingly rational space of B2B: A world dominated by serious people, and buying committees known for their earnest deliberations and impassive facial expressions.

putting meaning into B2B engagement
Dialling up the emotion: putting meaning into B2B engagement

Or at least that’s how the traditional view of B2B went.

Minds however are changing, buoyed by a growing recognition of the critical role emotion plays in procurement decisions. Plus there’s a growing body of research (take for example B2B International’s findings that 56% of final purchase decisions are driven by emotion) that’s helping confirm what most of us have long since suspected: emotions like trust, pride, hope etc. trump cold hard facts most days of the week. In fact it could be argued that in B2B the emotional aspect is even more important – due to the involvement of peers (and possibly rivals!), alongside the higher ticket prices of items being bought.

The question marketers should therefore be asking themselves is simple: how can we beef up the emotional resonance of what we’re doing?

To provide an answer, we present our top 10 tips for ‘getting emotional’:

1 Promote a vision of wow

It’s here you want audiences to believe that you’re both the sensible and the best option available: the safe pair of hands with the latest and greatest product offering. The core emotions here are trust and confidence, with the resulting output having a big influence at the top of funnel. Our here suggestion would be to make a lot of noise, with content aimed less at securing sales and more at demonstrating your ‘thought leadership’ credentials – as a way to set the agenda for what customers need (tacitly aligned to your product offering).

2 Offer a consistent promise

Across the buyer journey, throughout every asset and human interaction, the emotional promise behind your brand needs to be aligned and consistently preached. To do anything else risks generating mixed or confused emotional responses, and a negative reaction. Language plays a vital role here, alongside a considered and responsive marketing and sales strategy. The key emotion here is confidence, and ensuring prospects and customers that you’re committed to seeing through your vision and working to a clear purpose.

3 Tell an emotional story

Obviously you can’t just decide to weave emotions like joy and anticipation into standard marketing assets. Instead the secret is to weave them into a narrative that connects with a buyer’s day-to-day experiences. Not only does this help with credibility (by demonstrating that you ‘get’ what they’re up against/trying to achieve), but it also provides a platform for inspiring their next action – as well as reinforcing the relevance of your products/solutions.

5 Make good on your commitments

It’s no good promising a red Ferrari and delivering a rusty Ford Escort. Do that and you’ll definitely be generating an emotional response, though not the one you're after! That said, your commitments come in many shapes and sizes. Yes the obvious one is that the product/service being sold will work as advertised. But equally there are the less ‘immediate’ commitments like responding to requests in a timely fashion, or following up promptly with answers to a customer’s query – and it’s this type of behaviour that generates subtler but longer lasting positive emotions (reliance, calm etc.)

6 Doubt is an unwanted emotion

People’s reputations can be put on the line when they’re making big purchasing decisions. It doesn’t help that there’s usually a lot of choice on offer (and we mean a LOT of choice), which can fool people into believing the perfect choice is out there. In reality, when it comes to catering for multiple requirements nothing is perfect. Not a new screen projector or a multi-million pound supply chain solution. Someone somewhere is going to pick holes! That’s why marketing should be honest and realistic, and give buyers the ammunition they need to defend their decision – and ward off the naysayers.

7 Make it personal

Want to show an immediate impact in your drive toward more emotional marketing? Then start with your biggest and brightest opportunities, while also identifying a specific audience sub segment to ‘trial’ (one where personal relationships are they key to sales, as for example in the construction sector). Once done, get busy understanding what these people are looking for from a more personal point of view (speaking to existing customers over lunch being particularly recommended!), and define the campaign strategy around more meaningful touchpoints – rather than spray and pray, impersonal messages.

8 Don’t let the machines take over

Emotion and technology: not the most natural of bedfellows. But as companies progress with their digital transformation agendas, it’s vital they carefully consider the how, where, and when of engaging with target audiences. Sounds obvious, but there are some powerful forces at work shaping the way brands expect to interact with customers in the future (AI and ML being two immediate examples). Such tech might mean even greater automation for marketers, but the efficiency and performance gains offered need to be balanced with the need to sound and act like human beings.

9 Sing from the same hymn sheet

There’s still a tendency for many companies to separate out their marketing into separate ‘voices’. This can lead to different tones of voice for business customers versus consumers versus partners etc. This is a mistake (there’s no easy way to say it), and one that highlights a lack of uniformity in purpose. Any company’s mission should ideally work across every audience they engage with, and provide a consistent experience for all involved. Similarly with emotional engagement, the same values and passions should always be presented – and acted upon.

10 Focus on the human dimension

Doing this means evolving your marketing message from solution provider to problem solver, and promoting a message of practical and immediate business relevance. We can all understand the value of tying specific product benefits to specific customer pain points. But getting emotional also requires you to think of the human element behind the pain, and how this impacts peoples’ ability to do their jobs to the best of their ability – as well as their quality of life and future aspirations. These are powerful emotions, which means you need to be on the ball when exploring such topics – rather than sounding like you’ve done 5 minutes research to get ‘up to speed’.


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