12 ways to achieve emotional marketing for your B2B company

emotonal marketing By Brooke Ballard, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Relationship marketing. Psychographics. Humanizing your brand.

We marketers supposedly fall all over ourselves trying to make an emotional connection with our potential consumers. Or do we?

Over the past several months, I’ve heard four issues come up in conversations centered around better marketing through an emotional connection with consumers. I’ll give an overview of each reoccurring complaint and give three possible solutions to change your frame of mind.

Issue #1: “But we’re B2B!”

Often times I hear how “different” emotional marketing is for B2B brands. Logic and function should trump emotion with B2B (or so I’m told). But a study from CEB and Google, From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands, found that B2B brands receive twice the impact when they connect with buyers through and emotional approach versus focusing on business value. The hiccup is that B2B brands still aren’t centralizing the emotional connection in their strategy.

Solutions:

  1. Focus on personal value instead of business value
  2. Create an environment for producing positive emotions (believe it or not, positive emotions have more influence on consumer loyalty than trust!)
  3. Use storytelling to demonstrate desire to the buyer rather than product positioning

Issue #2: “But we’re different!”

In Mark Schaefer’s book, Social Media Explained, he asks companies to ask a critical question:

What does our company do that NO ONE ELSE does?

Why is this question so important? Because every business thinks they’re better, faster, smarter, or more in tune with the consumer.

The rub here is that most consumers don’t care about your unique selling proposition (USP) — as the study mentioned above uncovers, only 14 percent of them see any sort of valuable difference between brands’ messaging. No brand is out there saying they’re not valuable, the marketplace is too competitive to solely rely on the values you’re offering. Solutions:

  1. Avoid jargon and fluff; use the language of your consumers to build an emotional connection
  2. Cut off the competition by targeting long-term relationships (not just a return); don’t show off, TEACH
  3. Ramp up your efforts for referrals and word-of-mouth or peer-to-peer recommendations

Issue #3: “We refuse to be overly emotional.”

Emotional marketing doesn’t mean every message you send out needs to be dripping with sweet nothings and chock full of hearts and smiley emoji.

Over-the-top marketing messages seem to be unloaded on us daily, and that makes more than a few marketers nervous about connecting with their audience through emotion. The easiest way to solve this problem is to take the two T’s to heart: Transparency and Trust.

Solutions:

  1. Know what builds trust? Honesty. I know, what a concept! And being transparent doesn’t even have to include the word love.
  2. Test your messaging with your alpha audience to ensure it aligns and resonates, but isn’t deemed as over-the-top or cheesy
  3. Highlight user-generated-content and testimonials to “show the love” from someone else’s perspective (and not look too narcissistic)

Issue #4: “Warm and fuzzy doesn’t put money in the bank.”

This one may be my favorite. Hardened CEOs and Sales VPs will tell you emphatically that an emotional connection won’t increase sales. The From Promotion to Emotion study found that buyers with a strong emotional tie to your brand are:

  • 5 times more likely to consider buying from you
  • 13 times more likely to purchase, and
  • 30 times more likely to pay a premium

I’d rely on those stats more than brand messaging repetition to pad my wallet, but hey, that’s just me.

Solutions:

  1. Utilize storytelling and open-ended questions to identify — and solve — pain points since it’s more cost effective to salvage a relationship than it is to acquire a new one
  2. Since emotions can’t be quantified, create key performance indicators around repeat business, peer-to-peer recommendations & testimonials, content & social media shares, your customer journey or lifecycle, and market share
  3. Work to align business goals with emotional marketing throughout your customer journey to maximize the emotional connection but still be sales minded

The Future Of Emotional Marketing

While businesses won’t change overnight to put more stock in the emotional connection, to truly stand out from their competitors they must start to understand the role feelings play in the buying decision. While there’s validity to each of the common complaints above, there are solutions to help ease companies into adding emotional marketing to the mix.

Do you think emotions have a place in marketing? Or are you sick of overly emotional messages from brands? Let me know in the comments section below!

Brooke Ballard for {grow}Brooke Ballard is an in-the-trenches digital marketer & owner at B Squared Media, blossoming blogger, and  a purveyor of psychographics. Her mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter.

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  • Chloe Mediaraft

    The marketing/design agency I run always tries to make our client’s marketing approach unique and totally tailored, more often than not that involves creating and developing an emotional connection with audiences. I think emotional marketing is often the “right” way to go, but what’s more important is that it’s genuine, relatable and totally believable. There’s a lot of “phoney” emotive marketing about, so it’s imperative that it’s part of a useful conversation and that brands remain open, down to earth and likeable in today’s socially oriented digital climate, whatever their brand position and style is.

  • Brooke Ballard

    Thanks, Chloe! I 100% agree with you, and maybe it’s just me, but I feel that those “fake it till you make it” companies and leaders are all too easy to see right through. That’s one of the things I like about relationship marketing — it’s darn near impossible to fake good and ongoing relationships.

  • Chloe Mediaraft

    Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more! I reckon that’s the way to converting the anti “warm and fuzzy” brigade you mentioned in point 4 as well. Your article is fab by the way, it really hits the nail on the head, awesome writing 🙂

  • Brooke Ballard

    Thank you so much! Really appreciate the kind words. 🙂

  • Forgive me, Brooke, but being rather geometrical in my thinking, I didn’t quite get some of the points you made.

    We seem to be talking about B2B, but in points #1 and #2 you introduce “consumers” into the discussion. Is this just a terminology hiccup, or does your data actually come from B2C?

    In #1, you say “positive emotions have more influence on consumer loyalty than trust”, yet in #3 you emphasize trust. How should I understand this?

    In #4, you pitch the opinion of the hardened CEOs and Sales VPs against the findings of the Promotion to Emotion study. If B2B executives don’t see a benefit, how is it that the study shows otherwise? Do we know the CEO/VP opinion is just imagination or perhaps supported by analytics?

  • Jennifer Porter

    I would like to think that ‘genuine’ interaction with other businesses would be a natural response, especially in social media. Social media is tailor made for human dialogue, engagement and interaction. It’s sad we have to be frequently reminded that this is the case.

  • Brooke Ballard

    Kimmo,

    Let me see if I can be more concise in answering your questions:

    1. Consumers, buyers, B2B customers … I use those interchangeably (maybe too liberally). I think the point is still there, though, regardless of the terminology.
    2. To me, positive emotions and trust go hand-in-hand. If there is no trust, it seems logical that neutral or negative emotions would be present. Additionally, points 2 & 3 suggest that brands ask their audience what they want (a rarity in many cases) or leverage the positive language of peers to initiate trust. Again, to me these things are/should be cyclical.
    3. In my experience, many times the c-suite doesn’t see a benefit to emotional marketing. The study (which I highly recommend reading — good stuff!) gives statistics on the buying patterns of buyers who are more emotionally connected to a brand. The fact that CEB and Google (read: reputable) conducted the study should give quant data to support using qualitative tactics for better returns.

    Hopefully, that helps you see my POV. If not, that’s okay. Not everyone is ready for or believes in emotional marketing. Yet.

  • Brooke Ballard

    Agreed. Yet study after study shows a complete lack of response or engagement by “big brands.” Boo!

  • Masoud

    Brooke, Thank you for your blog. I am a true believer that emotional marketing can be a big differentiator for small and big organizations. However, I too have worries about C-suite questioning whether or not this type of marketing will increase the bottom line. Any more insights on how to measure the ROI? And, any suggestions on how to sell this idea to the C-suite? I may also be a old-fashioned but is there any other way of demonstrating your emotional connection/marketing w/o use of the social media?

  • Brooke Ballard

    Hi, Masoud!

    Glad you’re willing to stand behind your beliefs! Here are my suggestions:
    1. How to measure ROI:
    For loyalty and alpha audience (a term Mark coined — and I LOVE), look at consumption metrics. Things like: unique visits, sign-ups, downloads, time spent, etc. As you continue to use emotional marketing to support your brand, you should see an uptick in these things. You will also probably be having more online conversations with your community and/or buyers.
    Also, think about the 2nd solution under issue #4 and figure out how you can set this up within your own organization.

    2. Selling to the c-suite:
    Honestly, I’d ask them to seriously look over the study by Google and CEB listed in the post. It gives some good data to back up why positive sentiment, trust, etc. can help with sales.

    3. Emotional marketing w/o social media:
    Emotional marketing DOES NOT have to include social media! There are lots of other ways. I LOVE social media for emotional marketing for lots of reasons, but one BIIIIIG one? Scale.
    Other than smm, you could try: networking, loyalty programs, special events, getting face-to-face time or spending time in the field, VIP content or even a blog (if you don’t consider that social media).

    Hope these ideas help!

  • Great informative article Brooke you are really rocks.

  • As a coach and consultant, I see it constantly – the believing all they have to do is offer excellent service and product. I caution them that they have to step out of their comfort zone and find that extreme value to give to their clients. That the emotional hook is what will get their clients to ultimately be LifeLong Patrons.

    Is it easy? No. Are their customer easily distracted? Yes. Can it be accomplished? Yes.

    Thanks for your blog.

  • Brooke Ballard

    Thank you so much, Gina! Love your POV (and so happy to have connected!).

    Appreciate the comments.

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