The product-focused world of business-to-business marketing needs reinventing. While B2B may be fulfilling customer’s requirements, it’s not creating the emotional connection that makes them feel special – and makes them feel good about choosing a particular company’s product.
Gallup research shows that only 29% of B2B customers feel fully engaged with the businesses they buy from.
Humans are driven by feelings, which means that B2B marketers need to sell the emotional benefits of buying a product, not the practical ones. B2B decision makers don’t want to be bombarded with facts and figures, jargon, and tech speak. They yearn for a sense of connection with the companies from which they do business. Engagement is a critical factor because companies with the highest levels of it also have 72 percent more fully bought-in customers. And once they’ve bought into a company, they are willing to pay a higher price for its products.
Appealing to the human being at the other end of a B2B marketing campaign will drive transformational and sustainable growth. It will make B2B marketing more human, more compelling, and more effective.
Use these five principles to create a connection between your brand and your customers:
1. It’s about people, not products.
Understanding your customers’ needs is the starting point of what makes a brand more human. You have to empathize and engage with them, not just sell features to them.
Pepsi was one of the first companies to move from a consumerist message to a customer-centric message when, in its bid to go up against its highly successful competitor, Coke, it stopped talking about its product and started talking about the user. It created “The Pepsi Generation” of those intent on escaping consumerism by (ironically) buying a Pepsi. The campaign inspired other brands to not sell products to consumers, but rather a better version of themselves.
2. You need a purpose that’s actioned.
The most successful companies put an overarching purpose at the heart of their business. A recent survey shows that 61% of C-suite executives will pay a premium for a B2B service from a brand with a clear vision. A strong purpose, mission and vision gives your marketing life and meaning, and gives customers a reason to buy from you instead of from someone else.
Your purpose is the meaningful difference you want to see in the world — the reason why your company exists, above and beyond making a profit. When it’s articulated and executed with authenticity and integrity, it becomes the wind in your company’s sales. However, purpose alone means nothing; it’s the action you take and the commitment you show to your cause that defines your brand.
3. Emotion is at your marketing core.
Your potential customers have access to more information than ever before. They have to sift through a mountain data, work out how to prioritize what they need from it, and make sense of statistics from various sources. Given the challenges and stress this process creates, the brand that makes them feel good by speaking directly to their sense of ease, safety and comfort will win out.
Igniting emotion in your customers requires knowing your audiences, using language and ideas that resonate with them, and finding ways to bring them into your story. For example, business lender Funding Circle needed to show it could be a viable first-choice solution. It identified the feeling that small businesses wanted to have when choosing the right lender — a feeling of belonging and recognition that would power them through the hard times and encourage them in the important work they do. Funding Circle’s core storyline was that these business owners were “Made to Do More.”
4. Likeability is transformational.
People want to do business with people they find amendable and trustworthy, even if their products aren’t as good as the other person’s. The likeability factor within the context of humanizing B2B means that you need to create a genuine bond or connection that will sway people’s decision in your favor.
It’s time to jettison the grey suits, jargon and purely intellectual content in your marketing. Instead, be the brand that’s happy to be helpful without expecting anything in return, the one that will go out of its way to be helpful, and the brand that expresses itself in a warm and personable way.
Storytelling is your vehicle.
Customers are increasingly interested in the human beings behind the public persona of your business, and they’d love to hear compelling stories about them or those you have an effect on through your work. This kind of approach helps them to feel less as if they’re being sold to and more as if they’re being treated like family. No one wants to think they’re the target of a sales pitch, but they always enjoy a good story.
When you develop a connection with your audience through empathy, and when you tell stories that have your customers at the heart of them, you’re concocting a magical combination that automatically makes you a human marketer.
All these ways of developing a sense of connection with your audience are essential because it makes them feel like what they’re experiencing isn’t marketing, but a natural form of positive communication.