Why emotional marketing matters in B2B

Estimated read time: 7 minutes

B2B marketing strategy is oh-so different from other marketing strategies! You may have heard it before when talking to B2B marketers. Partially that is true. B2B marketing strategy:

  • usually must account for buying committees and influencers
  • must account for that their product must help with business results or processes
  • has an audience that is usually smaller than B2C

But that doesn’t mean B2B marketing strategy must be stiff. B2B marketing can be emotional marketing.

Ashley Poynter - emotional marketing expert
Ashley Poynter

Ashley Poynter, of Content Rewired, joined me on the Business Storytelling Podcast to discuss this topic as well: How do we add more emotion into our B2B marketing?

B2B marketing strategy for real people

At the end of the day, B2B buyers are also people. They have problems that need to be addressed through products, software, etc. That’s really no different from any marketing.

In B2C marketing the market is bigger and, depending on product, individual consumers make purchasing decisions. In B2B, we have a smaller group of buyers and several people usually make buying in tandem.

Why is arousing emotion in B2B marketing strategy important?

People connect around emotions, Ashley explained. That could be fear, happiness or sadness.

“Empathize with your audience,” she said. “Instead of just talking at them.”

Sometimes it’s as simple as using more creative words. For example, a podcast host of a show for accountants might say “Why don’t you stop crunching numbers for a minute and crunch our subscribe button.”

Simple, creative and a bit of a word play but ultimately a call to action.

Why is emotion so hard in B2B marketing strategy?

Some B2B brands or their leaders have grown up in the age of where businesses do serious marketing. That’s okay to an extend, but can also be overdone. And hinder brands from standing out.

Sometimes it’s about lengthy and unnecessary workflows and approval processes. Why does this person and this one and that one and five more get to edit every piece of content? Do they have any experience in editing? Do they know what keywords we are trying to rank for? I’ve seen “editors” edit the important stuff out because they are editing for personal preference, too.

“That’s a preconceived notion that B2B is so serious and you must always talk in this authoritative tone,” Ashley said.

Ashley recommends that expectations should be set for everyone who is involved in the process. What’s their role? What’s the expectation of what they can and cannot do. People involved must understand the importance of emotion in the B2B marketing strategy.

“I’ve seen that happen where a marketing manager had this really creative idea with emotion and then when it makes its way through executives and legal it’s a mingled mess from where the person started,” Ashley said. “That’s why it’s important to get buy-in before starting.”

Relationships come in here as well. When the team trusts each other, marketers can implement things without having to be put through the ringer. I talk more about how to set up a high performing team in “Content Performance Culture.” Michael Brenner’s “Mean People Suck” book is a good read as well.

What’s the role of sales in B2B marketing strategy?

Part of this discussion must be around what the role of sales is. Sales and marketing certainly need to work together. But why do sales people get put in charge of marketing strategy and execution when they have no experience in those areas? Would we put a marketing rockstar in charge of straight up sales?

Explain to sales what you are looking for. Do you want a second set of eyes that reviews content with the eye of what they are hearing from prospects? That can offer tremendous value as sales people talk to prospects all day long.

”But there needs to be clear communication between marketing and sales so everyone is on the same page,” she said. “This is what my role is in this process.”

Read next: Cartoons in marketing: How to decide when to use them for your brand

What emotions to go after in emotional marketing

Brian Gregory, of ADMANITY, said marketers need to pick one to three emotions that they are trying to address in their content. Don’t go after too many types of emotions.

Where is the line to scaring potential buyers?

Of course, there’s a fine line to invoking fear. If you tell people that “your building will burn if you don’t buy our product and our product alone” that’s drawing on the wrong  emotions. And isn’t believable.

That’s where empathy comes in, Ashley explained. How far can you push your story before you get into slimy salesperson territory.

It starts like any campaign:

  • What do we want people to get out of it?
  • Then how do we create content that drives toward that?

”Collaboration with teams is best,” Ashley said. “Also keep your finger on what other brands are doing.”

How to add emotions into product video

Though being helpful and showing examples of what can go wrong can be okay. Ashley mentioned a high-dollar campaign for printers. The campaign showed all the things that could go wrong.

The alternative to something like that is to put up a video and say ‘here’s our printer and all the different security features’,” she said. “What this video did instead is it ran through actual scenarios that could happen.”

It certainly instills fear, but “it’s the right kind of fear,” Ashley said. “We are here to help you do your job better and isn’t that what you want?”

How do creative and lead gen work together?

Creative marketing is needed to drive leads and draw attention.

“The research is showing that when we add a little humor or joy into this marketing people are more responsive,” Ashley said.

Where do we get great content for our B2B marketing strategy?

One strategy is to have the marketing team interview the experts and then create content from those interviews. That can look like this:

  • Interview experts on audio and then publish a podcast
  • Publish an article and more campaign assets from the interview

”Trying different channels is so important,” Ashley said. “Different messages and different tones resonate with different people.”

Of course, make sure that you align your content with your audience personas. Then create content for them and iterate it from there, Ashley said.

How do you measure the success of your B2B marketing strategy?

Certainly, sales are one metric. But page views and shares also matter and give you an indication into whether or not your audience even engages and connects with your content.

”Some people call these vanity metrics, but they are an indication what people are engaged and are paying attention to this,” Ashley said. But keep in mind to not just look at one metric. Look at the overall picture.

At the end of the day, marketing is a numbers game. Tamara Burkett reminded us on the Business Storytelling Podcast that 3 percent of your relevant audience is ready to buy. That also means that you have to reach a good-sized audience of prospects to even have that pool of potential.

At the end of the day, marketing – including in B2B – is changing and evolving. People consume content on a variety of channels and many are competing for our attention. Even completely unrelated companies and content producers.

For example, I listen to podcasts daily. When new episodes show up, my business-related podcasts are competing for my attention with the leisure and sports podcasts. They all come into the same place and try to get me to listen.

”Try new things,” Ashley said. “It’s tough. I do think a lot of companies get stuck in ‘that’s how we’ve always done it and that’s the way it has worked’.”

And oftentimes that’s true but how do you know it won’t work better until you try?

Listen to my podcast