The Human Factor: Creating Emotional Connections with your B2B Audience

Want to make an emotional connection with your B2B audience on your next marketing campaign? You’ll need a deep understanding of who your customers really are—and you might have to go against convention to reach them.

Consumers are bombarded by thousands of ads per day. Standing out is no easy task. An emotional connection to your brand is sincere, powerful and hard to shake. It inspires trust and loyalty and goes beyond that fleeting moment of recognition.

The Human Factor: Creating Emotional Connections with your B2B Audience

B2B or B2C, it’s all Human-to-Human (H2H)
The general perception is that, in B2B, business customers make decisions solely based on cost (i.e. getting more for your money). However, a surprising CEB study shows us that’s just not the case. It turns out businesses are even more invested in emotional currency than individual consumers…which only makes sense, seeing as consumers can return or cancel if they make a mistake, but a company-wide service, software, goods purchase or other investment can represent a huge investment in time and money that’s hard to reverse.

GE has a great example—they’re bent on making brilliant emotional connections to high-level concepts by humanizing new ideas in energy production and cutting-edge technology. (In some cases, quite literally). While these ideas may seem like appeals directly to the consumer, individuals don’t buy power directly from GE, power companies do. The purpose of these emotional campaigns is to build human-to-human consumer trust, strengthen their brand and inspire confidence. GE never forgets that businesses are populated by real people—and at the end of the day, people are making decisions for business growth.

Here’s how you can make that real, emotional connection with your audience, even if you’re B2B…

Hit Them Right in the Feels
Cheerios goes right for the heart. In their eating breakfast with Nana commercial, a son wonders if eating Cheerios for breakfast is like eating breakfast with his (presumably departed) grandma, because, as his mother says, “Cheerios has pretty much been the same forever.”

The B2B Approach: Revisit your favorite customer satisfaction stories. How did you make your customer’s life easier that day? How did you make that customer feel? Retell these stories on your website or company blog.

Offer an Invitation to Sit at the Cool Kids Table
Consumers attach to brands because people like to feel like they’re part of something—like they’re members of an exclusive club. Many brands have created an emotional connection by finding new ways to make customers feel hip, cool and fashionable. One of the most iconic campaigns in history features celebrities and athletes sporting milk mustaches or growing up to meet success. “Got Milk?” is a simple slogan with a powerful message: If you want a body like this, you gotta drink your moo juice.

The B2B Approach: Loyalty programs and repeat customer incentives work wonders: your customers feel valued and appreciated and you get more repeat business. It’s win-win. Invite your customers into your exclusive club with an offer they can’t refuse.

Tap Into Social Conscience
Whole Foods goes right for social consciousness, emphasizing sustainability, organic eating and giving back, speaking directly to popular social causes. For example, if you bought your Christmas tree from Whole Foods, they made a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation. (“You buy a tree, we plant a tree.”) With social media dominated by alarming messages about dying bees, meat full of hormones and global warming, it’s the perfect time for messages about responsibility, sustainability and healthy eating. If the state of the world’s food supply concerns you, shopping at Whole Foods just feels like the right thing to do.

The B2B Approach: Do you have a page on your website dedicated to your company’s values and the causes you support? Even if your biggest contribution last year was sponsoring a kids’ softball team, there’s a story in that and we guarantee your customers are interested in how your business contributes to your community.

Emotional appeal isn’t just for B2C, it’s also a powerful tool for B2B marketers who understand their audience. Use it to build trust and loyalty as you connect with your customers at every stage of the buy cycle.

Fuel Their Passion: Stirring Up True Intensity in Your Customer Base

Passion is intense, craveable, inspiring…and above all, authentic. You can’t fake passion, you can’t buy it, and you can’t make other people feel it if you don’t. So how do you get your customer base to feel the excitement?

Show your passion.
When you’re inspired by what you do, it’s easy to inspire others. Tell your customers why you’re excited and invite them to get excited with you. Take a marketing hype lesson directly from Steve Job’s launch playbook. Treat every launch with “change the world” enthusiasm, even if it’s not all that new and different. Your new product, whatever it is, is the best thing ever. If you believe it, they’ll believe it. Bringing that kind of enthusiasm to a B2B scenario requires a deep understanding of customers’ pain points. Show your customers how you can fix their problems and make their lives easier in the process.

Tap into their passions.
Give your prospects and customers awesome, branded shareable graphics that speak to their interests. For example, if you’re paying attention to your customers’ social data, you can find out what TV shows they watch and build graphics around quotes:

“Winter is Coming.” -House of Stark (from Game of Thrones)

This theme is perfect for a retail store. Add “Be Warm” or “We Have Sweaters! Visit FictionalStore.com.” Overlay the quotes and your brand on a picture of a warm outfit and voila! the copy writes itself. You should be able to find an appropriate quote for any kind of business…and be sure to throw in a little humor.

“It’s not that ‘content is king,’ but content certainly is The Hand of the King.” ~ Marshall Simmonds, Define Media Group. (See what he did there?)

Invite customers to participate.
User Generated Content (UGC) is hot, and customers love it. Give them a reason to participate and they’ll jump right in with selfies, poetry, memes, and even performances. Some of the biggest brands around have launched UGC campaigns, including Lego, T-Mobile and Pepsi—but you don’t have to be one of the big-guys to do it!

Show some love.
You’re never going to get customers to trumpet their love from the rooftops unless you show them love first. And that love needs to extend past the hot-new-romance honeymoon phase while you’re trying to get that first sale. Oh, no. You need to bring the heat all through the life of your relationship. Give your former and current customers the incentive they need with a little VIP treatment to make them feel special. Massage their cares away.

What is Marketing’s Impact on Innovation for Growth? Download this whitepaper on Growth Cycle MarketingLet’s be honest here. New customers are passionate and fun for a time, but the real love (and the big money) is in your stable, long-term customer relationships. Learn more about treating your customers right over the long haul with our free guide to Growth Cycle Marketing.

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Give out content they want to share.
Great content inspires passion. That’s just the way the web works. People search for information, you provide what they want, they’re happy, and they tell their friends. Simple. Figure out what your prospects are searching for and give them lots of it. Provide the answer to every question you can conceive they’ll ask.

Break the rules.
Be the kind of company you want to be, and not the kind of company that represents tradition in your industry. Break the stuffy old mold. Let your customers see your personality. Some industries, like stock trading, lean on gravitas and dignity, because what says, “Trust me with your money” more than high ceilings, marble floors, and somber men in expensive suits?

But eTrade came along to make the point that anyone can trade stocks…so simple even a baby can make money in the market. eTrade chose to eschew the traditional route favored by old money and appeal to the masses. The day after the first Super Bowl ad featuring the eTrade baby aired, more new users signed up than on any other day in the company’s history. Six years later, one of the most memorable campaigns in history has finally come to an end.

The bottom line? Customer engagement. If you want customers to love you, shower them with attention, gifts and thoughtfulness…without smothering them with sales pitch after sales pitch. True passion isn’t demanding, and it isn’t one-sided, either. Excitement is contagious.