5 ways to inject emotion into your b2b content

Make your b2b content shine. Address your audience as emotional beings rather than logistics-driven machines and give your content that extra edge

B2b marketing is dull, right? It’s a place where purchase decisions are purely rational and empathy is left at the door. A world where personalities get curbed by corporate guidelines and sentiment needs sign-off from finance.

Planet b2b is an emotional wasteland, where marketers can only dream of evoking the kind of emotional engagement that consumer brands like John Lewis and Sainsbury’s manage effortlessly. Isn’t it?

Well, not quite, actually. Things are changing at quite a pace in the b2b world, and it’s time to catch up. As social media continues to humanise even the most corporate of companies, the best b2b marketers have wised up to the fact that corporate consumers are still just that – consumers – and they’re just as emotional as you or I; perhaps even more so

This is partly because corporate clients are playing with the company’s purse strings, not their own. As Jon Moger of Juniper Networks put it at November’s B2B Marketing Conference in London: ‘B2b is far more emotional in its decision making than b2c, because you can actually get fired for it.’

So, content that triggers an emotional reaction can actually work incredibly well in the world of b2b. If you haven’t quite worked out how to find a way into your consumers’ hearts, don’t worry. Here are five ways to inject emotion into your b2b content right now…,

1. Appeal to the lizard brain

85% of the decisions we make are made by the unconscious part of the brain.

Chris Wilson, Earnest.

If you want to create an emotional reaction with your content, then you must appeal to the amygdala – the part of our brain that deals with our primal, instinctual urges.

Speaking at the B2B Marketing Conference, Earnest’s Chris Wilson spoke about the two systems that our brains operate on:

System 1: Autopilot and irrational
System 2: Thoughtful and considered

In b2b marketing, it’s commonly assumed that customers make purely rational decisions using system 2. As such marketers often focus on business value to differentiate or promote their brands.

But while there is always a corporate decision-making process in place in any business, there are still people at the core of that decision. And where there are people, there are emotional forces at work.

brainImage via Kapost

Make sure your content targets system 1 by using simple, direct and immediate messaging. Make it about cognitive ease – it shouldn’t raise concerns, the message should be simple and clear, and it should all boil down to a simple process and action. It should make decision-making an instinctual choice rather than a considered one. Simple business value propositions aimed at system 2 give buyers too much time to think.

2. Make your audience feel special

By 2015 the average person will be exposed to 15.5 hours of content per day. That’s 9 DVDs of data. You need to stand out.

Katie Canton, Birddog

Tell the reader what’s in it for them. Make them aware of how your product will benefit them, or what will happen if they decide not to invest. Create instinctual anticipation of professional/personal rewards/failures. A b2b purchaser might be inspired to buy your product if they think it will benefit their service, but show them how it will help them personally – by progressing their own career, for instance – and you’re on to a winner.

‘Business value messaging no longer differentiates companies,’ says Hanne Tuomisto-Inch, industry head of b2b at Google. ‘Everyone is demonstrating business value, and thus in order to have a high brand connection, b2b companies need to communicate personal value instead.’

Think about what your audience’s personal goals might be. What problems will your content solve for them straight away? Answering that will create instant emotional impact.,

3. Inject your content with honesty

Marketers are programmed to only talk about our products’ best attributes. But content marketing that resists this urge has some major advantages over compulsively positive content.

Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners

As Velocity Partner’s Doug Kessler mentioned in his Festival of Marketing talk Insane honesty in content marketing, a degree of honesty is a given in marketing, but complete and utter honesty is a choice.

Since humans have been capable of communication, honesty has been a deeply embedded and desirable human trait, and one which we tend to react to positively. In the world of marketing – where deceit and truth-bending are accepted as the norm – that positive reaction to absolute honesty can be amplified 10 fold.

As Kessler explained during his talk, honest content can build trust and signal confidence, and it’s also focused on the battles you can win.

Most importantly, however, honest content delights and surprises. It’s different from the norm. It makes your audience feel like they’re being spoken to person-to-person, rather than company-to-person. And for that reason, it can attract more sales. Check out this great example from Nordnet


4. Take risks

Pick something that won’t get you fired, and give it a go.

Laura Bishop, Accenture

Speaking at the B2B Marketing Conference in a talk entitled Emotional marketing? In B2B? Don’t make me laugh, Darren Bolton at OgilvyOne dnx spoke about the necessity to take risks, but the fact that so few actually do.

‘Stop sitting on the fence. Be brave. Find an interesting angle or a unique tone of voice,’ he said. ‘You need to be heard among the noise. Otherwise, you just face indifference like most other b2b brands.’

There are some great examples of b2b companies taking risks and trying something completely different with their content. Take these examples from CiscoKinaxis and Epuron

Taking risks and trying something a little different with your content marketing can help build an emotional connection between your brand and your customers, overcoming decision-making rationales, logic or facts. Surprise your audience – try something completely out of the blue.

5. Listen and learn

We’ve got to get a deeper understanding of our audience if we’re going to engage them emotionally. That’s about understanding how they think and feel.

Darren Bolton, OgilvyOne dnx

You can’t connect with people emotionally – and thus can’t do any of the above effectively – without knowing your audience. It’s content marketing 101.

Research by Google has found that b2b customers are more emotionally attached to the brands they purchase from than b2c consumers. For example, did you know that a b2b buyer who has a high brand connection with your company is 5 times more likely to consider buying from you, 13 times more likely to purchase and 30 times more likely to pay premium?

So don’t make wild guesses. Talk to your audience. Find out what their worries are, find out what they desire, and produce content that responds to these needs. As Laura Bishop of Accenture put it: ‘Encourage your sales force not to go armed with the long presentations, but go with pen and paper, listen to the customer and build an emotional connection.’ 

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