Why B2B Marketing Needs to Get More Emotional
Traditionally the life sciences industry has been product-centric, focused on share of voice and marketing messages. Changes to the healthcare business model are forcing organizations to adopt a customer-centric model in order to align with the way the “buyer” buys. The good news is that industries like retail, consumer goods, and telecommunications have blazed a trail for Life Sciences companies to follow when making this transition.
First, it must be acknowledged that the shift requires an organizational change in mindset and process. A key question is, “How the change will translate to the sales representative level?” Since the customers (physicians, patients, healthcare organizations, etc.) already have a wealth of information at their fingertips, customer-centric representatives must shift to a consultative role to provide value. In this role, the representative seeks to educate and solve real practice or patient issues. In order to do this, the representative must have a level of customer intimacy. They have to understand the critical business and patient issues faced by customer. Once understood, the representative must seek resources from across the organization to help enable a solution. The use of various company resources creates multiple touch points and the type of customer engagement that leads to customer loyalty.
Consumers frequently express their love for brands (think Apple and Netflix) but how often do enterprise customers proclaim their devotion to a vendor? Not that often. Emotional connections between clients and vendors may be less obvious but emotion ultimately plays a significant role in B2B purchase decisions. The challenge is to cut through complex, multi-buyer sales processes and connect with customers. Here’s how companies are doing just that.
Don’t Underestimate Emotional Connections
"The emotionality evoked by loved brands is just as intense as that evoked by a close friend," report researchers from the German university Bergische University Wuppertal in the journal Psychology and Marketing. "Moreover, consumers experience emotions in a brand love relation that are even more positive than those evoked in close, interpersonal liking relationships."
B2C brands may evoke strong feelings among consumers, but other studies suggest B2B customers are even more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers. For example, in a study sponsored by Google and CEB, only 10 percent to 40 percent of respondents reported being emotionally connected to brands like L’Oreal, Target, and McDonald’s while 40 percent to 70 percent felt connected to service providers like Cisco, Accenture, Oracle, and Deloitte.
On average, B2B buyers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers. Why is that?
One explanation lies in the decision-making process. While it’s true that many people in an organization might be involved in making a purchase decision, for the key stakeholders, a B2B purchase includes personal risks. If the purchase decision goes badly, stakeholders risk losing time and credibility or worse—their jobs. With so much at stake, it’s understandable that people feel a stronger connection to a vendor as compared to a consumer brand.
Transparency Goes a Long Way
Furthermore, although B2B buying is often perceived as a rational, data-driven endeavor, the decisions are still influenced by a complex mix of instinct, emotion, and reason. “People buy from people, not from companies,” notes Guy Yehiav, CEO of Profitect, a predictive analytics provider. “Therefore emotional connectivity is an important part of any business decision.” However, the way people form connections has changed, Yehiav adds. “When I was starting out in business, the popular wisdom was that you had to play golf because most deals were being made in person, on the golf course,” he recalls. “Now, people are forming impressions about you and your company even before the first meeting.”
In today’s hyper-connected, digital-first world, buyers can quickly identify the leading vendors in a field and determine which ones meet the company’s needs. And competing on price and business value is a slippery slope as most features become commoditized over time.
Therefore, when transparency is table stakes, Yehiav says he reminds his sales team that “people can tell when they’re getting a generic pitch so be authentic and connect with honesty.” Additionally, a salesperson should strive to deliver value as early as possible, such as by researching the prospect’s role in the company and sharing product information that isn’t readily available online. Putting prospects and current customers at ease by demonstrating that the service provider understands his or her problem and has the right solution isn’t just common sense, it’s a smart business practice.
Indeed, the way an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than the effectiveness of the experience, according to Forrester Research. Making customers feel valued, appreciated, and confident drives loyalty while disappointment and frustration decrease loyalty. In other words, taking the buyer’s perspective into consideration is just as important as explaining the business value of the product or service.
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