Posts Tagged people marketing

Playing to customer emotions in B2B

emotions picThis post is in reaction to an interesting blog from @econsultancy. If you read through it, though I don’t advocate the notion of attacking a competitor, you’ll likely find it common sense. But the thing about common sense is that its often rare in practice. How often do we really consider how our customers feel emotionally about their problems or our products in the B2B environment?

It seems to me we, as marketers, spend way too much time articulating features / benefits and not necessarily about what drives customers emotionally. Some key emotions that come to mind relevant to B2B –

1) Security and peace of mind
2) Fear of complexity (and a need for simplicity)
3) Fear of obsolescence
4) Disdain for the big, evil OEM or corporation (that could even be you)
5) Need to be top dog or seen as a thought leader (not necessarily as an organization but as an individual)
6) Fear of unpredictability, inconsistency or failure (not at the product level but as a team or organization)
7) Desire to be perceived as charitable or benevolent

Obviously not every customer in your world is going to share all (or even one) of these emotional needs (that’s where the segmentation comes in).  But when it’s all said and done, hard as we try, people are irrational decision makers.

How often have you tried to rationalize a purchase that in your head you knew was irrational? We see it all the time in the consumer world – products and services become emotional extensions of ourselves and we rationalize in our heads why we need something that we really don’t. I refuse to believe the same can’t be said in B2B. Buyers are still people, and people are still irrational.  There are just different emotions at play.

In my current role we are commercializing a new solution playing to some extent on #s 4, 5 and 6 from above. That said, we’re still in the early phases so I won’t try and convince you of my genius…yet. In the meantime I would love to hear about what others have seen or done to tackle emotional needs in B2B.  I’m all ears, so what have you got?

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Going beyond the sizzle (of technology marketing)

Apple GeniusIn case you haven’t picked it up on it, I’m in the business of marketing people. Yes, I market B2B solutions with a complex array of services and technologies, but at the end of the day those solutions are designed by, implemented by, managed by and bought by people. And one of the worst things an organization can do is sell a technology without keeping in mind the people that it takes to really maximize the value of that solution. So why then do marketers overlook the people that make their solutions attainable and tangible to clients?

As I like to say to my consultants and engineers, the technology on its own is the sizzle. Yes, the sound and the smell is what draws people in; it’s the “sexy” part of what we sell – but when the sizzle eventually dissipates, it’s the experts in front of the customer, strategically evaluating the situation, who will ultimately be held accountable for the technology’s performance.

And rest assured – the sizzle will dissipate. And unless you’re really not in to retaining customers, this should be a pretty big deal for you. No one, I repeat no one, is safe from the “so what have you done for me lately” conundrum.

So go ahead and keep marketing the crap of the technology. It is after all what brings customers in the door. But getting them in the door is only half the battle. Once they’re in the door – the technology needs to tell a story, and that story ultimately needs to be about marketable people. For without people, technology comes down to bits and bytes and eventually we all start to look the same (see PC industry).

One of the senior executives I work with and whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for has a mantra I oft hear him recite.

“People do business with people they like, trust and respect.”

We’ve reached a point where technology is a great differentiator but also our greatest challenge. In this age of rapid obsolescence, something better will eventually come along. But good people, trustworthy people, who have a vested interested in their customers can quell that fear.

If you stop and think about it, we are surrounded by companies who win because of the people they market, who are bringing products and solutions that are not only at their respective forefronts, but also backed by great people. From Apple to Xerox, these organizations win because there are people behind them that we like, trust and respect.

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B2B is so 1999

brick wallI remember the first time I heard the term “B2B” – I was a senior in college. Any company that made the slightest reference to it was being touted as the next big thing. Looking back on it, I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about and before I had time to stop and think about it, the millennium came and went. Now here we are, 10 years later and I still hear people referring to it like there’s some mystifying secret to it.

Let me shed some light on the matter…

There is no esoteric meaning behind the term because there is no “B2B”. B2B IS DEAD! PEOPLE (not businesses) buy from other PEOPLE (not businesses). And while I don’t think anyone would openly dispute that, there are still those trying to market to businesses!!!

If you were a sales person, you might start with a business target in mind, but you don’t just walk up to the entrance and talk to the bricks on the building wall?  So why as marketers would we target businesses?!?!

Don’t get me wrong, to engage in a conversation we need to start at the business level, but we also have to go deeper. There’s the question of who is the decision maker (VITO) that will ultimately decide whether or not to conduct business with you. And then there are your key influencers, who, being among VITO’s most trusted advisers might be someone who could influence on our behalf. This might be a person within the organization or it might be a particular external thought leader, but either way it’s about a person.

It’s about touching individuals – which means talking to them as individuals, NOT as businesses. Everyone has their own motivations, and just because something is good for the “business” doesn’t necessarily make it good for the individual.

So don’t be a B2B marketer. Be a “people” marketer and always keep in mind what’s in it for them!

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