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Emotional Engagement Conference - Top Ten Take-outs

This week has been an emotional time for marketers. No I’m not talking about the John Lewis Monty the penguin ad (which has indeed been crafted to pull at our heart strings) I am of course referring to the B2B Marketing Conference on Emotional Engagement. In recent years there have been many ‘next big things’ associated with marketing – social media, content marketing, big data, automated marketing – the list goes on. But now it seems the focus has switched from data driven ROI obsessed sales funnel focused marketing, to a more human side all together. At the end of the day business to business marketing is actually people to people marketing, as businesses don’t make purchasing decisions, the people in the business do. This was the theme that underpinned the conference held by B2B Magazine at the Royal Institute (which for the uninitiated is where the famous Christmas Lectures take place and as they put it ‘Science lives’).


Indeed it was very apt therefore that much of the thinking behind emotional engagement and behavioural economics is based on neuro science. Having read Thinking Fast and Slow (quite a departure from my usual Gone Girl type bedtime read I admit) I am completely on-board with the premise that emotional engagement can be used effectively in B2B marketing and enjoyed the range of lectures and seminars on offer throughout the day. As ever with these events everyone has their own take on the subject and there is always a huge amount of information to process. So I have done my best to boil down what I see as my top 10 take-outs from the day, have a read, I can’t promise they’ll move you (or create an emotional engagement) but they might help you move some product! (ooh puntastic!)


Apologies if you were following along on Twitter through the day as you may have seen some of these nuggets, but hopefully they bear reiterating. Of course it goes without saying that the content below is taken from the excellent speakers from the day and all credit must go to them, I am merely curating their thoughts and ideas with a soupcon of my spin for good measure, so with no further ado…


1)      Buyers are people and people are not rational beings. 85% of the decisions we make are made by the subconscious brain (Thinking Fast and Slow’s ‘system 1’). In fact often we will make a subconscious decision and then construct a rational argument to fit and be completely unaware we are doing it. The first place people will go to look for a supplier, product or service is not Google, it’s their own head. Indeed 90% of people will choose a brand they had already heard of, even after researching and rationalising a decision (see previous point). So building brand awareness in a B2B market (where buying cycles are often very long and you cannot guarantee you will be hitting them as exactly the right time) is crucial. You need to be in the small number of brands that buyers hold in their heads when they come to think about who to buy from.


2)      Marketing isn’t rocket science, but it is neuro science. We feel first and think second. Any decision is made up of 1000’s of micro-decisions, a huge number of these will be sub-conscious. Therefore longer term campaigns which use concise and emotive messaging that appeals to our subconscious mind will be most effective. So adding an emotional context to your marketing will not just make your campaigns more ‘touchy feely’ they will be more engaging and therefore more effective.


3)      There are four key emotions - happiness, sadness, fear & anger and a myriad of permutations of these. Depending on what your objective is you can leverage these to drive engagement (think NSPCC vs. First Choice Holidays). Decide what you want your audience to feel and develop a campaign back from that feeling. By thinking more like a film maker than a marketer you can create content that your audience will engage with and share.


4)      It’s an obvious one, but find out what really matters to your audience, what keeps them up at night, what do they desire? The world for them does not revolve around your product or service, but if you can help them with what is important to them then you become valued and they will view your brand positively. By tapping into their hopes, fears and dreams and being altruistic rather than ‘sales-y’ you can build engagement that can deliver in the long term. Let’s call it good karma marketing.


5)      People buy from people and how we perceive a brand includes all touch-points. It is everything from the comms and PR we push out there, to the sales contact we have. In B2B the sales force are as much a part of your brand as any other platform, there is no point getting all your comms bang on if your sales force don’t buy into your brand. Having an emotional connection internally and with sales is often the most challenging element of the mix but it can be the most effective.


6)      Content marketing is nothing new (and is much like washing your hands, in so much as, we should just do it, rather than need to be told to do it). From social to infographics, white papers to video, there is a huge amount of content out there. Worryingly by 2015 the average person will be exposed to 15.5hrs of content every day, that’s 74GB of data or 9 DVDs! It makes me tired just thinking of it! There is just so much information, so much content, that we are overloaded and just filter the large majority if only to stay sane. That means to stand out your content has to have cut-through and what better way than to appeal to our all ruling primitive brain (our system 1) than through our emotions!


7)      You can’t make people care about your content, but you can make content people care about. So think about why people share content on social platforms. It tends to be one of these six reasons a) it makes you look good b) it tells a story you can relate to c) you have an emotional reaction to it (ick/arrr/LOL etc.) d) it offers practical advice (also see a) e) because others are sharing it and finally f) you’re triggered to share it but be it through a button or call to action or email message etc. But how do we create content people will share? Well there are some basic rules…be selfish (create content you care about and others will), be focused (create tailored content for each element of your audience), be accommodating (offer that content in the formats they want - video, tweets, infographics, blog – whatever is right for your audience), be shockingly creative (not rude, but really stand-out to cut through the avalanche of content out there), tell a story (it’s what we are hardwired to retain and engage with) and finally make it easy to share (share buttons, calls to action etc.).


8)      Creating strong content in any volume can be a daunting thought. Often marketing departments don’t have the resource or budget to either create in-house or commission an agency to develop strong relevant content. So what’s the answer? In a nutshell, curating as well as creating. It’s all about OPC & UGC. That’s ‘other people’s content’ which you can licence from publishers at a reasonable rate (think a more sophisticated RSS feed based around articles) and ‘user generated content’ which, if you get it right, you can get your audience to create for you or indeed your internal audience (often not an easy sell). These, mixed with original content, can ensure you have a relevant mix that will help you nurture your audience with interesting articles, posts etc. Work to reversion and re-purpose content, cut it into lots of different bits and make the most of it!


9)     We need to think like a Sun journalist. It’s a worrying concept but it is very true. When we are creating content there needs to be a story and we need to tell that story with a killer ‘hook’ to get people interested (not always easy in B2B I know). Ideally it should be intriguing enough to take them into the next level of information - ‘the elevator pitch’ and then offer up the information as a story that adds further detail and takes you on a journey, but with the key bits right up front. Take them through the why, how and what. Shout about what makes you special or just plain great and stick to your story with a few strong themes to reinforce those emotional messages in your audience’s minds until that is what you become in their heads over time.


10)  Tell a story - it’s what we like! We are hardwired from the days of when we lived in caves to take in stories and engage with them. Brand story telling is a well-established concept from Ben and Jerry’s to Apple. Authentic stories help make a brand relatable and engaging. In fact it has been proven that after a presentation only 5% of people will remember the stats but conversely 63% will remember the stories. So if it’s thats what we remember then that’s what we should tell our audience.


So those are my top ten take-outs. Hopefully they give you a flavour of the day if you couldn’t escape from the office and might just help you on your emotional journey that is being a B2B marketer – may the force be with you!


To find out more about the conference visit or search #B2BConf on twitter or have a look at our twitter feed