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For the love of B2B brands

In this month of love, Claire Mason, managing director of Man Bites Dog, talks of an emotional connection between brands and their customers

Valentine’s Day is approaching and love, or at least its commercial approximation, is in the air. As heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are tacked onto supermarket aisles, are B2B marketers doing enough to connect emotionally with their customers?

 It’s easy to assume that business buyers do a simple cost-benefit analysis and make a logical decision. But we’re all consumers at heart and human psychology is such that we respond to what makes us feel good, or safe, or understood. Even the Vulcan powers of procurement can only dilute the influence of emotion so far, so B2B brands need to speak to their customers’ challenges and opportunities, connecting with them on an emotional level.

So, how do you close the emotional distance and get your customers to really love you?

Campaigns aimed at promoting features and benefits ignore the simple truth that people buy people. This evolution – from products and services to expertise and knowledge – means switching the focus from what you sell to telling the story of the people behind the brand, and the customers you enable.

B2B marketers shouldn’t be afraid to showcase their people as brand ambassadors; this personification of an end product is critical to forging an emotional connection. B2B product marketers can learn a lot from professional services firms in terms of promoting insightful experts as brand champions, and we are seeing B2B product brands increasingly start to market themselves like services firms.

 B2B brands should also consider how to sell the dream, and tie into the emotions we feel when that dream is realised. Step away from the core product or service and consider what you enable in the world and what that means for the individual decision-maker, in terms of their career or ambitions for their business. Of course buyers are interested in the macro agenda of their market and the micro agenda of their own firm, but it’s easy to overlook the individual – what it means to me – and that critical third ‘m’ is where emotional connections are forged.

 Businesses need to be trusted advisors and partners to their clients. That means speaking about people, expertise and knowledge – not just the products and services you provide – and truly making an emotional connection with customers. If companies look to be themselves, not what they sell, then maybe we’ll see a little more love in B2B this spring.