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Time to get emotional about B2B

There’s one question that I get asked regularly in social situations, when the subject of work comes up. “So, this ‘B2B marketing' thing: how exactly is it different to B2C?”

“Well,” I respond, trying to sound patient, “businesses have a different approach to buying things than consumers. They have complex decision-making units, convoluted purchase processes and extended buying cycles.”

The enquirer generally now looks more puzzled, so I try put it simply for them: “Businesses make purchases on a rational, rather than emotional basis," I say.

At that point, I generally change the subject. But I’m left with the knowledge that what I’ve said isn’t strictly true. Whether you’re Dynorod or Louis Vuitton, emotion and branding are integrally linked – the nature of the emotional reaction to the brand will have a massive impact on the decision-making process. It’s the same in both B2B and B2C – buying is never purely rational. Consequently, in this key instance, the boundaries between B2B and B2C are far from clear.

And that’s not all. Mobile is accelerating what Rick Segal of Gyro identifies as the ‘@ work state of mind’, where people think about work long after office hours and when they are many miles from the office. Smartphones and tablet PCs render the rigorously defined notions of ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ as obsolete.

The Internet is shifting the balance of buying power from the seller to the purchaser; mobile devices are supercharging this migration, providing unprecedented control and flexibility of information. And if you’re engaging with a brand via your iPad in the bath at the end of a long day, you’ll do so with a very different perspective, potentially resulting in a quite different emotional reaction.

Emotion, then, certainly isn’t absent in B2B marketing – and if anything, it’s more important now than ever. Clearly I’m going to have to find a different way to explain what I do at parties.