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Why emotion must be B2B marketers' dirty secret

After several months of planning our Emotional Engagement conference took place yesterday, rather ironically, at the home of science – the Royal Institution. Judging by the ticket sales (our highest ever), the turnout (again the highest ever) and the buzz both at the event and on twitter (see #b2bconf for details) it was a big success, and the topic seems to have caught the imagination of B2B marketers.

From a personal perspective that’s quite gratifying, given that when I floated the topic six months ago, there were quite a few sceptics who didn’t think emotion was a relevant or compelling enough topic to drive 200 people to take a day out their busy schedules to attend.

So what did we learn? Doubtless everyone who attended will have their own personal learnings and takeaways, but for the record, here are mine:

1. Emotional engagement can make an enormous difference your campaigns, programmes or communications… but it’s relevance goes far wider than that – from product development all the way through to customer service, employee engagement, and even the design of your RFP forms! Your entire customer journey should be designed with emotional engagement in mind, or opportunities will be missed.

2. Whist emotional engagement can and should be used to reach all members of the decision making unit at all stages of the process, it will have far greater resonance with some audiences than others. Individuals in some industries or functions will be less susceptible than others. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!

3. Further to that, emotional engagement does create an opportunity, or even a requirement, for marketing to inform strategy: to create initiatives that potentially drive the entire business forward. Paul Everett from the Marketing Practice cited some great examples from O2. 

4. Emotional engagement is vital, but it doesn’t overcome the need for ROI… at least not yet. Our panel of senior marketers didn’t agree that the old mantra of ‘if you can’t measure it, don’t do it’ should be replaced with ‘if you can’t make them feel it, don’t do it’ – not for the timebeing at any rate.

5. Emotional engagement must remain marketing’s dirty secret: the sales or finance department are unlikely to believe it will have any relevance in the serious business of driving revenue. Using the word emotion in this context is actually more likely to damage marketing’s credibility than anything else.

These are just some of the findings from the day, and beyond what was discussed and presented from all of our excellent speakers, there’s plenty more mileage in this topic. I hope this conference has put emotional engagement firmly on the map as a B2B marketing issue, and that by exploring it many more marketers will find ways to transform their marketing.