B2B Doesn’t Mean Business-to-Boring
Article first published in Little Black Book. (here)
In consumer marketing, we’ve known for years that decision making is not rational. Any behavioural economist will tell you that consumers are often irrationally unpredictable, and any neuroscientist will tell you that all consumer decisions are emotional.
As David Ogilvy said, “The consumer does not behave as he says, he does not say what he thinks and he does not think what he really feels.”
As a neuromarketing agency, we’ve worked hard at understanding the real motives behind a choice: the rational, the irrational and the emotional.
Controversially, it would appear that a decision maker in a B2B environment still uses their human nervous system in the same way as when they are in a consumer environment, with just a few small differences.
Some marketers tend to think that people working in B2B are predominantly motivated by value, ROI, credibility, process, policy, price, budget, service-level agreement and other such spine-tingling things.
Surprisingly, research has shown that they are also motivated by things that we as marketers might more readily associate with a B2C environment.
Some of the drivers behind a B2B decision might be: ‘Give me an advantage’, ‘Make me look good’, ‘Is it personally risky?’, ‘Could I mess up?’, ‘Do I trust the people/solution?’, ‘Is it interesting/exciting?’, ‘Will I get recognised?’, ‘Will my boss be happy?’
This scandalous, human approach can have incredible results. Who would have guessed?
Might it be time for us to move from seeing marketing as B2B or B2C? Is this the B2H era?
While there are best practice approaches that cover the majority of strategies, like having a well-optimised digital presence with great content to drive SEO and awareness, the tactics and channels used fundamentally revolve around your target market.
To have success in today’s world you need to take a cross-channel approach, you need to understand each channel, and you need to deliver value. The mix of channels that you use depends on where your audience exists and where you can create a value exchange for a share of their attention.
The one constant is that at the end of every interaction is a human nervous system. Understanding this, and how we make decisions, is at the core of creating content and messaging that provokes an emotional response and breaks through the noise.
The old assumption in B2B that you’re just selling to a purely rational business is gone. While guidelines are a valuable indicator of what form a brand communication should take, they shouldn’t stand in the way of creativity and engaging in a real dialogue.
While it’s true that expectations of B2B customer experience are now more similar to B2C, the customer journey still needs to be slightly different. Content to help decision-making requires more thought and effort to get to a conversion. However, this doesn’t mean we should remove emotion altogether.
In B2B, the idea that people are happy to read long-winded white papers or insight pieces is wrong. Attention spans are reducing, meaning we need to create easy-to-digest, shorter insight pieces which lead potential customers into a longer version if they’re interested.
We don’t swipe our keycard and become a different person. We use the same irrational and emotional decision-making in all contexts, whether we’re in a B2B or B2C environment.
B2B marketers can get ahead in today’s personalised ABM world by being more B2C in their approach - and it can be just as fun, creative and scandalous as you’ve always dreamed.
- Decision makers in both B2B and B2C use their brains in the same way - while there are differences between the two environments, what makes content most effective is engaging all three major thought process: rational, contextual and emotional.