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Human After All: Why Marketers Must Harness B2B’s Emotional Side

B2B buyers aren’t buildings. They’re real people who seek entertainment, laughter, and respect. They have desires and fears. Unfortunately, many B2B marketers overlook this emotional side of B2B buying. They believe it’s all about logic and scrutiny, missing out on the power of emotions. That could be a mistake.

In the latest episode of The Marketing Context podcast, we talk about the role of emotions in B2B buying. Check out the full episode here.

There was a time when B2B was about deals sealed with a handshake and a stiff drink, and networking involved more card swaps and golf swings than LinkedIn connections.

With everything going online, that’s all changed. Now, B2B is all about <fname> emails and Zoom calls; the closest thing you get to a personal connection is seeing someone’s cat walk across their keyboard. That’s an issue.

Now, digital does have massive benefits; marketers can cast a much wider net based on tons of good data. But this comes at the cost of making assumptions about your audience that may not be accurate. Case in point: B2B, where the assumption is that the average decision-maker is an unfeeling robot in a suit.

Of course, the reality is far from that.

Your average B2B buyer isn’t a depressingly grey building with rows of tinted windows. They’re people. They want to be entertained. They enjoy a good laugh. They want to be respected. They have desires. They have fears.

Somehow, most B2B marketers don’t understand this yet. The general view is that B2B buying is only about logic and scrutiny, nothing more. That’s why we have an epidemic of campaigns devoid of emotion, which is a shame when you have campaigns like “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” that work wonders.

Make it about the people

B2B needs a huge mindset shift. We envy our B2C compadres’ connection with their audiences because we don’t want to admit that, unlike us, they’re big on talking to people like people. 

Business-to-person (B2P) marketing is less about strategy and more about execution. Your strategy is still led by a healthy mix of number crunching and instinct, but what comes of it are campaigns that a human being can relate to.

Research by The B2B Institute comparing campaigns by whether emotional consideration was greater, equal or less important shows how B2B audiences are only slightly more rational than B2C.

B2P is what we try and go for in all our inbound and outbound campaigns, and it’s what helps us stand out (and get hired).

Of course, it’s not always fun and games. We recognize that while B2B audiences feel things, they’re also a more logical and rational bunch; if you’re not talking results and ROI at some point, you probably won’t be taken too seriously.

Striking the right balance between humanizing audiences and recognizing the high stakes involved is the winning recipe for B2B. 

You’ll see this on social media, where even B2B folks on LinkedIn—the ‘professional’ platform—share valuable content and sprinkle a few puns and jokes here and there. These marketers are building sprawling communities by talking to people like people.

Many B2B companies are also becoming more human on other channels. This is truest for many B2B SaaS brands, who’re quickly moving away from snoozefest corporate-speak on their websites to content that sounds like an actual person wrote it.

Evolve to become (more) human

Though it might seem counterintuitive, B2B marketing isn’t all about cold, hard data and logic. 

For marketers, taking a ‘risk’ by tapping into the emotional side of B2B decision-making could be the key to cutting through the noise and standing out.

Author avatar
Mayank Gulati