New Research Shows That Emotion Is Just as Crucial in B2B Selling as B2C

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Put a human face on your communications, author and consultant Amy Africa told us a few years ago, insisting that we use real faces from our audiences instead of canned ones. This was driven home yesterday at the Association Media & Publishing conference I attended here in Washington, D.C.

Looking at a website from a member, Katie Mason from Team of Creatives first pointed out faces that obviously did not belong. Then she found faces that looked much more of the moment. "These look like your members," she said. "People like that." It makes a big difference in how you are perceived, she added. Today, in another session, a speaker talked of an Instagram post where a subscriber asked to see more people from their niche at work, inside labs to be precise. This led to more emotional engagement. 

Speaking of which, a new study has found that emotions are just as important in B2B purchasing decisions as in B2C, with their research revealing the role different emotions play along the B2B path to purchase. "It's never been more obvious to us that we make decisions based on emotion, gut instinct and knee-jerk reactions," said Belinda Green, head of strategy at B2B agency Gyro which conducted research in this area in partnership with the Financial Times.

"We have to remember, we often are mentally primal beings, and our brains are wired a certain way," she said.

We respond to emotion, Africa told us, urging publishers to tell more stories in their website and marketing. "We have bartenders in our brain and they're constantly mixing cocktails to become faster and smarter and more involved. We are not thinking machines that feel; we are feeling machines that think. Do your visuals evoke emotion? What about your copy? Do you tell a story?"

"The 'corporate veil' is coming down in favor of a human frame," an article on told us last year. "Many brand stories fail to capture the public's imagination today in large part because they still portray companies as protagonists. People don't care about companies; they care about people... Great, emotional brand storytelling must be told through the lens of a person: a specific customer, a passionate employee or a dedicated partner."

Also coming out of the study was the importance of culture and showing thought leadership in the sales process. Thought leadership was the most influential aspect of a brand's marketing, with 63% of respondents citing it as most crucial for them.

Company culture—something Tim Hartman, CEO of Government Executive Media Group, emphasized in his SIPA Annual 2018 speech earlier this month—matters greatly in buyers' minds. Eight in ten said that being clear about what the company stands for and believes in can be game-changing for the business—"especially if the company's core values and beliefs can be encapsulated in some form of marketing asset."

"You need your staff to collaborate to create products that can grow platforms," Hartman said. "Create a culture to build trust and collaboration, and breaking down silos... Think ambitious experiments and trust each other. If you look around and don't see that, you have a problem."

The emotions study stresses the importance of staying vigilant on the B2B path to purchase. "As marketers, we have a natural tendency to focus on the beginning of the relationship, on the winning of the business, when in fact that is only one of many important things that happen," said Green.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…