A commonly held view among B2B firms is that their prospects make selections and purchasing decisions based solely on logic and reason, and are not influenced by emotion the way that B2C purchases are. However, recent research proves otherwise.

B2B Buyers Respond to an Emotional Connection

The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) partnered with Google to learn what leading marketing teams are doing differently to connect with their customers emotionally and show personal value. From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands studies 3,000 B2B buyers, marketers, academics, thought leaders and consultants across seven B2B industries and provides thought-provoking insights as to how B2B buyers react to emotional marketing compared to a more functional approach.

The following findings can help today’s B2B companies adapt their communications and brand strategies to speak to clients on a deeper, more personal level.

1. Emotion trumps function

The study found that when B2B brands connect with buyers through an emotional approach, they achieve two times the impact than when selling business or functional value.

Connecting emotionally requires going deeper than understanding business goals and needs. Through open-ended questioning and observation of non-verbal cues, marketers can uncover the personal needs of an individual stakeholder. This is invaluable intelligence when it comes to crafting messages that speak to a particular buyer’s needs, pain points and frustrations.

2. Brand connection drives sales

Connection to your company’s brand is key in order to close a sale with potential B2B buyers. In fact, customers with strong connections to B2B brands have higher rates of consideration (79%), purchase (64%) and willingness to pay a premium (60%) than “low brand connection” competitors.

In a marketplace that is overflowing with marketing messages, customers will be more inclined to respond to yours if there is established rapport. To get their attention, marketers must “speak their language”—meaning that businesses should use words and phrases that are familiar to customers and to which customers will react to in an emotional way.

3. Traditional methods don’t work anymore

According to the study, “the B2B Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is dead and 86% of B2B buyers see ‘no real difference between suppliers,’” there is also a lot of competition in the marketplace. “Since most suppliers have two or three major competitors, each supplier receives just 12% to 16% of total customer mindshare.”

By using emotion as a tool to connect with potential and current buyers, B2B professionals can stand out from the sea of sameness.

4. Emotional benefits drive greater results

When businesses use “features, functions and business outcomes as a means of marketing their brand, they see a 21% increase in perceived brand benefits. However, “professional, social and emotional benefit” marketing leads to a 42% boost. So how do firms connect with buyers on an emotional level?

Helping customers see how your firm can help alleviate their current problems, needs or frustrations is a way to convey emotional benefits. This requires marketers to understand a buyer’s challenges, and then communicate through content and messaging that empathizes with those emotions and demonstrates how the purchase will remedy their current struggles.

The heart hooks the mind

“The heart hooks the mind” has always been our mantra at circle S studio, and this research confirms it’s appropriate. We believe it applies just as much to B2B audiences as to consumers. It’s the hurdle all of our work must overcome before it’s considered ready for client review. Whether written or visual, digital or traditional, global or local, everything we create must stir the audience’s emotions before we can engage the rational mind.