B2B companies almost always focus on business value when marketing or selling their products and services. After all, ROI is the holy grail for businesses—if you can prove that you can deliver strong ROI, you win the deal, right? Except it doesn’t seem to work that way.

A 2013 study by Google and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council found that, on average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers are.

The study surveyed 3,000 purchasers of 36 B2B brands across multiple industries and compared their responses with baseline consumer data. When asked, “Do you see a real difference between suppliers and value the difference enough to pay for it?” 86% of B2B buyers said “no.”

What made B2B buyers commit to their vendors if it wasn’t a difference in business value? Personal value. The study revealed that B2B purchasers are almost 50% more likely to buy a product or service when they see personal value€ (like an opportunity for career advancement or making their jobs easier) in their business purchase decision. They are 8x more likely to pay a premium for comparable products and services when personal value is present.

Here’s a 4-step process to infuse your marketing with emotion tied to personal value.

1. Understand what your target audience values.

Different groups of people will value different things, so it’s essential that you’re targeting what will resonate with your particular market segment. The best way to understand your audience is to talk with them. Asking the following questions will give you insight.

  • What is important to you as a [title or role]?
  • What is the most challenging part of your day?
  • If you could eliminate one daily activity, what would it be?
  • What job-related issue do you worry about the most?
  • What are your one-year goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in two years?

Once you’ve interviewed a representative sample of your target audience, map out the shared needs and goals that you see overlap. These are the personal values you’ll want to focus on in your marketing.

2. Identify the language and messages that connect with your audience’s personal values.

You need to learn how your prospects and customers talk when describing the needs and goals you’ve identified. What words do they use? What’s the level of frustration or desire? You can’t learn this information by asking them—they won’t interact with you in a natural, unguarded way. You need to “eavesdrop” in their natural environment—in LinkedIn or Facebook groups, online forums, and social media conversations. Then craft your messaging using your buyers’ words and phrases.

3. Test different messaging to see what resonates.

How will you know if you’ve hit upon the right messaging? You won’t know until you test. Try different messages in your email marketing and on social media and look for what gets liked and shared the most.

4. Motivate buyers to act by digging into the pain of non-action as well as highlighting personal gains.

Once you’ve captured a buyer’s interest with your appeal to personal value, you’ve got to motivate that buyer to take action and make the purchase. You’ll always face an uphill battle because buyers worry about the risk involved in a purchase. You have to overcome that worry by showing that the pain of not taking action is greater than the pain of worry. You’ll find which pain to dig into for your specific audience in the research you did in Step 1. In your messaging, highlight the personal difficulties or emotional needs that should be solved or met, as well as future personal gains from the purchase.

We forget that B2B buying is really P2P (person to person) buying. Companies don’t buy from vendors. Purchasing agents, managers, C-suite executives, and partners buy from salespeople, company reps, and freelancers. And these people are just as influenced by emotion as consumers. The emotion is different, but it’s just as present.