Sunday, October 4, 2015

Emotion and Business-To-Business Marketing

There’s an  ongoing argument about emotion in business-to-business marketing, and it’s a fundamental one: Should emotion be used, yes or no. I’ve seen diametrically opposed arguments from people who are represented (or represent themselves) as gurus in the field.

This is an argument against.

Traditionally, business marketing has taken a pragmatic approach, focusing usually on helping prospects attain practical objectives by practical means. “Increase Your Profits With This Product.”

The people who advocate using emotion point out that businesses are run by people and people have emotions, so you should appeal to that when selling business products or services. “Here’s a Way To Become Rich.”

Basically the approach recasts “objectives” as “emotions.” You translate the business owner’s objective, “making money,” into an emotion, “greed”; the employee’s drive to advance on the job becomes pride.  But have you really changed anything?

Not if you’re in business for the conventional reasons. Your prospects have objectives or emotional needs, call them what you want, and you’re selling something that will help achieve or fulfill them.

How do you do that?

Not with emotion; you do it with hard information.

The entrepreneur makes additional profit (satisfies his greed) by increasing sales or lowering costs or getting to market ahead of the competition or offering higher quality for the price. Your task is to show how your product helps achieve those things. Demonstration, specifications, test results, case histories, ROI.

The manager advances to a better position (satisfies his pride) by demonstrating improved results for his department. Your product has to show him increased productivity. More efficient processes, new-technology equipment, better-trained employees.     

Sure, you can hook `em with emotion, but question-answering and problem-solving and customer benefits are what you’re going to need after that. Why not just get down to it?

And it’s no different even in the new-era work environment we hear about where profit may not be the driving motive; where success may be measured by other criteria. But the business going under won’t help save the environment or improve the human condition; it has to be viable to achieve the larger goals. The ends may have emotional roots, but the means remain stubbornly practical.

That’s not to say there can’t be any emotion at all in business marketing.

Say you’ve just solved a tough problem for an important customer. Your reward is practical -- a big sale and a lot of money  -- but there’s an emotional component in it, too. Depending on which camp you're in, it's the pleasure of knowing you have a profitable business, or the satisfaction of your greed.