It’s common sense that B2B buyers—especially in the technology sphere—make decisions based on logic. They don’t need puppies and kittens and heart-warming ads showing donkeys who aspire to be Clydesdales. Reason matters, emotion doesn’t.
Right? Google partnered with CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council to find out if this common wisdom is true. What they found out defied logic. Not only does emotion matter in B2B marketing, it matters up to 5 times more than in B2C. Whoa.
The truth? B2B buyers, even in technology, are people too. Marketers who ignore this truth do so at their own peril.
But, the cries go up, they’re smart buyers, they’re savvy buyers, they’re technical buyers! We must talk features, we must show them what’s better about our product. Yes, indeed, that is the challenge. How do you create content that speaks to them as human beings, while respecting them as professionals and convincing them that your product is the bomb?
One Simple Principle You Can’t Afford to Ignore
Ever had to stand in front of a room full of third graders and talk to them about your business? No? Me neither, but I can guarantee the way I’d talk to them would be different than how I talk to you. They’re coming from a whole different place, with entirely different experiences, and I’d be a fool to natter on to them about B2B and copywriting and ‘serving the needs of marketers.’
So why on earth do we think we can talk to all our buyers in exactly the same way? A room full of CEOs is an entirely different animal than a room full of tech warriors, so before you start putting messaging together for a marketing campaign, make sure you’ve carefully answered this question:
Most buyers and influencers fall into one of these four categories:
- C-suite, usually concerned with big picture and bottom line.
- VP or SVP, usually responsible for selecting vendors and overseeing successful execution.
- Manager, often tasked with vetting vendors in the early stage and directly responsible for implementation.
- User, often plays a role in recommending vendors. Though they rarely have budgetary discretion, their buy-in matters to the manager who will have to deal with them and who may rely on their on-the-ground expertise in helping make the decision.
Of course, the actual decision-makers and influencers vary by industry, size of company and many other factors. The point is, if you’re marketing your data storage services by distributing technical manuals on the Next Generation HP ProLiant Multi-Core Servers, and the person making the buying decision is a VP who doesn’t know Colocation from Dedicated… you’re in trouble.
If, as is usually true in B2B, you’ve got multiple decision-makers and influencers, map the buying process and target each piece of content to the persona most likely to be involved at the stage it corresponds to. You’re better off having a few targeted pieces of content for each persona than an entire library of content that doesn’t know who it’s talking to.
Four Questions that Do 90% of The Work for You
Once you know who you’re talking to, your next step is to identify the emotional triggers that drive their buying process. This will form the foundation for all the marketing content you’ll ever need.
Grab a group of people who interact with the buyers on a regular basis. If you’ve got a dedicated sales team, these folks will be a gold mine of information. The business owner, project lead and other stakeholders can be valuable resources too. If you can round up a few willing (high quality) customers to participate, all the better.
Ask them these four simple questions:
What is the buyer’s pain?
When you’ve expended the list of surface issues like, “Not enough cash flow,” “Escalating expenses” and “Compliance,” dig deeper. Go beyond professional concerns and look at the buyer’s personal problems. Are they getting calls at home about work? Is this standing in the way of a promotion? Making them look bad to their superiors? Hurting their ego? List everything.
What is the buyer afraid of?
If the buyer doesn’t find a solution to the problem, what will happen? Again, you can start with business worries—costs will outstrip revenue, government will impose fines, etc. Just remember to also look at personal concerns like loss of status in the company, hassles from superiors, and so on. Write it all down.
What does the buyer hope for?
In an ideal world, what would the buyer’s solution do? How does your solution match up to that expectation? Remember, again, to keep diving below the surface. Does she want a promotion, to look good to her buddies, to have a comfortable home-work balance?
What are the buyer’s obstacles to working with you?
This can be a hard question to answer, because we always want to jump forward and say, “But that’s not a problem! We’ve solved that!” It’s important to slow down here and take an honest look at what the buyer thinks are the obstacles, before leaping forward to the solution. When you have a solid list of the objections a buyer is likely to put up, then you can plan and execute content that directly addresses them.
The Big Pitfall You Want to Avoid
Now you know who your buyers are and what their emotional triggers might be, it’s time to start building your messaging and content plans. Just be careful not to do a switcheroo and start talking about their problems in the wrong language.
No, I don’t mean that you’re suddenly going to slip into Swahili or Portuguese for an English-speaking audience. I’m talking about the tendency we all have to take another person’s problems and immediately reframe them from our own point of view.
Consider, for instance, a technology VP chatting with his CEO and saying, “Geez, Bob, I really think we need more SaaS options up in here.” Maybe it happens. More likely, he’s talking to his wife about how tired he gets of putting out fires at work. He can’t get out of the weeds far enough to do what he was hired for.
You may know that the solution is your SaaS platform and all its wonderful features, but if you jump immediately to talking about your solution, you’ll miss an opportunity to make the emotional connection that can drive the sale.
Buying Stage Matters
Okay, I lied. Or at least omitted some of the truth. Sometimes your buyers are standing around the water cooler talking about how much they need more SaaS. It depends on who they are—and where they are in the marketing funnel. Here are the three stages most buyers go through:
- I have a problem, but I don’t know what the solution is.
- I know what some solutions are, but I don’t know which one is best for me.
- I know which solution I want, but I don’t know who to buy it from.
Their internal conversation goes something like this:
- I can’t get out of the weeds long enough to do my job! Help!
- Switching some of our technology to SaaS solutions would free me up to do my job. But which ones makes sense for us?
- We’re going to implement a SaaS email solution, but which of these three options is best and should we purchase direct or from a local reseller?
In general, the further along in the buying process, the more technical the content can be. Providing that information builds trust and confidence in your ability to deliver.
And Whatever You Do, Don’t Forget This One Thing…
Just because they’re people doesn’t mean tech buyers aren’t special. In general, they’re savvier than the average bear, and they won’t trust someone who doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.
According to this Content Marketing Institute study, 65 percent of tech buyers want facts and figures to support claims, and 62 percent want information that contains both business and technical considerations. Another 77 percent complain that tech vendors often provide too much marketing “fluff” and lack technical depth.
So, in conclusion: Talk facts and figures, business and technical, but don’t forget that these are real people with human concerns.
What are you doing to humanize your tech marketing? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Heather Head – Chief Content Officer – Scopcity