Science, art, and emotion: Those three elements of marketing present an intriguing challenge in the ability to co-exist. It’s all bound up in a right-brain, left-brain struggle for supremacy. The left brain is all about the science of statistics and data-driven, programmatic decision making, while the right brain favors creativity and emotional engagement.
I am a B2B marketer who firmly believes in combining science and art to create emotion in B2B marketing. Why? Because, with emotion in your marketing strategy, you can achieve true excellence in your marketing campaigns. Marketing has overcorrected from a creative, right-brain-driven industry to a left-brain venture with the advent of big data and marketing technology. That shift is capsizing the revenue boat. Marketing is about people, and people are about emotions and being talked to in personal relationships.
B2C And B2B Relationships
We can learn a lot from our B2C counterparts about the shift of power and influence to the buyer as it drives a new paradigm in B2B marketing tactics. B2C is an emotionally driven marketing approach first and a science and tech effort second. Getting people to part with their money in a split second, based on brand/product perception, in a supermarket aisle is a supreme art. And similar skills are becoming needed in B2B marketing.
Studies have shown that B2B buyers are already 57% of the way through the traditional marketing funnel before they ever contact a company’s sales team. The prevailing attitude among the buyers is that every company with a marketing cloud solution, for example, is the same when discounting the emotional factors that link a buyer to a seller. (One of my Adobe counterparts, Gina Casagrande, developed an interesting two-part series on the relationship of B2B and B2C marketing: The Key Differences Between B2B & B2C Marketing, Part I and The Key Differences Between B2B & B2C Marketing, Part 2.)
So how do we keep the boat from capsizing? In a blog post I published in January, I talked about the marketing technology landscape and the overwhelming pressure it’s putting on the CMO community to become tech-savvy and fully familiar with (i.e., a user of) many of these technologies. However, the lesson to be learned from our B2C friends is that tech is just a tool and not the means to an end. Tech supports and allows us to test and validate marketing approaches, but we can’t let it drive the key objectives, which are primarily based on the needed relationships, emotional connections, and personalised messaging and offers that will make our customers loyal, trustworthy, and valued advocates of our brands. We have to understand that objective data and resulting analysis/insights are not perfect. The proper perspective for these marketing tech tools is they act in support of marketing decisions and do not drive them directly.
Successful B2B marketers will be those who are analytical and data-driven, yet understand brands, storytelling, and experiential marketing. Marketing leaders must engage both right- and left-brain disciplines and balance the art and science of marketing.
Guidelines To B2B Marketing Success
Adobe teamed with Econsultancy on several high-profile studies on market personalisation strategies. The quarterly digital intelligence briefing, “Digital Trends for 2015,” is one of them and provides the statistical foundation for why personalisation, which is the means by which you can put emotional strategies back in your B2B marketing plan, is the important trend for 2015 and beyond. My colleague Simon Morris’ most recent blog post discussed some important points from the Digital Trends for 2015 study.
The Digital Trends study makes it clear that B2B marketing has many exciting opportunities. And personalisation has indeed become top-of-mind for companies aiming to improve the customer experience. The more enlightened businesses are now thinking of personalisation across the whole customer journey rather than in a particular marketing silo. (Another interesting topic for a future post is how marketing is moving beyond marketing into areas traditionally associated with customer service, account management, and support.)
The fact is, personalisation sets companies apart and creates differentiation from their competitors by cutting through the clutter of information out there. In my case, it transforms the customer sentiment that all marketing cloud solution providers are the same to the sentiment that Adobe is different. They know who I am and they listen. I said this earlier, and it bears some repetition: The customer has always been in charge; brands have just been slow to accept that. There is a shift happening from brand experience to customer experience, and personalisation will be the driving force.
And as mobile gains scale, it becomes more important to offer the multichannel customer an omnichannel experience through personalisation and targeting on different platforms and channels. Personalisation is all about customer experience. When you give people exactly what they need and when they need it, on whatever channel they are on, they are going to love you. It doesn’t get much more emotional than that.
Specific Actions And Strategies
If we mine a recent Corporate Executive Board study and reduce it to a few emotionally based actionable items B2B marketers can take to make B2B marketing personal, we get something like this:
• Listen, observe, and understand your customers’ personal goals and emotions. Sell less and listen more. B2B marketers need to objectively observe their customers to spot nonverbal or contextual cues that reveal underlying emotions.
• The insights gained from listening, observing, and understanding will allow you to create messages that convey personal value by using your customers’ natural language, tone, and style, not your internal jargon and standard catch phrases. Marketing tech plays a supporting role with keyword research. It is still a big part of the process to make sure you are seeing what terms will resonate with the not only your specific customer, but also the larger market.
• Change management is always an obstacle to overcome and is a highly emotional topic. You need to drive action by clearly showing customers that their current pains are more enduring than the pain of change. Change will be a one-time concentrated effort, while current pains will exist forever until you overcome the emotional block to change management.
• Always provide the customer value in return for his/her business. Give customers new insights about their business needs, then lead them to the differentiators that makes your brand different from the competitor brands that are vying for the same business.