Emotional appeal is fundamental to business-to-consumer marketing. People select products based on how that product meets a real or perceived need or fulfills a desire. This was the subject of a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, and it got me thinking about how we in the B2B customer advocate community can contribute to the perceived emotional value of a corporate purchase.
We are all familiar with advertising campaigns and slogans that sell a feeling rather than a commodity. Can you recall the product connected with these iconic slogans “Because You’re Worth It,” “Just Do It,” “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” and “Like a Good Neighbor?” Each of these products and brands targeted a motivation and tapped into how a purchaser wants to feel, not the details of the product or even a comparison of the product to others in their market.
Only New in B2B
The idea that emotional motivations drive behavior was first presented as a hierarchy of needs more than sixty years ago by social psychologist Abraham Maslow. While this was not in the context of business, it certainly applies. Why? Because while companies are things, decisions are made by people. Those people are still driven by the same needs and concerns in their corporate roles as they are in their personal lives. They just manifest differently.
We have identified 30 “elements of value”—fundamental attributes in their most essential and discrete forms. These elements fall into four categories: functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact.
The Elements of Value, Harvard Business Review
The HBR article focuses on 30 “elements of value” that researchers at Bain & Co. determined drive consumer behavior in product selection, but among those 30 elements are a handful that apply to B2B as well. When an employee makes a purchasing decision for their company, they are evaluating that purchase against a slew of value criteria.
- Is the “pain” of making this purchase less than that “pain” of doing nothing?
- Will this product save my company money? How much? How quickly?
- Will it improve productivity?
- Will it make MY job easier?
- What are the possible consequences to my career?
Anyone who has been in Enterprise technology sales has a “lost sale” tale to tell. All the boxes were getting checked off and then, poof, the prospect went dark, and the deal evaporated. Why? Because at some point “doing nothing” was a safer choice.
The emotional value was most likely overlooked. What tools should you have at your organization’s disposal to address these emotionally-driven needs? The answer is a customer advocate program: members, content assets and technology.
Enter Customer Advocate Programs
Customer Advocate managers are in a perfect place to contribute to that emotional value requirement, if they’re included in the sales process. Imagine how the buyer would feel if, as an extra reason for choosing your solution, she felt your partnership would:
- further her career by building her peer network with other advocates
- help her stand out personally and professionally by amplifying her success stories
- create a sense of belonging (membership in the program)
Once those connections exist and your solution is selected the path to acting as an advocate is already established. It’s a virtuous cycle and the customer advocate program manager is the master of ceremonies.
For content producers the message here is to not only address function and business considerations in your customer videos, case studies and social media, but the emotional aspects. Buyers do so much of their research before engaging sales that it’s essential they start making the emotional connection through content early on.
Realizing Strategic Potential
While the customer advocate program is often thought of as mostly by sales leadership as a transactional function like lead generation, it can, employed strategically, help sales appeal to the emotional needs of B2B buyers. When that’s done effectively win rates increase and the start of a long and mutually beneficial customer relationship begins in the sales cycle.