For brands that sell consumer products, the statement of “All customers are people” is simply a reminder to keep a focus on the customer and his or her personal needs.
However, this statement is just as important to companies that market to other businesses … just as important to organizations that are trying to effect social change … just as important to charitable organizations conducting fund-raising campaigns … and just as important to firms that sell the most serious and complex of services and products.
All decisions – from deciding what socks to buy, to deciding which firm to hire for an organizational review and overhaul – are made by people. And people think with both their heart and their mind. They have wants and needs – both tangible and intangible – that need to be satisfied. They need to be convinced/persuaded/sold that whatever it is you desire them to do, is in fact, the right thing for them to do.
Business-to-Business is Person-to-Person.
Many marketers think that just because they’re in a B2B world, their marketing needs to be extremely direct, filled with data, and void of personality. Why? Because they believe they’re selling to companies.
However, companies don’t buy stuff. Companies don’t choose vendors. Companies don’t decide to support particular charities or causes. And companies don’t hire consultants.
People within companies do these things.
People compare pricing. People read websites and review brochures. People make judgment calls on what companies or products to trust. People accept or avoid calls from salespeople. People put their reputations – and possibly their careers – on the line when they make recommendations to use a new consultant, business partner, or vendor.
The marketing, communications, and advertising of a business-to-business brand needs to talk to the people within the companies of their target audience, not directly to the companies.
The marketing needs to address not only how the company will benefit, but also how the people making these decisions will benefit.
A Group is Made of Individuals.
Few decisions in this world are made alone. Husbands and wives decide together which house to buy (and often what vehicles to drive, what furniture to purchase, and which restaurants to frequent). Small advisory boards meet to recommend which consulting firm to hire. Committees collaborate and argue to determine which insurance provider to select or which charity to support.
Marketing to each of the individuals in this group instead of marketing to the entire group can be tricky. Representatives from operations might want one thing from a vendor, while those in procurement are looking for something else. And the foreman who’s actually on the floor might be focused on a completely different set of benefits than the salesman who’s meeting with clients on a regular basis.
And this challenge is just as common with consumer products or services. While a mother might be focused on the price of her daughter’s new shoes, the daughter may be focused solely on style. But they both have to agree – or at least compromise – in order for any shoes to be purchased.
When possible, different marketing messages should be targeted to the different individuals within the group – sometimes with different tactics, and sometimes with multiple messages within the same tactics.
In addition, the audience members and the benefit statements must be prioritized. Who in the group is most important, second most important, etc? Which benefits are most relevant to which specific person? And which benefits are relevant to the largest cross-section of people in the group?
But more important than any of these factors is one simple rule: Talk to one person at a time. Whether you’re writing a page for the website, crafting a sales letter, creating a brochure, or producing a television commercial, imagine that you are talking to an audience of one.
Be personable. Deliver messages that are personally relevant. And yes, if it’s a business-to-business message, include the benefits that the company will receive, but also the benefits that the individual will experience.
Emotional vs. Logical.
Even the most important of decisions are made through a combination of emotional and logical factors.
Choosing an accountant may seem like a black-and-white decision, but let’s be honest with one another. Most of us, as people, will choose the accountant or accounting firm that makes us feel most confident.
Yes, it might be the logical choice to choose the sedan that comfortably fits the entire family and gets good gas mileage, but there’s still that personal desire for the sports car.
Maybe it seems obvious that a company should buy a particular raw material for reasons of technical superiority, but every day, people within companies choose to purchase a different product for a number of different reasons. They like or dislike a particular sales representative. They’ve always used the same vendor and feel a sense of loyalty. They don’t want to be bothered going through the appropriate channels to change suppliers. They’re not comfortable changing resources when the other one is working well enough. They’re hesitant to be an early adopter. The list goes on and on. Some of the reasons are somewhat logical, but many are at least partially emotional. The decision makers are people not robots.
Because most decisions are both logical and emotional, successful marketing campaigns must reach the audience members on both fronts.
For example, a television commercial for a car might start out with all the emotional benefits (design, speed, coolness, etc.), and then end with something that at least appears to be logical (a strong lease incentive). A print advertisement might create an emotional reaction and drive someone to a website where he or she will be exposed to a combination of emotional and logical arguments and benefits. A brochure might spend 80% of its real estate on the logical benefits of a particular product, but the front cover, photo selection, and other elements might all create a feeling that attracts the reader’s emotional side.
Sometimes a logical benefit can create an emotional reaction.
For example, a music lover can be excited to learn that the sound system he always wanted is now half price. A researcher might be ecstatic to find out that there’s a new device that will produce better results in less time. A business owner might laugh with glee when she discovers a consultant who can increase productivity by 75%.
In varying degrees, logic and emotion are a part of every person on this planet, and therefore, they are both a part of every buying decision that is made. And that’s why both need to be in your marketing messages.