According to this Advertising Age article, there is a common perception among some marketers and individuals outside the industry that B2B purchasing decisions are made solely based on rational evidence – because business is business and it is not supposed to be “personal.” But the fact is that emotions do play a critical role, and sometimes can even be the driving factor, in how business purchases are made.
This thinking is understandable though. If a consumer makes a bad decision, they can often reverse the purchase with a full return or credit back, so the stakes are usually not very high. For Business purchases, on the other hand, the stakes are much higher when a mistake is made – one can lose their stakeholder trust and support, and worse even their job.
The expression “No one gets fired for hiring IBM” underscores this exact sentiment of sticking with the known and avoiding the new to minimize risks. And it is exactly these emotions of doubt, uncertainty and fear of risks that IBM’s marketing efforts tapped into to discourage buyers from considering and purchasing from smaller, startup competitors in the 1960s.
Now fifty years later, these emotions are even more pertinent in the B2B space. About half of B2B decision-makers surveyed by CEB and Google said they had wanted to purchase a new solution but did not speak up out of fear for taking risks and making a mistake.
The article states that people have not changed fundamentally, and neither has the role emotions play in making a purchase. This is why your content needs to support a customer’s emotional needs at every stage of the buyer journey.
Content Marketing In A Post-Tinder World
For most buyers today, they first “meet” sellers online. In many cases, the entire purchase may even start and end without any offline or face-to-face interaction. This means effective content must not only inform and educate your buyers, but also provide the emotional reassurance and trust in your brand that buyers need.
One can arguably compare today’s buyers with Tinder users. Not that I have ever used the app, but my single friends have shown me just how fun (and easy) it can be to swipe away potential suitors.
And just like those looking to find the love of their life, buyers too will only give you one chance to make a good first impression.
You want to make it count and avoid getting a “left swipe.” So what will make a buyer “swipe right” on your brand and take that next step to reach out and even buy from you?
According to the article, you need relevant, valuable and visually compelling content geared to meet your customers’ emotional needs:
- Awareness Phase
At this stage, your buyers are likely either not aware that your company exists or, if they do, they do not know what you do and how you can help them. Your content at this stage then needs to focus on your buyer’s pain points and key business challenges.
Helpful articles showing how companies tackle a similar problem your prospects are currently facing, for example, gives your brand credibility and authority that comes with third-party publishing. Even better is content that educate your potential customers on topics that are important and relevant to them, their company, industry or business challenges.
The emotional payoff here is earned through the true empathy you have for your buyer’s pain points and the knowledge and insights you are offering to share to address those challenges.
Obviously there are other formats and channels you can use and will want to consider, depending on your business and industry. But the key here is to get the buyers’ attention and interest.
Very much like a Tinder profile, your content needs to be as compelling and attractive as it can be, both on a visual and emotional level, so your buyers will consider you as a good match with what they want and will give you a “swipe right.”
- Research And Opinion Phase
According to Pardot, 72% of buyers turn to Google to start their research on potential sellers. That’s why Search and social proof are still so extremely important. Buyers often look for educational materials, customer reviews and recommendations from their colleagues and peers via social media, online communities and forums.
Imagine how emotionally stressed or disappointed a buyer would feel when they cannot find a brand they are considering in their search results.
For most consumers, if they cannot find a company’s thought leadership and content on Google, it will be considered less legitimate compared to ones that can be found through online searches. Comments, customer reviews and online recommendations act as social proof to help boost your brand’s credibility further.
- Consideration Phase
Once buyers have narrowed down their choices to a few brands, they will dig deeper into their research and look at how you, as a seller, can help solve the particular pain points they have.
Most of today’s customers are on the go, so mobile-optimized, personalized, relevant email messaging is key at this phase, to engage your prospects and show them that your brand knows what they need.
Podcasts are another great content format to engage customers while maximizing their commuting time and, literally, tell your brand story and messaging. The human voice, on an emotional level, makes podcasts feel much more personal and real, as if customers are in one-on-one conversations with subject matter experts and thought leaders.
- Decision Phase
At this stage, buyers are ready to select a seller and make a purchase. They are thinking about the actual implementation, costs and the post-sale support they will receive – the final specs that will ultimately determine which seller best fits their needs and budget.
To make the decision-making process easier for your customers – one that is favorable for your brand – you want to offer useful brand-specific content, including technical product guides and case studies, that will help them winnow their choices and, at the same time, show how other businesses have achieved success by choosing your brand. These content assets will save buyers an enormous time to conduct further research on their own, which can help boost appreciation for your brand.
- Post-sale Phase
Just because a buyer has selected your brand and made a purchase, it doesn’t mean your work is over. Most customers will continue to research best practices, tips and also latest news on other companies in your space. You’ll want to offer ongoing thought leadership content and product updates related to the buyer’s pain points, to reinforce that they made the right decision and to help them get more value out of their purchase. So when the time for renewal comes around, customers will want to give your brand a “swipe right” again.
What do you think? What content marketing strategy has worked for your brand that you would recommend to others? Please share your ideas below!