Creating personal connections and demonstrating a high level of understanding of customer needs is not unique to B2C marketing. Businesses also need their service providers to understand their specific needs and concerns. For this reason, empathic marketing applies to both B2B and B2C marketing.
How can empathy apply to B2B marketing, you ask?
First, let’s draw a big picture of how sales decisions are made. We need to understand the decision-making process to apply empathic marketing.
Note that this model is an oversimplification; each company creates a process that fits their needs.
A B2B Decision Model
When a brand decides to make a high-level purchase, it assembles a team of stakeholders. These stakeholders use their unique perspectives to analyze what each potential supplier has to offer.
The key to B2B empathy is understanding how organizations make choices that favor one vendor over another. According to Colette Stevens and Paul Hague, decision making has two levels:
- Fast thinking processes are rooted in instinct or emotion. Think of a fight-or-flight situation or a small decision, such as choosing between iced tea or soda. We make hundreds of quick decisions every day, but a company doesn’t need a buying commission to decide which pencils to buy.
- Slow thought processes are more calculated and logical. We analyze and weigh their pros and cons. This is the process we associate with business decisions. As Stevens and Hague write: “Something precious and crucial to the future of the company requires a much longer journey.”
Organizations also have rules for making purchasing decisions. When a company doesn’t need to make an immediate decision, it builds knowledge and assesses the facts. The higher the level of spending, the more (we can assume) the decision is of greater strategic importance and the longer it takes to conclude. Procurement policies are designed to give final approval to the right people.
Our responsibility as a B2B marketer is to understand the mindset of the entire purchasing team and what they are looking for when they do research. When creating B2B marketing content, we need to consider all the people who might be involved in this decision-making process.
Apply empathy to your B2B marketing
1. Understand what drives acquisition
Whether the brand is looking to expand its business or is dissatisfied with a current seller, it’s up to B2B marketers to understand the weaknesses and how our solution or service will help solve the problem.
Information about pain points comes from conversations with decision-makers. Listen to front-line sellers reaching their target audience. Follow the best publications and social media sites in your industry. Research your current customers about what they are looking for in products and services. Look for trends in conversations and let them drive your marketing message.
2. be more strategic about the content you create
The volume of B2B content is impressive. According to Forrester’s research, 65% of business decision-makers who buy technology say they think they’re getting too much material from marketers and that much of what they’re getting is useless.
Use what you learned in Step 1 to discuss topics and how to best distribute content. Perform keyword searches and searches to see what your audience is looking for. Notice how the audience engages with their different platforms. If you notice more engagement with email or LinkedIn, lean towards that.
3. Think about the ‘why’ behind your product
Think about why your specific brand is in the market. Chances are you found a way to solve an operational problem.
Companies don’t buy a product or service; they buy the seller’s approach to solving a problem. They want their suppliers to understand and share their challenges. The purchase is therefore more of a partnership than a simple transaction.
Emotionally intelligent digital marketing creates messages about why you started your business in the first place. You demonstrate through highly conscious content how to solve your shared problem. Gather the similarities in your thoughts and discuss how you both strive to make the field in which you work better than before.
Talk about ‘why’ in your content, but always keep it relevant. Perhaps a short video about your foundation’s history will echo the target companies. Others may find the case studies informative and helpful in their decision-making processes.
4. Think about the people behind the company
Even if an organization uses a purchasing commission or has a well-defined bidding process, people are behind the decision-making process. These people do not reject their emotional side when making a commercial purchase. Even the most logical people will still emotionally invest to some degree in the companies they buy from. In return, they want their suppliers to feel personally involved in their success.
Again, case studies help reach out to the people behind the company. They show how your concern and investment in other companies helped solve a problem for that company. You can also capture these stories through video testimonials or blog posts.
5. Connect with your unique values
B2B buyers essentially want the same thing: to save time and money for their business, work more efficiently and minimize day-to-day operations. If they all offer the same value, how do you differ?
Use your unique value proposition to define how you help your business customers achieve their goals. Your unique value should be evident in every aspect of your digital marketing, from your branded website to social media marketing and email campaigns.
Stakeholders want to know if your company is there to help them succeed, even if they’re not ready to buy from you right now. You need to understand the roles of people on the decision-making team to know what they’re going through.
It’s up to your content marketing to share trusted stories about how your brand helps customers achieve their goals. This is at the heart of empathic marketing, be it B2B or B2C.