Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Kate Dennis will be speaking at IIeX North America (June 11-13 in Atlanta). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX North America. Click here to learn more.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret… the lines between B2C and B2B are starting to become blurred!
Numerous studies have been done on the power emotion exerts over our decision-making, and there is evidence that suggests B2B businesses could benefit from a more humanized approach to brand building. But while emotion-based research has been at the core of consumer understanding for years, it has yet to truly break through when it comes to understanding and engaging B2B professionals. In fact, some may argue that an emotional approach may be viewed as manipulative since it can divert attention away from facts.
But connecting emotionally with a brand matters.
In his 2010 TED Talk, Simon Sinek presented a model for leaders who inspire action, starting with the golden circle and the question ‘why.’
A cross-section of the brain shows that “what” an organization does lines up with the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational and analytical thought. “How” an organization does it and “why” they do it lines up with the limbic brain, responsible for feelings, human behavior and decision-making. Starting with why, as Sinek says all great and inspiring leaders do, speaks directly to the part of the brain that controls emotions, behaviours and decision-making.
Given the importance of starting with “why” and speaking to the limbic brain, you can begin to see why there is a growing trend to adopt a more personalized (or human) approach to B2B marketing. And as the lines between B2C and B2B start to blur, B2B marketers will be turning more and more to qualitative research to find those deep emotional connections that can help differentiate and lead to loyalty in the B2B world.
Still not convinced?
Check out Jess Pike’s blog where she gives examples of leading B2B brands doing a great job eliciting emotional responses from their customers. I’ll be showing the Motorola example during my talk on June 12 at IIeX North America, but it’s worth checking out how other brands like Caterpillar and HP are also using emotional engagement to enhance customer experience.
Approaching Your Next B2B Project Like a Consumer One
I’m going to share four “steps” that will help you approach your next B2B project like a consumer one, and address some of the barriers you might encounter trying to “sell” this idea into your clients.
1. Identify the best methodology
Getting emotional insights out of B2B professionals starts with identifying the best methodology and getting the right people. The best projective techniques in the world aren’t going to do you much good if you aren’t talking to the right people in the right way!
In-person focus groups may not be the best way to reach busy, geographically dispersed professionals. Consider a digital or mobile methodology such as an online discussion forum (bulletin board) where participants have the luxury of time to reflect and respond on their own schedule. The anonymity of online will also reduce the influence of others in the group and allow participants to express themselves more freely.
2. Get the right people
Just like you would for insight generation with consumers, get the “right” people on the board by using creative screens – the same ones you use for consumer work. They don’t take a lot of time and will help ensure you’ve got creative thinkers in your discussion.
3. Engage their human side
Participants know they’ve been recruited because of what they do for a living and with their “work hat” on, of course, they’re going to think what you’re asking them to do is silly, or that they don’t work in an emotionally driven category. Because they are thinking rationally and analytically with their Neocortex, the first thing you have to do is engage professionals on a human level. Tap into their “every day Joe” by showing them you’re real. Acknowledging their expertise and encouraging interaction amongst the other participants will also help.
4. Generate insights
Now that you’ve engaged participants on a human level and created a safe space for them to be heard, get down to the business of generating insights by using activities that allow deeper, more unconscious human emotions and feelings to come to the surface. Not only are activities like mind maps, collages and metaphors a lot more fun than answering direct questions, they make participants feel like you’re really listening when you probe to find out more.
Want to learn more?
Check out Kate’s article in the Summer edition of QRCA VIEWS magazine and don’t miss her IIeX North American presentation “Putting Heart Into Your Business – Engaging Customers on a Deeper, more Emotional Level” where she will show you how to overcome challenges typically associated with running B2B research of this nature and share proven techniques you can use to get at deep emotional insights in your next project.