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B2B Marketing Content Must Address "Soft" Factors


For some reason, in B2B content marketing, we seem to forget about the "whole" buyer. More and more marketers are embracing buyer personas and the idea of becoming customer centric, but we often only focus on the business side of the buyer, as if they walk into the office and leave the rest of themselves outside.

In the personas I help my clients create, a lot of research goes into what I call "orientation." Orientation is an attempt to identify commonalities across the personalities of people who tend to hold the roles that our marketing and sales programs pursue. These traits can tell us a lot about how to structure content to make it more appealing.

For example, an engineer who is detail oriented would likely prefer content that backs up a premise with research and fact, rather than relying on the company's credibility for it to be believable.

But a report released by Fortune Knowledge Group, in collaboration with Gyro, makes it very clear that there's much more to be taken into account. In Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions, 720 business executives clearly reinforce the notion that "soft" factors, such as trust, relationships, and reputation still hold sway.

I have heard this first hand in customer interviews during persona projects where the response to why a vendor was selected was a version of "we just felt they 'got' us and what we're trying to do more than the others." Or "we felt more comfortable with them." And "they made us feel like a big fish in a small pond."

While it's undeniable that insights from data are being used in decision making, the final factor that cements the deal or decision could be intuition or based on a gut feeling. And, marketers may be part of the problem.

You see, the business executives strongly agreed that as information grows and decisions become more complex, they are relying more on those "soft" factors to decide the way forward, including the vendor's culture (53%) and reputation (70%).

Notable highlights from the study:

  • 71% say short-term financial sacrifices are worth more than long-term gains
  • 65% believe subjective factors that can't be quantified increasingly make a difference when evaluating competing proposals (only 16% disagreed)
  • 61% agree that when making decisions, human insights must precede hard analytics
  • 52% say ambition, admiration and potential rewards outweigh fear of failure

So how do we, as marketers, use these insights?

First - add a cultural assessment to your persona development. Review the cultures of your best customers and learn what they have in common. Then correlate those qualities to your company's culture. How can some of them be woven into your content and messaging wtihout skewing the content back to a company focus? Think of this as a style factor for the way your content is written or created. What words emulate the values that your company shares with your best customers?

Second - use more carrot than stick. Take a positive path with your content, rather than the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) approach that content takes in an effort to build urgency to change. Help your prospective buyers see the success, rather than avoid the failure.

Third - become better storytellers. Stories engage intuition and help people think for themselves. A well done story invokes emotion in the reader/viewer and helps them to anticipate what their future will look like with the objective met or the problem solved. Stories are meant to engage humans - they've done so for thousands of years.

Finally - take a serious look at what it takes to build long-term relationships, not quick wins. The study finds that trust is a key soft factor for decision making. Earning and sustaining trust and credibility were proven to trump analytical intelligence. This means it's even more important to create consistent experiences across the entirety of the relationship, not just during part of it. And this goes for everyone involved - marketing, sales, customer service...

How is emotion manifesting during the buying process at your company? 

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.

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