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Making personal contacts and showing a high level of awareness for the needs of customers is not only possible in B2C marketing. Companies also need their service providers to understand their specific needs and concerns. For this reason, empathy marketing applies equally to B2B and B2C marketing.
How can empathy apply to B2B marketing, you ask?
First, let’s create a general scenario of how vendor decisions are made. We need an understanding of the decision making process to apply empathy marketing.
Note that this model is a vast oversimplification; Each company creates a process that makes sense for its own needs.
A B2B decision-making model
When a brand decides to make a high-level purchase, it puts together a team of stakeholders. These stakeholders use their unique point of view to analyze what each potential vendor is offering.
Finally, the stakeholders limit their selection to two similar suppliers. The group will have deeper discussions and additional analysis to select the winner.
The key to B2B empathy is understanding how companies make decisions that favor one provider over the other. According to Colette Stevens and Paul Hague, the decision-making process has two levels:
- Fast thinking processes are rooted in instinct or emotion. Think of an escape-or-fight situation or a minor decision like choosing between iced tea or lemonade. We make hundreds of quick decisions every day, but a company doesn’t need a purchasing committee to decide which pencils to buy.
- Slow thinking processes are more calculating and logical. For this we research and weigh the advantages and disadvantages. This is the process we associate with business decisions. As Stevens and Hague write, “Something that is expensive and critical to the future of the company has a much longer way to go.”
Companies also have rules for making purchasing decisions. When a company doesn’t have to make an immediate decision, it builds knowledge and evaluates the facts. The higher the expenditure, the more (we can assume) the decision has more strategic importance and the longer it takes to achieve a result. Purchasing guidelines are designed to give final approval to the right people.
Our responsibility as B2B marketer is to understand the mindset of the entire purchasing team and understand what they are looking for while researching. When creating B2B marketing content, we need to consider all of the people who are potentially involved in that decision-making.
Apply empathy to your B2B marketing
1. Understand what drives acquisition
Regardless of whether the brand is looking to scale their business or is dissatisfied with a current supplier, it is up to the B2B marketers to understand the weaknesses and how our solution or service will help solve the problem.
A company typically only switches from its current supplier if it decides that another brand or product will better meet its challenges. However, companies are also making a change to comply with industry regulations or reduce costs.
Information about pain points comes from discussions with decision makers. Listen to the frontline salespeople who are in contact with the target companies. Follow leading publications and social media sites in your industry. Conduct surveys of your current customers to find out what they are looking for in products and services. Find trends in the conversations and let them drive your marketing message.
2. Be more strategic about content creation
The sheer volume of B2B content is overwhelming. A whopping 65% of decision makers in companies buying technology said they felt they were getting too much material from marketers and that much of what they received was useless, Forrester Research found.
Around 80% of B2B decision-makers want relevant content to be made available to them in every phase of their purchasing process. These companies prefer to remain anonymous until they are ready to contact you.
Use what you learned from the first step to think about topics and the best form of content delivery. Do keyword research and searches to see what your target audience is looking for. See how the audience is interacting with your different platforms. If you see higher engagement with email or LinkedIn, this is something you should get into.
3. Think about the “why” behind your product
Think about why your particular brand is in business. Probably because you saw a way to solve an industry problem.
Businesses don’t buy a product or service; You’re buying into a vendor’s approach to solving a problem. They want their suppliers to understand and participate in their challenges. Purchasing is therefore more of a partnership than a mere transaction.
Emotionally intelligent digital marketing creates messages about why you started your company in the first place. You use highly sensitive content to illustrate how you can solve your common problem. They connect to what they have in common in the way you think and discuss how the two of you are trying to do better than before in the field you are in.
Talk about the “why” in your content, but always keep it relevant. Perhaps a short video about your founding story will resonate with your target companies. Others may find case studies enlightening and helpful in their decision-making processes.
4. Think about the people behind the business
Even if an organization uses a purchasing committee or has a well-defined bid process, people stand behind the decision-making. These people don’t turn off their emotional side when making a business purchase. Even the most logical people will still, to some extent, invest emotionally in the companies they buy from. In return, they want their suppliers to feel personally invested in their success.
Again, case studies are helpful in reaching the people behind the company. They show how your diligence 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 basically all want the same thing: to save their company time and money, work more efficiently and disrupt daily operations as little as possible. If all offer the same value, how are they different?
Use your unique value proposition to capitalize on how you help your business customers achieve their goals. Your unique value should be evident in every aspect of your digital marketing, from branded website to social media marketing to drip email campaigns.
The competitive advantage in empathy marketing
Only 30% of marketers are able to truly empathize with their customers, according to a study by Reach titled The Empathy Delusion.
For B2B marketing to be successful, you need to gain the company’s trust. Empathy marketing gives your brand an edge in building these B2B connections.
Stakeholders want to know that your company is helping them succeed even when they are not ready to buy from you. You need to understand the roles of the people on the decision-making team to know what concerns them.
It’s up to your content marketing team to share believable stories about how your brand is helping customers achieve their goals. This is the heart of empathy marketing, whether B2B or B2C.
More resources on empathy in marketing
How to use empathy for your B2B brand storytelling
Marketing Content Empathy Mapping: What It Is And How To Get It Right
Put Heart In Your Business: Author Minter Dial Of “Warm Empathy” About Marketing Smarts [Podcast]