“Everyone knows they have to understand their customer—the challenge is figuring out how to best organize data to do so”

Gone are the days where b-to-b marketing was all about rationale and numbers. More than ever, business customers are looking for partners they can build a meaningful relationship with, not just a transactional vendor-customer arrangement. In fact, it’s been shown that b-to-b marketing initiatives that tap into people’s emotions are seven times more effective at driving long-term relationships than purely rational messaging.

This shift is only amplified by today’s rapid digital transformation. As 70% of buying decisions are now made through various brand interactions before the customer gets on a call, it’s essential to build trust, respect, and cultivate a meaningful partnership from the beginning.

The good news is that b-to-b marketers can create meaningful experiences with prospective customers by championing the power of both data and creativity. Here’s how.

Make a digital-first connection

First thing’s first, marketers who want to emotionally connect must deeply understand their audience to send a message that truly resonates. This means using readily available data to drive customer-centricity, as well as leveraging firmographic segmentation (such as the use of data that factors in geography, client-size) to support data on individual buyers, to best understand exactly who you are trying to reach.

Once identified, shaping and delivering the right narrative is best achieved with a digital-first approach. This allows brands to digest analytics and gain insights that help personalize content, enabling you to position your organization as a reliable problem solver for your customers’ critical business challenges. Consider that customers are seeking insightful content that they can put into action in real-time, with 80% of business decision-makers preferring information from articles over sponsored ads. In this way, well-built educational content emerges as a key part of any emotionally successful marketing strategy.

In fact, across the board from sales to buyers, b-to-b marketing strategies are significantly improved by digital tools. Sales interactions are going increasingly remote, for example, making digital interactions more important than ever. While previously it was all about competing with your competitors, now, you’re competing with your customer’s last best online experience. Meanwhile, buyers expect a seamless experience from the top of the buying funnel through to becoming a customer.

Outreach is a two-way street

Communicating with your customers via new channels that open spaces for dialogue is another great way to deepen human connection. Twitter chats, virtual coffee breaks, LinkedIn lives or Clubhouse events – each allows audience members to jump in with their thoughts and questions in real-time. Just take Restaurant Brands International (parent company of many top fast-food chains), which successfully leveraged Clubhouse to host a Q&A between consumers and marketing professionals and its top executives.

Social listening can help evaluate which platforms your target audiences are using most and the type of content they’re engaging with. If your customers are tired of webinars, the last thing you want to do is keep giving them webinars. Moreover, with 75% of b-to-b buyers using social media interactions to influence buying decisions, social channels remain a reliable avenue for marketing teams. Being aware and online helps teams optimize their brand presence and continually adapt to customers.

Use creativity to differentiate yourself

Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative! It’s an old excuse that b-to-b companies can’t generate an emotional response, and I consistently see creativity in marketing that inspires, entertains, and motivates the audience. Studies show that creative ads lead to positive effects on consumer response, and are more memorable and recognizable for the viewer, ultimately helping to build a deeper relationship.

One tried and tested method is storytelling. Storytelling provides a fundamental human experience, allowing you to demonstrate the core values you stand for as a brand. It has been proven time and again that highlighting vignettes of use cases and aspirational product experiences motivates trust and builds credibility in those watching, reading, or listening to them.

Of course, achieving an authentic emotional response is no mean feat, but b-to-b marketers simply cannot afford to ignore developing human-to-human connections and cultivating relationships in this new normal. By focusing on personal interactions with customers and finding a way to forge emotional ties, marketers can effectively target business clients in a way that is both personable and unique.

Source: By Vic Vaswani -AdWeek.com