In 2013, Volkswagen went through a difficult period.
The company needed to hit the sales targets but it simply couldn’t. The competition in Europe was beyond fierce plus advertising budgets were lower compared to other vehicle manufacturers.
A radical change of strategy was needed.
The decision makers finally came up with one, after identifying that the biggest growth opportunity was selling commercial vehicles to owners of small and medium businesses.
To push for aggressive growth in the UK, they ditched conventional advertising and went with an emotional campaign.
That was a risky and radical decision. What happened next revealed the true role of emotions in B2B sales.
A widespread notion tells us that decision-makers in B2B rely on rational thinking, logic, and research. Every day, we see the evidence in LinkedIn feeds and B2B blogs.
But here’s the shocking part. B2B isn’t as different as many people think, at least when it comes to using emotions in marketing.
Let’s get back to the Volkswagen example.
Instead of going with conventional advertising that would probably focus on the durability and other characteristics of vehicles, the company went with an emotional campaign.
It was called “Working with You.
Through a series of commercials, the company explored the lives of entrepreneurs whose business success relied on delivering on their business duties.
In these commercials, Volkswagen wasn’t advertised as a manufacturer of vans that was ready to help. Instead, the company was portrayed as a service partner for businesses.
When most of the competition was investing in ads that tied product to performance, Volkswagen spoke about service and partnership.
Empathy and emotion played a huge role in this new marketing strategy. Every video showed stories of hard-working individuals who relied on their vans to keep their business up and running.
There was unmatched passion, true dedication to success, and, in some cases, even isolation that came with the life of a small business owner.
By focusing on emotions, Volkswagen was able to achieve amazing results.
To their customers, the new campaign was a sign that the company really understood their daily challenges. Eventually, “Working with You:”
Also, it was a powerful demonstration of the effectiveness of emotions in B2B marketing.
As it turns out, B2B marketing isn’t as different from B2C, contrary to conventional thought. It’s not emotionally stunted at all.
After all, business to business marketing still means marketing to humans.
In marketing, businesses often focus on selling to “target audiences.”
While it’s a sound and proven approach, it makes one miss a critical thing. A “target audience” is not a list of business executives, decision makers, and job titles.
It consists of real people whose daily experiences drive buying decisions, and most importantly, brand loyalty.
This means that a custom marketing strategy tailored to the needs of customers would work better than the one built on the notion of “target audiences.”
In the case of Volkswagen, they’ve focused on the typical experiences of small and medium business owners and their emotions: passion, dedication, and isolation.
Apparently, this approach struck a chord with people. They saw that Volkswagen understood what they’re dealing with, so they liked it.
It showed to them that the company could really help because they knew what they were doing on a really personal level. They succeeded at creating engaging content that established the connection between them and their customers.
As soon as the company was able to establish that emotional connection of likability and trust, they solved the most important sales problems and won the competition.
We know that a lot of B2C buying decisions are based purely on emotions. This seems to be totally inapplicable in the B2B industry where rational thinking should prevail.
However, we often misunderstand the difference between emotion-driven and impulse buys.
In fact, emotions can play an even more significant role for B2B buyers compared to B2C, suggests LinkedIn. Accordingly, B2B buyers are almost 50 percent more likely to purchase a product when there’s a positive personal value involved.
The simplest examples of such personal value are a positive impact on their business or growing as a professional.
After consideration, B2B buyers are also 8 times more likely to pay a premium price for that product, according to the same source.
As a result, it’s clear that many buying decisions are driven by emotions, even in the B2B industry.
B2B buyers are increasingly looking for reliable partners, not for salespeople. This makes emotional advertising a perfect fit.
“If you’re on the mission to become a reliable partner, you can use emotions to base your approach to establishing a community of your customers,” shares Estelle Liotard, a digital marketer from Trust My Paper. “Instead of being just customers, they would be people who actually believe in your business and the influence you have on their own companies.”
This means that there will be elements of confidence and trust between you and your customers. Both of these are emotions. If these two elements aren’t present, you won’t sell.
The best way to create confidence is trust, of course, is through valuable content. It could be something like Volkswagen’s commercials, but not necessarily videos. Writing tools like Studicus and Supreme Dissertations can help with creating engaging emotional content.
If you hit those emotional buttons and create a community, then your business can really thrive.
This claim doesn’t sound strange now at all, does it? Now that you’ve seen the proof.
With emotions at the center of consideration for many B2B buyers and decision-makers, it’s unsurprising to find that emotional campaigns perform better.
In fact, there’s a drastic difference between rational and emotional campaigns, according to a recent report from the B2B Institute.
Source: The B2B Institute
One possible reason for this outcome is that an emotional campaign often used multiple unique “angles” to approach a business problem.
These angles, or emotional strategies, included:
A unique and rich approach resulted in the campaigns being talked about and shared. As a result, they performed better in the long term.
Emotions play a critically important role in B2B.
Back in 2013, when Volkswagen made the decision to use emotional campaigns to make connections with entrepreneurs, it was quite risky and radical.
Today, emotional strategies in B2B are a proven and incredibly effective strategy, if done right. B2B buyers are people, too, so you can greatly improve your business if you explore their experiences and focus on them.
Learn how to inject emotional marketing into your B2B company the right way, and see the positive effect. After reading this article, you’re one step closer to being there.
Dorian Martin is a successful content writer and digital marketer. Currently working as a copywriter for Grab My Essay, he’s actively involved in the creation of complex marketing campaigns. Besides writing, Dorian also polishes his content skills as a part-time editor and proofreader at Best Essay Education and Wow Grade. When Dorian is not writing or researching, you’ll probably find him at a marketing conference or webinar.