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What B2B marketing insights can we gain by surveying the latest market research?

In this article, we’ll see what studies reveal about the B2B marketing industry and the humans who run that industry.

Are B2B customers ruled by logic and data?

Or, like consumers, are they ruled by emotions and feelings?

B2B Marketing Insights: Emotion Always Wins

Here is some recent data that shows how feelings and logic stack up in the B2B decision-making process:

Most executives are still driven by emotion.

The Fortune Knowledge Group, in conjunction with gyro, conducted a survey of business executives and found that 2 out of 3 executives make decisions based on intuition.

The survey also found that if analytics contradicted an executive’s “gut feeling,” then 57% of respondents would order a second analysis to verify that data. Around 62% of the survey participants claimed that a “gut feeling” was all that was needed to make most decisions.

The CEO of gyro, Christoph Becker, wrote that “Business decisions are made emotionally and justified rationally.” This observation reiterates almost verbatim other observations made by historic salesmen, copywriters, and marketers for over a century.

Social media data shows that emotions influence decision-making.

Facebook recently conducted a controversial “mood manipulation” study. The social network used a sample size of 700,000 users and increased the number of negative posts showing up in their News Feeds.

The result? Not surprisingly, people became more negative and they created content that was also more negative. In other words, the mood of their News Feed altered their behavior.

When this data is combined with gyro’s findings, it’s easy to see how B2B decision-makers can be influenced both by their emotions and data-driven logic.

The majority of B2B decisions are driven by self-interest.

A study performed by CEB in 2014 found that 71% of B2B buyers who saw a personal value in the product or service would end up making a purchase. In fact, CEB found that personal value had twice the impact as business value in the decision-making process.

71 precents of B2B buyers

CEB’s research has also found that only 14% of B2B buyers saw a valuable difference between brands’ business values. This finding prompted the study to say that the USP “is dead.” They stated that businesses should focus on “professional, social and emotional” benefits, instead of “features, functions and business outcomes.”

B2B emotions aren’t the same as those that drive B2C decisions, because the sales cycles and decision points are different.

While many studies have reiterated the same concept that people buy on emotion and justify with logic, automation and lead-tracking firm Oktopost has taken this information a step further.

According to an informal survey the company ran on LinkedIn, these are the emotions most important to B2B decision makers:

  • Credibility
  • Partnership
  • Trust
  • Reliability
  • Stability
  • Relationship

According to Oktopost, “the purpose of emotion in B2B marketing is to communicate a company’s values, and how they can serve to foster strong personal connections and create trust.”

One B2B marketing insight revealed in this survey was the impact of the B2B sales cycle. A respondent to the survey stated that the lengthy, complex B2B sales cycle often meant that “emotional triggers don’t necessarily reach the intended audience or decision maker,” which made trust, reliability, and similar emotions more impactful.

Despite the power of emotions in the B2B world, data still drives decisions…when it’s used properly.

Given a comparable set of competitors and business values, it’s clear that personal value and emotions still rule the decision-making process. But does that mean data is dead?

Ugly Research argues that it’s how B2B marketers present data that matters. There were 3 key issues identified by Ugly Researcher Tracy Altman:

  • Pretty pictures aren’t enough
  • It’s not data vs. people
  • Decisions should be visualized, not data

According to Altman, effective B2B decision making requires connected dots. In other words, decision-makers need more than just pretty pictures or emotions.

When this information is put into context with the previous studies, it should become clearer how data should be used to influence decision-makers: data should be used not only to demonstrate business value, but personal value as well.

What Are the Implications of These B2B Marketing Insights?

There are a few:

  • As mentioned, B2B marketers – whether they are content marketers, advertisers, social media marketers, or marketing managers – should appeal to decision-makers’ self interest.
  • B2B marketers should cultivate emotions that matter to B2B decision-makers, such as trust, reliability, credibility, and so on.
  • For data to be effective, B2B marketing should connect the dots between data, the decision-making process, and personal value, then business value.

B2B marketing insights reveal what many street salespeople have known for decades…that B2B decision-makers are “only human,” as gyro’s report claims. Whether the decision-maker is an executive, a manager, or someone else in the communication chain, B2B marketers must remember that the people in that chain are driven by emotion…and justified by data.