• Dr Tim Kannegieter

How emotion can shift buyer inertia

Do engineers have emotions? More to the point, when a person is acting in “engineering mode” do they turn off their emotions and become entirely logical, a bit like Spock in Star Trek?

Of course, engineers are human but we pride ourselves on our objectivity and analytical ability to make rational decisions. However, a report sponsored by Google shows that business-to-business (B2B) purchasers are 50% more likely to make a purchase when they’ve identified a personal or emotional value in the product or service.

This is important for engineers building a business case or companies marketing technical products and services. In B2B procurement, the decision making criteria for a CFO will be financial, operational managers may prioritise reliability and so forth. Pity the poor CEO who has to juggle all the competing variables to make a final decision.

Often, the outcome is inertia. A big challenge for technology companies with a blindingly obvious value proposition is not just competitors, but simply getting conservative customers to consider a change and then make a decision.

The power of appealing to emotion in B2B marketing is that it transcends the need to spell out customised detail for every single role involved in the decision making, unifying them around a commonly shared emotion. For example, targeting a negative emotion like fear, associated with safety or prosecution, can nullify any arguments about the cost. Internet of Things vendors are driving the Smart City market by imbuing local government officials with a satisfying sense of progress, in delivering something that makes them look good in the eyes of the community.

The key to all this is understanding the power of abstraction. Fables and great novels usually have a powerful “moral to the story” or theme that can strongly influence the reader, often at a sub-conscious level. The more abstract the message is, the more easily it can be interpreted in the context of the individual, and be meaningful to multiple people with differing perspectives.

So my tip for converting logical arguments into emotional ones is to use the 5 whys method. For every logical argument targeting each role, ask WHY is that important? For the answer to that question, ask why is THAT important? Do this at least five times for each argument and you will start to see common themes emerging, something that unifies the different perspectives of the roles involved.

After that, the communication task is just a case of reframing the marketing arguments around the emotional theme you choose in each campaign.

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