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B-to-B Insights : Rational vs. Emotional

Are businesspeople devoid of emotion when making buying decisions?

April 2009 By Robert W. Bly
There are two schools of thought concerning marketing to business and technical buyers.The first school says, “Copy should be as short as possible, direct and to the point. Bulleted lists are better than sentences and paragraphs. Don’t do any selling. Just give business buyers the facts, data and specifications they need to make intelligent decisions about buying your product. No need to state the benefits. They already know they need the product and why. You just have to convince them your brand is superior to other products you compete against and your product satisfies their applications’ requirements.” 

Advocates of this “rational” school of B-to-B marketing believe that business prospects, at work, are largely rational beings who make logical decisions based on facts. They strive to keep written communications as short as possible, in the belief that all businesspeople are extremely busy.

The other school of B-to-B marketing is the “emotional” school. Its philosophy was articulated to me by Hugh Farrell, who owned a successful industrial ad agency in the 1980s. Farrell said: “The business prospect doesn’t stop being a person when he sets foot in the office. He is a human being first, and an executive or engineer second. Therefore, the same psychological factors motivate him as a human being whether he is at work or at home.”

The emotional school of B-to-B marketing uses copy and design that reads and looks more like consumer advertising than technical writing. The copy style is personal and conversational, tapping into the prospect’s needs, concerns, fears and desires.

“Because business customers are persons, communications to them should try to connect on a personal level,” says B-to-B copywriter Ken Norkin. “That means starting out by conveying an understanding of the customer’s situation and, in particular, the problem that your product is going to solve. You not only need to present the data, but tell your readers what it means to them.”

Somewhere In-Between
Most marketers divide the marketing world into two segments: B-to-B marketing and business-to-consumer marketing. The “rational” school of B-to-B marketing says business and consumer are not at all the same. The “emotional” school says that B-to-B and B-to-C marketing are more alike than different.

I think there is a third segment: hybrid marketing. Hybrid markets exhibit characteristics of both business prospects and consumers. Hybrid prospects are consumers who exhibit many of the behaviors shared by business prospects or vice versa.

 

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