Unleash the Emotion

Industrial Marketers Unleash The Emotion

I came away from the Word Marketing & Sales Forum (WMSF) at Melbourne Town Hall feeling inspired. A straight-talking, rebellious marketer challenged my thinking about the messages we send to customers. This person made me reflect on what I need to change to be a better industrial marketer.

‘Unleash the Emotion’

This was the advice from keynote speaker Kevin Roberts, Executive Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi. Kevin was referring to the tendency of marketers to overload customers with data that appeal to their rational mind.

“But big decisions are made with the heart, not the mind”, remarked Kevin.

So instead of talking exclusively about features, benefits, capabilities and experience, tell the customer “something that moves them”. Because it will be the businesses that “inspire, involve, and empathise” with the customer that will win, proclaimed Kevin.

Personal Value Beats Business Value

I did some further research on ‘emotional B2B marketing’ and found a current research report that backs up what Kevin is saying. The Marketing Leadership Council of the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and Google teamed up with research firm Motista to conduct a study of 3,000 purchasers of B2B brands across multiple industries. They found that personal value (i.e. emotional benefits) has 2x as much impact as business value (i.e. functional benefits) does. In fact, 69% of buyers who see personal value will pay a higher price. Not only do emotions matter in B2B buying, but they actually matter even more than logic and reason.

Untapped Opportunity

Industrial markets are characterised by many brands competing for customers based on similar products and services that achieve similar outcomes. The ‘business value’ offered by B2B brands is no longer a way to differentiate. This is why price often becomes the deciding factor for customers. The customer has no other means to differentiate your offer vs. your competitor’s offer.

    That is, unless we start providing personal value.

    Research has proven that if we can appeal more to the buyer’s emotions we can increase market share and profits!

 3 Ways to Unleash The Emotion

    I am going to make three key changes in my business to provide personal value to customers. You might also find these ideas helpful in your business.

1. Let everybody know ‘what I stand for’

As Simon Sinek said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. His ‘Golden Circle’ (image below) shows that most companies work from the outside in. They focus on the ‘what’, tell a little about the ‘how’, and hardly touch on the ‘why’. We need to reverse this circle if we are to appeal to buyers emotionally.

Simon Sinek - Why?

For example, this is ‘why’ I started Lighthouse Marketing:

I love marketing. Helping my customer’s grow their business is what gives me joy. If I can become recognised by my customers as their most trusted partner for marketing support, then I am achieving what I set out to do.  

2. Write more stories

As I review my content, I realise that some of my writing is geared 100% towards customers’ ‘rational’ thought processes with little appeal to their emotions.

Whereas, a well-crafted story would go much further to engage my readers. Stories make us feel something… joy, fear, sadness, surprise, anger, anticipation, hope, love, and courage.

The advice from Day 2 keynote speaker, Mohan Sawhney, Director of the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation at the Kellogg School of Management, was on the money:

“the story you tell must connect with what your customers care about”.

I will re-write some of my highly rational content and attempt to turn it into a story using Mohan’s story structure template below.

Mohan Sawhney - Story Structure Template

Source: Mohan Sawhney presentation slide from World Marketing & Sales Forum – Melbourne 2015.

I will also explore using music and video to tell my stories. Music is a fast track to the heart. And video captures two senses (sight and hearing), rather than just sight with the written word.

3. Uncover personal needs

When I first meet with a prospective customer, I ask questions to gain an understanding of their business needs (market opportunities / challenges, business strengths / weaknesses). I won’t stop asking these questions. But in the future, I will make a greater effort to find out more about the needs of the person I am meeting (their goals, beliefs, aspirations, likes and dislikes). This way I can deliver both business and personal value.

Show Me The Emotion!


A big opportunity for industrial marketers is to appeal to the personal needs of buyers by weaving ‘emotional messages’ into their communications.

I’m not implying that we should remove business value messaging altogether. However, business value is now table stakes. In order to stand out and gain a price premium we should also demonstrate how our brands offer personal value.

Telling customers ‘why’ my business exists, writing more stories and understanding the buyer’s personal needs are three ways I am going to appeal more strongly to my customers emotionally.

Maybe it’s time to say good-bye to the B2B and B2C acronyms. As Kevin Roberts said to me, “John, there is no B2C or B2B. It’s P2P – people to people”.

What do you think?

8 replies
  1. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Thanks John, great article and I totally agree. It’s a hard sell to many B2B businesses, but those that embrace change and know that humans purchase from humans, with both a heart and a brain will be the ones who succeed.

    Happy Xmas and New Year to you and the family.



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