All buying decisions are emotional.
“Even the ones made by meeeeeeeeeee?” “Yep.”
All of them? The assertion deeply offends people, especially B2B marketers who believe in their own rational choices. They will concede that while they (artists, voters, teenagers, televangelists) are driven by emotions, we right-thinking folk (you, me, actuaries, rocket surgeons) are certainly not.
But the evidence is stacked the other way. Customers buy from people they like, and by extension, from brands they like. That uber-rational government purchasing officer who’s impressed that you shaved a penny off the price will, after you tell an offensive joke, decide that delivery time outweighs price, and the bid goes to your competitor.
Consider college choices, by reputation a considered purchase given the 6-figure price tag. No impulses permitted! A year, maybe two, of research to whittle 3000 schools to 25 to 10 to 3 seems like the most rational, careful make-a-list-with-check-marks kind of selection process. Ever so left-brained. But what happens next? College visits are planned, and the prospective student sets foot on Campus A. If it’s a positive experience with pleasant surroundings and attractive people, the odds are better than 70% that Colleges B and C will never even get visited. Emotional commitment made; search over.
What’s the takeaway for marketers? Your planning – whether you’re selling B2C, B2B, causes, candidates, law firms or philosophy – must not focus totally on content. Devote plenty of attention to making the campaign (ads or website or catalog or email or lecture or presentation or skywriting) likable, credible and unexpected. Being the first examined in the selection set is vastly more immediate than establishing differentiation, what we used to call creating a USP. Make the first experience of encountering the brand engaging (think: the atmosphere of the Apple Store, the front desk of the Ritz-Carlton, goofy announcements on Southwest Air, the speaker’s anecdote) to see how to sink the hook that begins to forge a bond.
Is this radically different from what we called Salesmanship 101? Yes, indeedy. But old-school sales (e.g., heavy repetition of the USP) is in a death spiral. The logic is clear on that.