The greatest fallacy in B2B marketing

We’re taught that there is one small but significant difference between professionals and consumers; that consumers buy for emotional and self expressive reasons, while professionals buy for rational reasons.

Or, to put it another way, consumers are treated as humans while professionals are treated as machines. This may be good practice for when robots finally take over, but for now it’s a real problem.

Let’s be clear – there are two kinds of decisions we are capable of making as humans, regardless of our environment. Those that we recognise as being emotionally driven, and those that are still emotionally driven but that we feel compelled to rationalise.

Yes, the latter requires things that the former doesn’t. It requires greater detail and evidence, but it requires this detail and evidence to help us vindicate our emotions, not to override them.

People do not leave their personalities and emotions outside their offices in the morning. Whether it’s fear, excitement, enjoyment or frustration, there will be an underlying emotion forcing the buyer down one route or another, and the rational stuff is merely there to help them overcome the barriers.

Our failure to recognise this has led to B2B industries being flooded with content unimaginably dull and largely ineffective in achieving its goals.


What does it mean to be professional?

There is something else compounding this problem; the notion that the brand must present a “professional image”?

Well, what does it mean to be a professional?

The top sales person in your company, for example, does she make jokes? Yes. Does she talk in a familiar manner with clients? Yes. Does she open up and communicate freely and without barriers? Of course she does. Does she occasionally even sail a bit close to the wind? More than likely.

Well, as a marketer, your job is to be that top sales person when she can’t be there. Whether it’s via the blog, LinkedIn or email, it doesn’t matter. If you are interesting, people might just listen to you. If you’re not, they won’t, regardless how much information you bombard them with.


A magnet for the unambitious and unimaginative

Perhaps worst of all, this misunderstanding for what B2B marketing is all about results in the attraction of a certain kind of marketer. People who would rather spend their day finding reasons not to try things than to stick their neck out and take a risk. People who would rather follow the status quo and churn out yet another coma-inducing whitepaper, than to to stand out from the crowd and head in a new direction.

We call these people – B2B specialists.


Write like you’re chatting over a beer

So what do we do about it? Well the problems with B2B marketing may not end with copy writing, but that’s certainly where they begin.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was this – when writing B2B copy, imagine you’re with that buyer down the pub having a beer. How will you talk? What kind of language will you use? What questions will you ask? What stories will you share?

The person you are writing for is probably not fascinated by the technicalities of what you have to say. What they are is just like you – ambitious with their careers, nervous about the future, stressed out by their boss, and above all, just a little bit bored.

You have the tools to connect with each of these drivers, and you’re unlikely to do it with a 3000 word FAQ section. But I bet you have some stories up your sleeve that might just do the trick.

And if not, have another beer and try again.


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