What effect does emotion have on choosing a b2b supplier of goods and services?

In this week’s Business Surgery, Paul Hague looks at how we make decisions – and particularly how much of an influence a strong brand plays in the process.

At the heart of good marketing is persuasion. We shouldn’t be shy about the fact that we have a product or service that we want people to buy. However, marketing focuses on the customer and their needs whereas selling focuses on the seller and what they want to get rid of. In other words, marketing forces us to understand the world through the customers’ eyes.

One of the most difficult things when trying to see the world through our customers’ eyes is “how rational are our customers when they make their decisions?”

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink argues that we subconsciously make our minds up very quickly indeed – in fact in a blink. We might then spend a long time rationalising this decision and believing that it has been arrived at by conscious rather than subconscious thought.

The relevance of this to us in business-to-business marketing is that we are inclined to believe that business-to-business customers leave their emotions at home when they come to work and that all their decisions are rational. We know that this is not the case. Research consistently confirms that those companies that are best known to us (in other words they have a strong brand) are most likely to get the business. This is because familiarity is important in the blink test – we feel more comfortable with a supplier that we know even if we have never done business with them before.

The answer is therefore to build a brand, not only in terms of awareness but also to engage with the customer and build trust. For those of you who haven’t yet read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, we strongly recommend it. Or watch his 30-minute discussion on the subject on YouTube

Questions arising from Gladwell’s work are:

  • • Do we over analyse things? – Probably. Try to figure out the two or three things that really matter and not be distracted by the itsy bitsy teenie weenie things.
  • • Should we be more of a scientist or more of an anthropologist when it comes to being a market researcher?– Both are important. However, we should always defer to the anthropologist as they understand human nature. Science may give us numbers without explanations.
  • • What is it that causes us to frame the way we think and how can we recognise these “frames”?– Almost certainly we are programmed from a very young age. Look to the environment that the person has come from to understand the way they see the world.

For more information on building a strong brand, click here.

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