The recent acquisition of B2B International by gyro, a creative B2B agency, has given us, as a business, some new ideas and concepts to think about. I was first introduced to the idea of a business being ‘humanly relevant’ during a talk with gyro CEO Christoph Becker. He emphasised the fact that gyro pride themselves not only on the creative talent but also on their ability to make people feel. As we begin to align ourselves with their vision, it got me thinking about the importance of human emotion in research and how we often undervalue it, particularly in the B2B sector.
While thinking about what Christoph had said in his talk, I stumbled upon ‘Only human’, a study published in 2014 by gyro. The study set out to explore human emotion in the business decision making process. Of the 720 senior-level executives who were surveyed in the study, 62% said it is often necessary to rely on gut feelings and soft factors while 61% agreed that when making decisions, human insights must precede hard analytics1.
A quick google search of the term ‘business decision making’ leads to a plethora of rigid frameworks claiming to show the most efficient approach. The term is most frequently summarised to mean ‘the process of organising relevant information and defining alternatives to make the most satisfying outcome’. Making a business decision is predominantly described to be objective and efficient. What aren’t considered, however, in these frameworks, are the factors mentioned in gyro’s study. Factors that can’t be easily quantified. These business decisions are being made by people. People with feelings and emotions.
Working in research, a lot of our time is spent analysing data to gain insight. It is incredibly easy for us to forget that behind the data there are people. Decision makers and stakeholders are the people who will be acting on their problems, many of the decisions that they have to make are considered to be a risk. Having feelings of trust can ease that risk and make the whole process simpler and more satisfying. Although it would certainly make our job as researchers easier, the business decision making process is not quite as simple as following a 7-step framework. Christoph Becker suggests “While hard facts inform our decisions, we are ultimately influenced by emotion and won over through our hearts, not data.”
Another example of how human emotions are shifting the B2B landscape is the way in which B2B Customers are, now more than ever, seeking more than just rational benefits such as competitive pricing or good product quality, but emotional benefits in their experience as a customer. B2B Brands putting greater emphasis on training their employees in effective customer service suggests that they are proactively changing the way they think about the emotional needs of customers. B2B customers want to feel valued and that they have a voice. Having a strong partnership is important for both brands and customers, and to build a strong partnership, it is imperative that businesses maintain effective human connections with their customers.
The same goes for the way that we, as a business, approach our relationships with clients. In the digital age, we are inclined to see our clients as users or e-mail addresses. The impact of this, is that it’s easy for us to go days without any real human contact, everything can be conveniently managed through our computer screens.
As we see often in our reports, there seems to be a trend for greater emphasis on the ‘beginning’ of the customer journey, and potentially not as much focus on the ‘during’ or the ‘after-care’. Can the same be said for our service as researchers? It is vital that we not only focus on winning in business but also maintaining human contact with them at every step of the journey. Ensuring that we build strong emotional connections with our clients and continue to maintain these connections even after a project has ended can be extremely beneficial in business development and client loyalty.
In our personal lives we choose to surround ourselves with people that create positive feelings, so why would it be different in our business relationships. Finding someone who not only ‘does the job’ but does it whilst being friendly, empathetic and trustworthy, is becoming increasingly important in B2B relationships, and is something we should bear in mind when we approach our clients.
We are frequently reminded about ‘storytelling’ in presentations and how we can better engage people by taking them on an emotional journey. This should not just apply to formal presentations, but also in our everyday contact with our clients. We should engage with them on a personal level, it’s important that we speak in a relatable and approachable manner. Not being afraid to show personality and emotion can be an effective way to build stronger, more long-term partnerships.
Ultimately, it’s clear that emotions are driving business decisions. Having a ‘gut feeling’ about something can really make the difference. Our own approach to business needs to reflect the advice that we are giving in our research presentations. For a brand to build trust and loyalty, it must provide a superior customer experience. Part of giving this superior customer experience is building a strong partnership based on communication and transparency. In the digital age, we must continue to consciously think about interacting with people on a human level.