Marketing with Emotion and Empathy in the B2B World

September 12, 2017 Randy Frisch

As B2B marketers, we all know the challenge of bringing a new product to market, helping to shape its positioning, developing its messaging and building the brand. After all, we all love solving a creative problem — and it’s one we faced recently in introducing Uberflip AI, our AI-based recommendation engine for content marketers. With its launch, I tasked my team to bring Uberflip AI to life for a target audience of other content marketers. No easy feat.  

I challenged our team to sell the idea of AI to their peers, which in itself is a tough proposition. That’s because we, as marketers, sometimes try too hard to get people excited about our products and the benefits they provide, often getting caught up in selling details. But the truth is, from a customer’s perspective, these differences are pretty insignificant. It’s a natural reaction, though, after we’ve invested all this time in creating something that is truly different, building capabilities that no one else has. But building a brand is very different from selling a feature set.

So when the team pitched a couple of video spots to launch Uberflip AI, I was skeptical. Would they get caught up in trying to communicate unique features that differentiate our product? After all, it’s easier to describe how you’re different than to truly show it. I’d hoped we could instead engage our audience at a deeper level, to create a more substantial “feeling” about Uberflip AI and, by extension, our brand.

Generating a Human Response

The introduction of AI into the world of content marketing deserved a fresh approach. I believed that we needed to adopt a similar tack as consumer brands, sharing stories that generate a human response built on empathy. As my friend Jay Baer said in his keynote at The Content Experience, “It’s time to stop marketing at people and start marketing with people.”

Of course, some experts steer B2B brands away from emotional appeals in their marketing since the buyer journey is often driven by rational decisions, involving multiple decision-makers, each with their own specific areas of responsibility and concern. But I’d argue that B2B purchases are driven by emotions too, though in a way that remains distinct from the approach on the consumer side.

While consumer brands can focus on generating excitement around a product, B2B brands needs to temper that excitement with reassurance. When an individual consumer makes a poor purchase, the stakes are relatively low. Business purchases, on the other hand, can involve a great deal of risk. It’s important for a brand to establish a strong emotional connection to overcome this fear. And it starts with the way we talk about ourselves and our products. The goal is to have your audience respond to content and messages in a way that resonates, deep down, with their way of being. To truly appeal to them on an emotional level.

Engaging at a Deeper Level

When the team screened the rough cut of the first spot, I was surprised. At first, because the piece didn’t simply quantify the features and benefits of what we were selling (they were listening)! Instead, they focused on how the brand fits into the lives of its customers, and captured the spirit and essence of Uberflip by illustrating how we behave differently from our competitors (with tongue firmly in cheek). They’d taken up the challenge of selling the brand in a way that would engage our customers at a deeper level. Check out the first spot below. I think you’ll like it:

I believe that the message above resonates with content marketers because it conveys in a conscious way what their subconscious is feeling: that unchecked automation without a human element can cause frustration — for both the marketer and their audience. It also remained true to my original challenge in capturing our brand’s tone. We have a personality, after all, and we're not afraid to show it!

Making it Accessible

People that know me will tell you I love analogies. Whether it’s comparing the growth of the marketing technology landscape to the Cheesecake Factory’s legendary menu or the lifecycle of a boreal forest, analogies work for me because they take something you’re familiar with and apply it to a new context that reveals new ways of thinking. We use them all the time to perceive and understand our world. Check out the second of our spots below. Like the one above, it relies on a familiar scenario to quickly deliver its takeaway, which is that a great customer experience means not getting in the way.

As you can see, the theme of control is at the centre of both pieces. When faced with the increasing complexity of the marketing landscape, we may feel powerless. It’s an uncomfortable position for marketers because we crave control. In this way, these spots are empathetic, signalling to our customers and prospects that our brand delivers the promise of automation to marketers without asking them to give away control, empowerment, and effectiveness. Ultimately, this will make our lives as marketers easier. It’s blending the art of marketing into the science of intent data.

It’s Not About the Specs

With the launch of Uberflip AI, I challenged my team to present our latest offering in an accessible way, that would put a premium on entertaining and provoking an emotional response from viewers. I tasked them to be bold and to take risks, to change-up the approach to how our marketing had previously been done. The outcome from that exercise is these Uberflip AI videos. They’re very much about having fun and finding humor in a feature-rich martech landscape of functionality and specs. They take a provocative stance on what it really means to recommend content.

But the real beauty of the analogies they capture is that they are enduring. Sure, the way we talk about  our products and their features may change, but the way they express our brand at an emotional level will remain.

About the Author

Randy Frisch

As President and CMO, Randy runs around daily between marketing, strategy, operations, sales and execution of Uberflip's awesomeness.

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