I Feel, Therefore I Buy
April 15, 2015
An early career tip that my father gave me was to never use the words “feel” and “believe” in business. He advised me to use the word “think” instead because business shouldn’t be emotional—it should be fact-based. What you believe and how you feel is irrelevant in the business world, he told me. Using the word “think” suggests a rational, intelligent thought process and is therefore more credible and useful.
As someone with a career in communications, I’ve always paid close attention to my words and my message. In meetings, I’ve stated my opinions as thoughts, not as beliefs. When writing marketing content for various organizations, I’ve worked to ensure that the voice was thoughtful, intelligent, and not emotionally driven.
Over the past five years, however, I’ve noticed a dramatic shift. B2B companies are marketing to their audiences as people, not businesses. And that means relating to them on a human level and understanding what they need, want and feel. I have many theories for why this shift is occurring, but they all point to the indisputable fact that human decision-making is more emotional than it is rational.
Since the dawn of advertising, businesses have been appealing to consumer emotions to drive purchases. “Buy product x and you will be happy!” In a B2B sale, the outcome may not be happiness, but it’s likely along the lines of meeting a professional goal, which has a slew of emotions attached to it. RFPs, spreadsheets, scorecards, and the wealth of tools that businesses use to determine the best vendor may not have as much influence on the purchasing decision as one might expect. It could ultimately come down to how the buyer feels about the sales person, or what product the buyer feels will benefit his/her career. The “nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM” phrase rings true for many. It may not be the best solution, but it’s a safe bet. And “safety” is a feeling.
Acknowledging that humans are more emotional than they are rational explains why some B2C brands succeed with their marketing where others fail. Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, shows how successful brands start with the “why” in their messaging. His thesis is that people don’t care what you do nearly as much as why you do it. In other words, successful companies first define their beliefs and motivations before stating the facts of what they do.
One of the reasons that this Ted Talk is so popular is that it turns traditional thinking (like what my father taught me) on its head. Not only should you share your beliefs and connect emotionally with your audience—this message needs to be at the forefront of your identity.
On the Clarabridge marketing team, we adopted Sinek’s approach in everything we do because we believe that connecting to customers emotionally is critical.
As a customer experience management company, we believe that fully understanding customer needs, wants and emotions is the key to winning their hearts, and ultimately their loyalty. In fact, emotion is our business. Our technology actually enables companies to make data-driven decisions that are derived from customer sentiment. And while this may seem ironic, it’s absolutely necessary in a consumer-driven marketplace.
So while I still think that my father is one of smartest people I know, I believe that emotional connections are not only important in business, they are mandatory.