Time to get emotional!

Tugging at the nation’s heart strings is a standard approach for businesses trying to reach consumers, especially in the run up to Christmas. The current John Lewis TV advertisement, which tells the heartwarming tale of a little boy’s adventure with his penguin best friend, is a prime example. In sales terms, it works – even the toy penguin has been flying off the shelves!

Forging such emotional connections has long been at the heart of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. The thinking is that, if you feel nice about the company, you feel better about giving them money. Business-to-business (B2B) marketing tends to be more rational; the product demonstration, the specifications, the warranties, and so on. The more sure you feel, the easier the purchase decision.

Now healthcare is a very emotional topic. It can be literally life and death. But the healthcare market, in common with many other B2B markets, can often promote business value before making an appeal to the heart.

Of course, rational messages do resonate with their target audiences. Public money is not to be wasted on imprudent purchase decisions. However by all chanting the same mantra, it seems to me that many vendors are missing the chance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. This is a crowded market, and standing out is imperative.

Is emotional engagement a way to address this? Research undertaken by Google and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council reveals that B2B customers have even more of an emotional connection with a brand than consumers. Of the hundreds of B2C brands studied, most have emotional connections with between 10% and 40% of consumers. Meanwhile, of the nine B2B brands studied, seven surpassed the 50% mark.

Although surprising, this high level of connection with B2B customers actually makes sense. When a consumer makes a poor purchase decision, the consequences are usually minimal. A toy penguin can be replaced with a toy meerkat. Business purchases, however, can involve a large element of risk: procuring an enterprise-wide healthcare solution can have repercussions for an organisation, and an individual’s entire career.

A B2B vendor therefore needs to build a strong emotional connection with its customers to help overcome any perceived risk. IBM’s famous tagline: “Nobody got fired for buying IBM” is a clear example of how a simple sentence can evoke trust, and answer the buyer’s question ‘what’s in it for me’?”

As the Google and CEB research suggests, if a B2B buyer has a high brand connection with a company, they are five times more likely to consider buying from that company, 13 times more likely to purchase and 30 times more likely to pay a premium.

Healthcare IT vendors must seize this opportunity to complement their business value messaging by engaging their customers at a more personal and emotional level. A way of achieving this is to seek inspiration from consumer marketing campaigns and to tell a story that will appeal to your buyers. This can be your brand, your core values, your customers, their customers, or even the narrative of how you were formed.

So if you want to stand out from the crowd, connect with your customers and ultimately drive up revenues, the time has come to get emotional!

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