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B2B marketing – be moving and motivational

Let’s be done with clichéd stock images. B2B might deliver different messages from B2C, but that’s no reason not to inspire, touch, move and motivate. James Irvine and Simon Law of WPP’s Wunderman Thompson talk us through the rationale for inspirational B2B

“There are massive overlaps between what a private individual buys and what someone might buy for work purposes,” says Law. “And a person who is running a small business might buy exactly the same products for personal use as they might buy for business."

What is always the same is that light-bulb moment. “Although the messages might be different and some of the factors that influence purchasing might be different, that connection with – and the way in which you evaluate brands – is emotional across B2B and B2C,” says Law. “That is what concerns us: how do you connect with people in the world of B2B persuasively, and how do you drive the growth that all businesses are seeking?”

Born out of experience and guided by data

“Wunderman Thompson has been advising on B2B marketing for years,” says Irvine, “but what we are doing now – in defining our narrative – is bringing together our talent in this area.” He points out that a lot of Wunderman Thompson’s B2B talent – a cohort of around 500 – work on both B2B and B2C projects so one work stream naturally influences the other.

But the B2B work is also guided by Inspire, a study based on WPP’s BAV data, but through the lens of the business buyer. Irvine explains that, essentially, the study explores what makes brands inspiring and what inspires consumers.

Inspire identifies the qualities a brand must embody, the narratives it should weave, and the experiences it can design to spark people’s inspiration. It has two core components: the Inspire Score (which identifies the brand attributes that fuel growth through their power to inspire people); and Inspire InFocus (which maps the psychological link between people’s deep-rooted, often subconscious values systems and their inspiration preferences, enabling us to predict how humanity will be inspired).

Knowing where you are to move forward

“We need to be able to give businesses a really good means of assessing where they are in their B2B marketing today, in terms of its breadth, how they are segmenting their audiences, their understanding of the customer journeys, their visual identity, their messaging, their marketing strategy behind it all, and how they're managing that internally in terms of the mar-tech stack and measurement capabilities,” says Law. “That then enables you to have a discussion around what strategy has the greatest potential, where is the biggest opportunity, what are the first steps and where are the priorities.”

He points out that success in B2B marketing is not as simple as getting the communications tasks nailed down; often, there's a big internal task to do too. “Technology change is also a huge driver of growth for B2B brands,” says Law.

So, getting B2B marketing right can often result in a significant transformation in the technology adopted to deliver B2B marketing messages, and this takes scale. “We are confident that we can talk to every aspect of a client’s B2B marketing programme, whether it's brand strategy down to demand generation,” says Irvine. “We have the skills to be able to do that across WPP.”

But emotion is key

As always, it all starts with the audiences – in keeping with marketing strategies generally. “You need to understand your buyer,” says Irvine, “and you need to know which stories and messages will land with them, and which will connect with them emotionally.”

Irvine continues: “B2B has been obsessed for many years with rational messaging. But we need to understand that these B2B buyers’ expectations are set by what they observe as consumers. Expectations might be heightened by the scale of the investment in a business purchase, but that still plays into the emotional angle. After all, B2B brands invest in bigger ideas for the long term – and, of course, for the data.”

There is huge opportunity for CMOs to step away from the stock imagery we associate with B2B marketing and towards something much more compelling to capture interest, be distinctive and achieve an emotional connection; and not just reach for rational proof points (even though they will still be part of the marketing mix).

Law concedes that muscle memory can be a challenge. “People revert to established practices so, even though they may agree with the idea of building emotion into their B2B marketing, how that is done and the degree to which it is done may depend on the strength of muscle memory. Sometimes there is some confidence-building to be done.”

So, what are the ingredients of achieving inspirational and emotional B2B marketing? Law responds: “We’re looking for the emotional factors driving purchasing decisions and how you tap into those, how you sell before decision time, and how do you how you get people to have this brand at the top of their list as their preferred choice.”

What is clear is that no one in business makes a purchasing decision on their own. There is no lone wolf – there might be a whole procurement department being instructed by numerous other departments before buying decisions are made. Sometimes, emotion has to work really hard if it is to convert, but it is a trigger any business can access.

Further reading: Using emotion in B2B

James Irvine and Simon Law

Wunderman Thompson

published on

27 April 2023



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B2B: business speaks to business

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