The Emotional Side of B2B Marketing: Why Logic Isn’t Everything

The Emotional Side of B2B Marketing

Traditionally, B2B marketing has been viewed as a purely rational affair. Complex purchases, lengthy decision-making processes, and multiple stakeholders involved all contribute to this perception. Features, benefits, and pricing are seen as the keys to winning over business buyers.

However, there is a wealth of research that suggests that emotions play a significant role in B2B decision-making as well. Just like consumers, B2B buyers are human and susceptible to emotional influences – this doesn’t change the minute they walk through the office doors.

This article explores the concept of emotional marketing in B2B and how you can leverage it to connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Why Logic Needs Emotion

Harvard Business School Professor Gerard Zaltman estimates that a whopping 95% of our decision-making occurs subconsciously [1]. This means that emotional triggers often precede and influence rational justification.

B2B purchases are often complex, expensive, and risky. Making the wrong decision could even cost someone their job. This anxiety is a powerful motivator, and B2B marketers who can address it by offering a sense of security or hope will stand out [1].

Many of us are probably familiar with the ‘Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” – playing up the fear factor and positioning IBM as the reassuringly safe choice to go with. No mention of any product or service features and benefits here. 

In fact, research from Google and CEB shows that B2B customers tend to be more emotionally connected to their vendors than consumers [2]. This makes sense, given the long-term nature of B2B relationships and the influence these relationships can have on the individuals own successes or failures in their role.

(For further insights into nurturing long term B2B relationships check out our article Leveraging the 95:5 rule)

Here’s why emotions matter in B2B marketing:

  • Differentiation: In today’s competitive landscape, features and benefits can often be very similar across vendors. Emotional connection can be the deciding factor.
  • Building trust: By appealing to emotions, you can build trust and rapport with potential customers.

Memorable messaging: Emotionally charged messages are more likely to be remembered and resonate with your audience.

How to Leverage Emotions in B2B Marketing

So how can you incorporate emotional marketing into your B2B strategy? Here are some tips:

  • Focus on the “why”: Don’t just talk about what your product or service does, explain how it will benefit them personally – will it make their life easier, safer, or more successful?
  • Tell stories: Stories are a powerful way to evoke emotions and connect with your audience on a personal level.
  • Use visuals: Imagery and video can be incredibly effective in conveying emotions. 
  • Understand your audience: Take the time to research your target audience and understand their hopes, fears, and aspirations.

Appeal to positive emotions: While negative emotions can be a motivator, focus on inspiring hope, optimism, and excitement. How you will help them to overcome the fear factor.

The B2B Elements of Value Pyramid

A helpful framework for understanding emotional factors in B2B buying decisions is the B2B Elements of Value Pyramid [2]. This pyramid categorises the various elements that influence B2B purchases, with objective elements like price and functionality at the base and more subjective and emotional elements like reputation and social responsibility at the top.

The pyramid highlights the importance of considering the entire spectrum of customer needs, not just the rational ones. By focusing on elements higher up in the pyramid, you can create a more compelling value proposition and build stronger relationships with your customers.

In conclusion, B2B marketing is not just about logic and features. By understanding the role of emotions in decision-making, you can craft a more effective marketing strategy that resonates with your audience on a deeper level. Remember, people buy with their hearts, as well as their heads.

A bit out Cite

Cite are a brand and digital agency, creating demand for businesses across the globe, to drive growth through deeper customer and market understanding, thoughtfully crafted brands, exceptional digital experiences and demand generating campaigns. 

Here’s how we do it:

  • Boost Brand Awareness & Loyalty: We elevate your brand, making you instantly recognisable and fostering trust through compelling propositions. 
  • Deep Industry Expertise: We go beyond the surface. Our strategic approach and ability to become an extension of your team means we understand your unique challenges.
  • Data-Driven Insights: We leverage data and audience insights to create targeted campaigns that resonate with the right people at the right time, and help to nurture relationships over the longer term. 
  • Exceptional Digital Experiences: We design and build cutting-edge websites and digital experiences that showcase your expertise and convert website visitors into loyal customers.


[1]: Mitchel, R. (2018, September 06). Beyond reason: the role of emotion in B2B marketing and thought leadership.

[2]: Almquist, E., Cleghorn, J., & Sherer, L. (2018). The elements of value in B2B markets. Harvard Business Review, November-December 2018.

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