Lifestyle marketing isn’t just for B2C brands.
Building a strong brand is vital for any business, in any industry, and it isn’t just relegated to selling cars or soft drinks or smartphones. CMOs, take note — not only should branding be a key focus of your B2B strategy, you should also borrow a page or two from successful consumer brands. Regardless of price point, consider shifting your focus toward lifestyle marketing, effectively positioning yourself as a B2B aspirational brand.
All decisions are emotional.
Some might say that B2B purchases are entirely rational decisions immune to the emotional influence of lifestyle branding in consumer marketing. Others might argue that the sale is too complex to be an aspirational sale. The truth is that most B2B buyers simply don’t have the time or the expertise to make entirely informed decisions, and all the whitepapers in the world can’t make up for that.
How do we as decision makers fill in those knowledge gaps? We take shortcuts. We trust our “gut,” but what does that actually mean? Those subconscious feelings that lead to gut decisions are actually our emotions at work, and they shape our choices at the most basic level.
Studies have shown that individuals with certain types of brain damage are often left without the ability to experience emotion. As a result, they are unable to make even the simplest decisions, such as whether to write with a black pen or a blue pen. Even when we believe we are making a purely rational decision, our emotions are sitting quietly in the background influencing the choices we make. In short, there is no such thing as an emotionless decision — even when it comes to B2B sales.
Businesses have aspirations, just like the people who make them run.
All things being equal, if you’re in construction, you’d probably rather been seen using Caterpillar equipment over a less regarded manufacturer. You want your clients to see that you are successful enough to afford the best brands. You take pride in knowing that your productivity depends on a trusted manufacturer. Less troubleshooting and downtime means that the job gets done safely and on time. Your life is less stressful. Maybe now you get some of your nights and weekends back, or your clients are more likely to give you that next big contract. Sure, there may be cheaper equipment out there that will do the same thing, but this will make your life better.
Consumer lifestyle brands have also found success in the B2B world. If you are in the design sector, you likely wouldn’t be caught having your employees use anything other than Apple products. Will that boring, old Windows machine with similar specs run Adobe Creative Suite just as well? Of course, but how would that look? Granted, there are many reasons a creative business may choose Apple over the competition, but it isn’t the old stalwart of B2B buying — price.
B2B lifestyle marketing doesn’t mean checking work emails on the beach.
At the end of the day, it isn’t just about the bottom line. People want to be the best. They want to own the best things and associate with the best people, brands, and organizations. This is something that might not factor into a business purchasing shortlist, but you can rest assured will come into play once the final decision is made. Bottom line messaging only appeals to concerned executives. Usability and reliability are more persuasive to the people in an organization who use the products on a daily basis.
Take a look at the way Apple messages its business audience. They aren’t bothering so much with specs, data, and price points as they are promising to change the way you work. This is an emotional, aspiration sale. A more productive you is a happier, better you, and you’ll have more hours in the day to enjoy it. The emotional and the rational are never far removed from one another. To quote brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor — “Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.”
The way we make purchasing decisions is changing.
Buying in B2B isn’t the same as it was even a few years ago. There are many reasons, from the rise of ecommerce in B2B sales to an increase in millennial buyers who bring their own unique buying habits to the table. We’re starting to see a lot of B2C tactics creeping into the way business products are bought and sold.
Organizations don’t just want to save money — they want to make themselves better. Delivering on this promise creates a strong sense of brand loyalty. You’ll create advocates who will take that loyalty with them from company to company. Think of them as traveling evangelists for your brand. More than just walking testimonials, they’ll pound the table for you when it matters, and that will take you much farther than a compelling case study or whitepaper.