Inside the mind of a B2B buyer

Here's a roundup of the findings from a recent ABM webinar I attended that delved into the hearts and minds of B2B customers looking to buy.

The psychology of consumption is more than just a click deep.  The key to creating engaging, personalised content has to start with an understanding of what drives people to make purchases. 

This was the call to arms at B2B Marketing’s recent webinar, The power of ABM personalisation. A panel of industry experts agreed that the way the industry has been producing content for ABM is broken — and the way to fix it is by taking a closer look at what’s behind the curtain when it comes to decision-making. 

“Psychology plays a role,” Karla Rivershaw, head of marketing at Turtl, explained. “There are different sides of the brain – System 1 and System 2.” It’s easier to understand the way they work by their colloquial names: System 1 is the ‘Homer’ brain, where we make our more emotional and impulsive decisions, she said, and system 2 is the ‘Spock’ brain, which is more rational and logical.

“The Homer brain mostly makes our decisions,” said Karla. So how does that come into play in the world of B2B? The panel agreed that B2B purchases are actually more emotional than B2C because the stakes are higher. “If you make the wrong decision in B2B it could cost you your job,” underlined Karla, “rather than just the coffee you bought is bad.”

It’s well known that emotion is what prompts us to action, especially when we buy something. What seems to be driven by logic is often retrospective rationalisation. “Emotion leads to action, reason leads to conclusions,” explained Andy Bacon, strategy director at B2B Marketing, quoting a professor of neurology. 

According to research by Google, personal drivers outweigh all other considerations in business purchasing by a factor of 2:1. As the boundaries between our work and personal lives are becoming increasingly blurred, is it time to increase our focus on the emotional?

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Tap into customer thinking with the ‘Cocktail Effect’

The appeal of personalisation is embedded into our psychology. It’s a known phenomenon – named the Cocktail Effect – that you naturally tune into a conversation in your vicinity when you hear your name. “Your brain lights up,” explained Karla. “It helps cut through the digital noise if you can offer something people will be drawn to.”

he more personalised the content in ABM, the more customer touch points are reduced and the sooner purchasing actually happens. In fact, research by McKinsey and Company shows that personalisation lifts revenues by 5-15% and can reduce acquisition costs by up to 50%. 

So what’s the best way of personalising content to tap into emotional drivers? It’s useful to understand the psychology behind what engages people before creating something new, explains Karla. “People say they prefer reading offline but it’s psychological.” Long scrolling pages or PDFs are an obvious turn-off because we have limited reading memory, she underlined. Turning physical pages creates a natural break point and re-sets your memory when reading a book – something that should be considered when making online content you’re hoping people will actually read. Including hooks and drivers throughout longer pieces of content can help encourage customers to reach the end.

Data is the new black

But anyone can personalise a customer name on an email. Personalisation needs to go much deeper than this in order to be successful. The key to that is data.

According to Salesforce, top-performing marketing teams are 7.2 times more likely to use web personalisation than underperformers. Collecting information from several different data points is the best way to enable tailored experiences, explained Karla. The Netflix thumbnail is a good example of this, showing you a different image for the same TV show depending on who you are and what they know will appeal to you, ultimately leading you to a boxset binge. “Netflix has a huge subscriber base and know what they’re going to serve you,” said Karla, “and they use data to tailor the experience.”

The same system could be applied to website personalisation, where hero assets or banners are swapped out depending on which customers you’re talking to. Chunking content into smaller sections could be key to this – allowing the customer a break when reading, and enabling text to be tailored more easily.

The panel’s top tips for starting on your ABM journey

  • Start small. Select a handful of accounts to target and use a test and learn approach. 
  • Start with an audit of your data. Successful personalisation boils down to data and how much you have, as well as how you’re collecting it.
  • Don’t go overboard with new tech. Choose software that integrates with your existing systems and don’t get swept up by shiny new tools that do little for personalisation.
  • Try creating modular content. Self-contained content, like Lego blocks, mean you can pick and choose what each customer reads on your website and personalise accordingly.

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(Header photo: Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash)

Recent research by Radix Communications revealed just a third of B2B marketers are proud of the content they create. This means it’s time for a change-up, especially when it comes to a targeted experience. Thoughtful content that taps into psychological drivers and encourages us to tune in is essential to cut through the noise of information overload.

Learn more about how to get ABM right with our Earnest Guide to ABM.

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(Header photo: Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash)