I’ve been in business (B2B) marketing for nearly 20 years and I’ve seen the industry grow up, mature, gain new fads, trends and evolve dramatically. Despite all this, I’ve always felt something was missing.
The marketing industry has become, rightly in some ways, obsessed with data and measurement of activities. Return on investment is the stamp demanded by Boards and finance directors the world over. Otherwise, marketing limps on trying to justify its existence and sadly too often gets seen as an expendable cost centre.
The data for me has always done a grand job of telling WHAT happened. But never WHY. I am still something of the proverbial five year old child – I find myself asking “Why, why, why, why” until I’m asked to pipe down. And ultimately, isn’t that the job of marketing? To be the voice of the customer. To be the one who can answer ‘why’.
And then I stumbled upon behavioural economics.
For me, this was the biggest eureka moment of my career. At last, I could understand the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’. It has given me and the agency I founded (with Paul Hewerdine and Matt Frost back in 2009) a fundamentally better framework for understanding human decision-making.
And this amazingly connected the dots back to the reason why we launched Earnest.
At the time we felt something was missing in the world of B2B marketing. As an industry, we were obsessed with constructing highly logical rational reasons to buy. But, business people are still people, they just happen to be at work. What was missing was emotive engagement. And to achieve this you need to understand how B2B buyers really buy, what motives them, drives them and what’s really going on in their minds, underneath the surface.
So this piece pulls together a starter’s guide to understand the B2B buyer through the lens of behavioural economics. It’s not an overview of behavioural economics itself, far more learned and esteemed individuals than I have covered that already. A reading list is at the back if you’re interesting in getting a more in-depth view of the subject.
My hope for this piece is that at the very least it’ll help you think twice about your audience. The assumptions we’ve all been making for years have been wrong. And now we have science on our side – to explain why, and to help us lobby internally for the right emotionally engaging campaigns and brand experiences that our customers and prospects are secretly craving for. Good luck.