Emotional Experience Mapping

Imagine this; you’ve booked a three-day trip to Miami. Would it make a difference in how you pack, the airline or hotel you select, even your mindset, based on whether the trip was for a vacation or a business meeting? Of course it does, and any reasonable person would start with the purpose of the trip and then plan from there.

With the intense focus on developing personas and mapping the buyers’ journey, many marketers are skipping that first piece of the journey, or the “purpose.” Marketers may know the buyer and their purchase behaviors – but they don’t fully understand their “why” or what motivates them to choose their organization.

Based on research from a group of clients representing hi-tech, financial and information services with more than $1B in revenue, I’ve pulled together four common buyer groups. This is not intended to be “statistically significant,” but rather a framework for considering the uniqueness of buyer motivations. Try matching your customers to the segments (below). They should be easily identifiable and you may find a similar distribution.

Buyer Segments

Here is a short description of each group.

  • The Lucky (10-15%) – prospects that your outbound sales and marketing efforts have reached with the right message at a time when they were open to discussing how you could solve a specific problem or need – a new acquisition.
  • The Looker (15-20%) – buyers who are actively searching for information/solution that can help them with a need or problem. They find you and decide to engage in the sales process – a new acquisition.
  • The Loyalists (25-30%) – your “champions” that have used your products or services in the past and faithfully bring you with them wherever their career takes them.
  • The Legacies – (30-35%) they inherit the existing relationship and may, or may not, be familiar with your products and services.

Each group ventures through the journey and engages with sales and marketing channels with a different mindset and set of motivators. It impacts how they interact with the decision-making group and perhaps, most importantly, their willingness to advocate for your brand and/or product. Hence, why you need to consider their emotional involvement in the process. Why? Because emotions fuel the wheels of motivation; they can drive them forward or put them in reverse.

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Mapping emotional involvement by segment from strongest to weakest will help you develop an engagement strategy. “The Loyalist” group is motivated to advocate for your brand because they feel an emotional connection. It may have been formed by a past experience, or how it makes them feel about themselves and/or their role. CEB calls this “Identity Value.”

Your communication should reinforce their decision to work with you. Any awards or recognition received should be passed along immediately thanking them for their contribution. Any bad news should be quickly communicated and explained via a call, not digitally. Know this group thoroughly, understand their social engagement and make sure to track their career progress. The relationship is personal, so recognize and reward it.

On the opposite end is the “The Legacy” group. Although they inherited the relationship, they may not be motivated to keep it. The potential issue, according to Sirius Decisions 2016 B2B Customer Experience Study, is that “80% of B2B purchasing decisions are influenced by past customer relationships” and that experience, most likely, was not with your organization.

Assume low emotional involvement and do your homework on this audience. Here are some helpful hints on engaging them. We know from our research on the emotions executives experience in their careers that four emotions are always present, 1) excitement, 2) anxiety, 3) confidence, and 4) pride.

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The “word cloud” is taken from research on the emotions experienced when an executive moves into a new role. Take advantage of a “Legacy” person being new to the role and leverage the excitement they feel by communicating how your product or service can benefit them professionally, and personally. Additionally, emphasize how your products and/or services may reduce their anxiety or apprehension that comes with the new responsibilities.

“The Looker” is motivated but may not yet be emotionally engaged with your organization. The thrill of discovery quickly fuels emotions. Continue to feed it by understanding their behaviors and journey. Give them reasons to personally connect to your solution or brand. Use insights to teach them something new about their business, needs, and/or their customers.

The “Lucky” become aware much later, and may never really become emotionally involved. For them this may be purely a transactional relationship. Focus on reducing risk that they may associate with making a bad decision. Use industry-specific case studies and customer testimonials to build their confidence in your capabilities.

If you’ve ever said, “I don’t feel like doing it” you get how emotions impact motivation. Your task now is to understand why your customers take the “journey.” Pushing an organization forward to a purchase decision is a struggle. Your advocate will become fatigued along the way. To win, you have to understand the emotions involved at key moments to motivate them to keep moving because at some point, they won’t feel like doing it either.

3 Hidden Reasons Why B2B Companies Have Hard Time Being Authentic

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 5.11.57 PMJohn Grant, author of The New Marketing Manifesto, states that, “Authenticity is the benchmark against which all brands are now judged.” If being authentic is that important, why has it been done so poorly by so many? If honesty and trust are foundation elements for building authentic brands, shouldn’t it be easy?

Business marketers often site issues relating to creating a consistent experience and message across the organization and/or across channels, staying true to the organization’s origins, and/or delivering on brand/product promises. All valid reasons, but perhaps there is another challenge at the core that goes unnoticed, something that inhibits the organizations ability tobe “real.” Aproblem simple in form, but difficult to detect and correct.

Yes, it is the senior executives, marketers, sales folks and service people themselves. The employees, who as humans, are uniquely influenced, and some may say flawed, by their own perceptions, bias, and motivations. Here are a few flaws that inhibit an organizations ability to be authentic:

  1. Biased views – research has found that executives, for better or worse, create “business personas” and view the world with that “business hat” on. In some ways, we play a “role” at work that fits a title, area of responsibility, or how others view you, that may not be realistic. Are we being fake? Maybe, maybe not, but if we say one thing, and believe something else that may be at odds with our “persona,” we just might be. It’s phenomenon researchers have observed with consumers their actions don’t necessarily match their words. In the business world, we act in a similar manner and may not realize that we are not being completely honest with ourselves, or with our customers…but they know.
  2. Refusing to recognize or accept change – customer preferences shift, markets fluctuate, competitors enter and exit, and companies evolve. One of the few certainties in business is that change is a constant. The problem is that many organizations are slow to recognize and react to a change. Even worse they flat out ignore it. As a result, companies continue to live in the past, or recognize the need for change and try to shift overnight. Authenticity involves an emotional connection with an audience and that connection is forged over years through consistency. Consistency builds trust and integrity. Ignoring the reality of your audiences’ world, trying to be something you’re not, or telling customers what you think they want to hear, quickly deteriorates trust and erodes integrity. “Keeping it real” involves keeping your head out of the sand and on the lookout for change, for better or worse. It also involves accepting reality as it is, no matter how painful it might be.
  3. The need for control – trust is a foundation element, and when we feel like it is lacking it sets off a basic human reaction to seek control over a situation. Inversely, when we trust, a handshake, for example, will often do look at the rise of shared economy companies like Uber, Airbnb. For established companies, take a look at the ever-expanding legal language in contracts and evaluate the impact it might be having on eroding trust with customers. In the business-to-business world, there are some situations where people have to trust each other to be successful and/or make progress. If we make it too complicated, we invite doubt and/or skepticism into the conversation making it difficult to create the foundation for a long-term relationship. Additionally, if we have an established relationship with a customer keep an eye on  contracting, service agreements, product delivery language, etc.

I’ve only a listed a few of the “flaws” that challenge companies, many more exist, but multiply these by the number of humans (employees) at your company, and the number of channels an audience has to interact with your brand, and you begin to get a sense of the complexity of business marketing.

How do successful companies do it? How do they create and maintain an authentic message, perception, and/or brand, by building and preserving a strong corporate culture, but allowing for flexibility. As Bill Breen writes in Fast Company “To maintain its integrity, a brand must remain true to its values. And yet, to be relevant—or cool—a brand must be as dynamic as change itself.” Or as Shakespeare might say: “To thine own self be true.”

What Marketers Can Learn About Twitter From Pissed Off High School Students

Last month (January 6 to be exact,), the Washington, DC area received its first snow of the season. Dropping 3 – 5 inches of snow in the area, it sent school boards scrambling to assess driving conditions and whether to delay opening or closing schools for the day. Most school systems got it right; but one didn’t, and it set off a social media storm that would take over Twitter.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia missed the call and its students (and parents, to some extent) made certain they knew. More snow fell than was forecasted and froze quickly, making the roads and sidewalks treacherous. Close to 30 accidents – including a school bus – were reported during the early morning commute.

Students using the hashtag #closeFCPS expressed their outrage at having to report to class on time in the hazardous conditions. They also became real-time weather reporters by posting videos and photos of snow conditions, roadways and accidents.

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 10.06.20 AMOn what was the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the day after the premier of The Bachelor, a bunch of outraged kids in Fairfax County became the top story of the day, trending no. 1 on Twitter nationwide, second worldwide, and received coverage by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BuzzFeed, USA Today, The Huffington Post, as well as making lead story on all the local news channels. And as the day went on, the hashtag took on a life of its own.

How’d they do it?

For students who were supposed to be in class, they certainly spent an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones. As a parent of a teenager who attends a school following the snow policy determined by FCPS rulings, I had a first row seat to the social media frenzy. What can their success teach us? Here are five critical components that I observed:

  1. A common cause – Nothing rallies the Twitter troops more than a common cause. This one was a “no brainer.” A snow day is a rare and precious gift from the snow gods. This was “cause” marketing at its purest.
  2. A common enemy – The villain of the day was Ryan Mcleveen, a school board member who had developed a strong bond with students through social media (Twitter in particular). Over 41,000 people – many of them students –follow Ryan because he is the first to report school delays and closings…until he didn’t. That’s when the students made him the target of their tweet bombs.
  3. Short-term objective – Combine a common cause with a short window of opportunity, and you have a heightened sense of urgency to ignite the base and drive the effort.
  4. Humor – This is what I believe had caused the effort to trend and continue trending well past the decision point for canceling school. The students played a game of one-upmanship with Instagram posts and tweets, with the most humorous being retweeted over and over. As the day progressed, it was the entertainment value rather than the cause that kept the hashtag trending.Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 10.08.16 AM
  1. The bandwagon – Once the hashtag trended, teenagers from other school districts, states and even countries jumped in to support the cause and/or to participate in the fun, many having no idea what the hashtag meant.

The Result

Beyond a formal apology from the school board, the students also got their snow day a day later (along with the following two days of delayed starts) while the rest of the school systems in the area were back on a regular schedule. But what they may have gained, more importantly, was influence.

The question is: Were the delays and school closing due to the weather/road conditions, or was it because of the public shaming on Twitter? We may never know, but let’s see what happens on the next snowy day in DC.

Incidentally, that was supposed to be where my story ended. But with snow in the forecast for the following week, I decided to wait to submit this post for obvious reasons. On Tuesday, January 13, the DC area received less than a half an inch of snow. And while other school districts announced a two-hour delay, Fairfax County closed its schools. #FCPSstudents #Winning

Everything We Thought We Knew About B2B Marketing is Wrong

What company do customers feel most connected to emotionally?

Apple?  Nope.  Amazon?  Sorry.  It must be Nordstrom’s then, right?  Not even close. To find the company that has the strongest emotional connection with customers, you have to leave the consumer world behind.  Blows your mind, doesn’t it.

According to new research from Google and the CEB, customers are more emotionally connected to B2B brands, and it’s not even close.  The company customers say that they are most emotionally connect to is…Cisco.

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Why?  Well, it’s about understanding risk.  The more risk involved with a purchase decision, the higher the likelihood of an emotional connection.  Increase the variables related to risk (e.g. losing a job, wasting corporate investments) and you have the ingredients for an emotionally involved buyer.   Personal risks peak when others are counting on you to make the right decision and the stakes are highest.

How did Cisco become number 1?  It has to do with Cisco’s ability to reduce risk with buyers.  Forrester ‘s Evaluate Your Channel Partner Loyalty Program, surveyed over 250 hi-tech business partners to understand the drivers of loyalty.  Partners were asked to select the reason/s “why their most strategic vendor is their most important vendor” (see the table below).

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 6.57.52 PMPartners, buyers of Cisco gear, selected Cisco for the strength of the relationship, despite that fact that Cisco was also the most profitable vendor (established earlier in the research).  Cisco partners value the relationship more highly than other partners, 26% more.

The reason is related to how Cisco is able to create and communicate what the CEB and Google research describes as “personal value” consisting of four parts; professional, social, emotional and self-image benefits.  Some of which are communicated, others realized through the customer experience.  For example, existing customers understand the “personal value” associated with an existing vendor 2X that of non-customers.

Cisco has built a strong “personal value” equation by investing heavily in their partner’s success.  It supports them professionally through training and certification programs.  Invest in the brand to support the emotional bond and self-image, and in sales and marketing activities to drive demand.

All of which reduces the risk associate with failure, be it personally or professionally.  And in return, they trust Cisco with their livelihood, valuing the “Relationship” above rational drivers, like profits and revenue.

Getting Personal and Emotional

How can we leverage this insight?  To start, focus on better communicating “personal value” to non-customers.  The research found that brand messaging connects with buyers early on, but the excitement wanes over time as we move down the buyer journey into the evaluation phases.

The rational brain takes over to assess risk, and the complications associated with the purchase, at this point as much as 50% of the potential deals stall or fall out of the process.  Risk impacts their initial positive emotions, and unfortunately, we don’t much to help them.

To counter those feelings engage them with personal-value messaging, go beyond just using feature/functionality language (functional benefits) to describe products or services by combining the emotional and self-expressive benefits as well (see below).

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Like Cisco, understand how your products or services impact buyers.  Does it make them feel “smarter” by having the latest technology, or more “secure” in their role.  Although buyers are individuals with unique personalities, and should be treated that way, they most likely share the same fears, uncertainties, and doubts we have in our roles.

Get to know them, like you know yourself.  Stop assume they are always rational and buy on price and/or functionality.  And finally, realize that there are customers who are emotionally connected to your brand, and/or highly value their relationship with your organization, and when they say that they “love your product or company”…they actually might just mean it.

Marketing Sherpa’s B2B Demand Generation Conference

Original October 18, 2007
I just returned from speaking at the MarketingSherpa’s B2B Demand Generation Conference in Boston and I came away very encouraged about the future of B2B marketing.
For the first time I am seeing B2B marketing attract top talent. B2C has gotten more than its fair share because of the attractiveness/sexiness of life in Advertising, the CPG industry, and other Brand/Creative centric areas. Top Schools like Kellogg have been sending their best and brightest into those jobs for years while over in the world of B2B, marketing has been seen as the red headed stepchild to the favorite son Sales.
Outside a few companies in Hi-Tech, B2B marketers were usually guys who couldn’t cut it in sales, senior executives who were parked in marketing until retirement, or young attractive women in sales support roles. But the times are a changing…big time.
With the rise in interactive marketing, new digital media, and the need to measure ROI, the world of B2B is now attracting serious talent.
Young marketers are now coming into the space. They understand how to use the tools of Web 2.0 to build communities, how to better communicate concepts and ideas, and how to measure the impact of these efforts. They are now becoming smarter at understanding buyer behavior and how to tap into it, influence it, and measure it with tools. Maybe even smarter than the chosen ones…