What Really Motivates B2B Customers? It’s Time To Get Personal

It almost goes without saying, but the extent to which you can motivate and enthuse your target customers, the greater the return you'll see from your marketing.

In the vast majority of cases, people are motivated first by what affects or benefits them personally. Even in a B2B sector, the target customer must be motivated personally. Only after you have motivated a B2B customer personally are they likely to take notice of the aspects of your product or service that may benefit the business.

So the marketer’s job is to pinpoint and articulate the motivating personal benefits to the B2B customer.

As we know, businesses don’t buy products, people do

Several years ago, there was a fairly well known saying in the IT sector: ‘No one gets fired for buying IBM’.

What this meant was that if an IT manager purchased a business-critical IT product and the product turned out to be a bad decision for the business, the IT manager wouldn’t get fired because he purchased a well known brand in the marketplace: IBM. If however, the same IT manager had purchased a less well known IT product and it turned out to be a bad decision, the IT manager’s judgement would be questioned as he’d not chosen a well known brand. In both those situations, the decision might have been bad, but in only one of those situations might the IT manager be fired.

IT managers were buying IT products that were of benefit to them first (i.e. them being assured of keeping their jobs), and then secondly, of benefit to the business.

A walk through example…

Keeping with the IT theme, let’s say for example, a software provider might want to run a marketing campaign aimed at IT managers that promotes their product as ‘saving cost’ and being ‘fully functional’.

Do those benefits help the IT manager personally? Not really.

Instead, the IT manager might have other concerns about new software; for example, how easy to use the new software is going to be for employees, or how much work will be required to install it or maintain it. The software could be a huge cost saver for the business, but if the IT manager can’t see how it will help him personally, he’s far less likely to buy it.

So, in this scenario, the software company’s marketing needs to first make it clear to the IT manger why their product is easy for him personally. The ‘saving cost’ and ‘fully functional’ business benefits come second.

Personal benefits such as:

‘Our software works just like the software you already use’

‘We guarantee you will be able to install and use our software within 10 minutes’

‘All our software is no-touch – once it’s installed you’ll not need to touch it again’

Once the IT manager can see the product that is going to be of benefit to him personally, he’s all ears.

And now for the business benefits…

If you are marketing to businesses, you do still need those business benefits.  But possibly not for what you might expect.

Once you have gained your target customer’s attention with your personal benefits, you then need to support your message with business benefits. These business benefits will then be used by your target customer to justify your product or service to other people in their business.

So, if we continue with the scenario of the IT manager, let’s assume he is personally attracted to your product because he can see it will make his life easier. Will that IT manager then say to his colleagues that the business should invest in the software product because it makes his life easier? Not likely.

Instead, the IT manager will want practical business benefits to use as ammunition to justify that the purchase will also be good for the business. These business benefits could then, for example, be based on the product’s ability to reduce cost, or add functionality, but not based on personal benefits such as ‘it’s easy’.

A simple formula for your marketing messages could therefore be:

  • Start with your main message that delivers a personal benefit that motivates the target customer, then
  • Follow up with supporting messages to provide the more practical benefits that give credibility to your offering and can be used by your target customers as ammunition.

Remember, very few people are motivated to buy a product or service that benefits others but does not benefit them.  Tap into those personal benefits first.



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