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  • Writer's pictureRhys Wesley

Discover the real key to compelling emotional B2B tech storytelling

Antonio Damasio, the well-known Portuguese-American neuroscientist, is famous for finding that human emotions are the driving force in all life-regulating processes, including making decisions.

His primary case study was a man pseudonymously named Elliot. Once a successful businessman, Elliot had needed extensive surgery to remove a brain tumor. The tumor was located next to his amygdala (part of the brain where emotions are given meaning.)

After the otherwise successful operation, Elliot experienced a few problematic changes. He felt zero emotion - No sadness, impatience, or even frustration. But some of these side-effects were expected after the major surgery.

However, the thing that surprised all was his inability to make decisions. Simple decisions like deciding which color pen to use could take him hours. Dr. Antonio Damasio concluded that this effectively means emotions and decision-making ability are naturally linked.

Most directly, this takeaway illustrates the profound relationship between emotions you experience and decisions you take. Antonio Damasio’s study successfully proved that even the most minor life decisions could be based on emotions and not logic. This is contrary to popular perception wherein marketing content creators commonly believe that decision-making is a logical process.

To (over)correct this, most experienced B2B tech marketers use storytelling techniques, with the idea to trigger the portion of our brains that makes emotional reactions through a story.

What most marketers get wrong…

Even with the most compelling narrative, B2B storytelling is much more about combining various emotional elements and triggering your prospects’ minds. You have to learn the art of restructuring your marketing content by adding the right emotions. But, which emotions would work?

Robert Plutchik, the professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, created a wheel of emotions (fear, sadness, anger, joy, disgust, trust, surprise, and anticipation.)

But you don’t have to use every emotion. Throwing everything at buyers would fail because they are tired of marketers trying to appeal to their senses. That’s why most storytelling attempts go haywire, and mistakes can take many forms. Most stories are simply not relating to your prospects. Maybe you’re hitting the wrong emotions.

So don’t try to leverage every emotion…

Powerful B2B storytelling essentially comes down to invoking at least four emotions for a deeper impact on your marketing campaigns. Just evoke the right feeling at the right time and build an emotion-based content strategy.

That’s how we frame a dynamic layer around content and nurture instincts that actually appeal. Let’s look at these four emotions you can utilize to engage with your buyers.

TRUST is your best friend

Trust is critical to every B2B buyer’s journey -- something built over time with the highest precision. Trust is created when you focus on your audience goals, not your own transactional needs.

The core idea behind building trust is to get your audience to care about what you say in your content. The best way to do this is by introducing stories that showcase your industry experience.

First, start by asking the question, “What does it mean to trust your brand?” Once you have a clear answer to the question, invest in measures that invoke trust. Here are a few pointers:

  • Go behind the scenes in demonstrating your expertise.

  • Don’t shy away from answering difficult questions through content.

  • Talk about your strengths and shortcomings (with relation to competitors.)

  • Tailor your tone to what they expect and feel comfortable with.

  • Answer queries and create value proactively (not reactively!)

  • Be available to queries that arise from your published content.

FEAR is a powerful ally

Fear is a familiar emotion in marketing campaigns ---something you can use deliberately (in a subtle way) to provoke people towards taking action. But you need to be responsible. Fear can backfire, especially if the prospect ends up feeling bad.

Unfortunately, fear and marketing have had a terrible relationship in the year 2020-21. Most prospects are already overwhelmed by this emotion. Even if it’s positive, your fear-based story might find it difficult to resonate and create traction. The brand stories, case studies, and use cases should try extra hard to highlight the message of “we’re here for you” and “we’ll help you” allay your fears.

For instance, Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. is a 200-year-old company known for its data-as-a-service (DaaS) products. With a customer base of 90% of the global Fortune 500, their marketing team presents content without adding to the fear and uncertainty in a time of economic turbulence.

Being a responsible global firm offering data analytics, Dun & Bradstreet is arming business leaders with information to better understand the pandemic’s impacts. Rather than exacerbating fear to sell their ideas, the company is focused on producing content that’s filled with insights presented in a calm and reassuring way (zero dramatic language and only necessary information that is credibly sourced.)

Here’s something you can try. Most B2B tech prospects fear being overtaken by the competition. Highlighting their complacency as the enemy while positioning your offering as the ultimate weapon would work. Here are three common ways you can use fear in your stories:

  • Use fear to produce empathy to remove their worries.

  • Use the fear of missing out to kill uncertainty right away.

  • Use the fear of failure as a driver since nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history.

ANTICIPATION creates optimism and value

Anticipation is a complicated emotion since it naturally gives birth to hope. It’s all about meeting their unspoken needs. You have to read their minds and think about the additional help they require, even before they gesture it.

To build the right kind of anticipation, you need to monitor your niche, collect relevant information, and record game-changing shifts. Just be careful and don’t induce fake tension and abuse user intent by using clickbait. Anticipation done wrong leads to pessimism.

Online dating is one industry that has seen growth and popularity by using anticipation as a driver. Another great example is the ever-expanding ecommerce world. Amazon actively utilizes anticipation by offering suggestions that induce a click, thereby leading to unabated growth worldwide.

Here’s how you can think about anticipation. You could go beyond the obvious and pre-empt any potential challenges your prospects may face in the near future. You can connect dots between distinct concepts and create a content series that will address their pain.

Your audience will feel privileged to consume such content, and the release of a new content asset becomes an event for them. This approach would also keep you from becoming one-hit-wonder and staying relevant and memorable in an otherwise dull B2B tech world. Here are the quick pointers for you to start:

  • Are there unspoken audience needs you can meet with content?

  • Can you analyze how your customers consume your marketing collateral and how you can help them perform better?

  • Are you creating marketing content that excites them about what’s coming and leads to a social discussion?

JOY helps you create authentic and uplifting moments

These are confusing times. More information means seemingly limitless options. This also means your prospects are far less trusting and patient than they’ve ever been in history. Every new story becomes part of their already crowded inboxes.

This is where uplifting narratives help your readership and build positive sentiments. Using relatable anecdotes and joyful storytelling will help you become more emotionally appealing. Consuming content that’s based on a happy context makes your prospects feel comfortable as well.

Finding stories filled with joy leads to intense emotional connections. It’s a habit, and you can only get better with time. Once you understand their needs and context and reach beyond surface-level emotions, happy prospects would award you by sharing your message with their world. Ponder over these additional questions to create content that introduces joy:

  • What can you do to let your prospects know their attention is appreciated?

  • Is your content asset packed in a joyful story with a happy ending?

  • Have you found a way to surprise them with additional value that’s instantly useful?

  • Have you invested in interactive visual content to delight their senses?

  • Do you have the best answer on the topic?

  • Does your content deliver all the information in a short time?

Concluding thoughts

Here’s the word of caution. Since it is easiest to talk about yourself, most B2B tech brands make the mistake of keeping all their emotional storytelling at a self-centered level. Remember, the best way you can use all four emotions is to make sure that you weave them in a seamless narrative so that your audience can relate to you.

There is no doubt that our rational mind only represents the surface layer with several unconscious emotional drivers at the bottom. But, there is a place for logic as well. The best position for you as a company is to ensure you present your case with a tangible demonstration and analysis.

So there has to be a deep focus on features, insights, and technical benefits, but that’s only a part of the job. Then you follow it up with emotional and inspirational content. The final narrative has to be a combination of the two.

Also, please know there’s a reason I’ve focused on four core emotions. In my experience, a large body of emotional storytelling stems out of these core emotions. Pretty much every successful piece of content results from a careful mix of all or some of these sentiments.

I’ll conclude by saying that most B2B tech buyers respond to a “total argument.” To pull your offering out of competition and confusing advertising messages, make sure you appeal to both logic and emotion since both are very much intertwined. It comes down to what kind of narrative you present and how you infuse emotions. All the best.

Need pro content for your B2B tech company? Get in touch.

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