Why B2B marketers need to build Superior Emotional Capital

Kate Howe, Executive Director of MSQ on how, thanks partly to the pandemic and partly to the evolution of martech, B2B marketing is emerging from its tired stereotype and reimagining itself.

Kate Howe

Executive Director MSQ


Creative agencies are dead. Agency groups are giving up on advertising. The smart groups are investing more money in B2B.

They’ve been the articles doing the rounds the past few weeks, following a cluster of news stories that included both Publicis Groupe investing in B2B agency Octopus and our own launch of MSQ B2B.

The answers to those opening statements are pretty clear: No. No. And Yes.

Creative agencies aren’t dead and marketing networks and groups would be mad to give up on advertising. Few businesses in the world understand people as much as advertising agencies, and when behaviours need to be changed and attention captured, brilliant creative campaigns have proved their effectiveness time and time again.

But the very reason that creative agencies are alive and well is also the very reason why the smart marketing groups are investing more resources into their B2B capabilities.

Because at the heart of marketing is human connections. And at the heart of B2B are people who want those human connections too.

A recent Gartner study showcased just this. Seven out of nine B2B brands state that they have emotional connections with more than 50% of their customers. And, as it goes on to say: “the memories, emotions and feelings that customers take away are ultimately what matters most.”

True, B2B is not as flighty nor as beholden to the flavour of the month as consumer marketing. And discarding rational value is madness, particularly further down the B2B sales funnel. Functional value, such as product differentiators and economic value, such as ROI and TCO will always have an impact.

Smart marketers know they need to translate the data into true insights, and then into creative inspiration.

Kate Howe

Settling for SQLs?

But when it comes to marketing, it’s also true to say that, despite the Gartner studies and changing ways of the world, B2B brands have still been over-indexing on Sales-Qualified Leads rather than Emotionally Qualified ones. Maybe that’s because, despite what we know about the role of emotion in B2B buying decisions, change is often hard and always scary.

Until now it’s really only been the brave and the bold B2B brands who are thinking differently. Those same ones you see triumphing at the B2B awards ceremonies. But fortune can no longer only favour the brave. No longer can B2B marketing simply be seen as a sales support function. The way it’s always been can’t be the way it’s always going to be.

Our MSQ B2B Chairman Tom Stein recently termed the last 12 months in B2B as ‘an awakening’. Thanks partly to the pandemic and partly to the evolution of martech, B2B marketing is emerging from its tired stereotype and reimagining itself. 

And at the heart of the reimagining sits emotional intelligence. That means communicating with greater relevance and empathy. Connecting experiences across every touchpoint, for every stakeholder audience. It means acting with integrity and warmth. So even when that rational value is elevated towards the end of the funnel, you’re still building relationships, showing that you’re a business who can genuinely enhance your customers’ life, and career.

It means appreciating the value of long-term brand building. Understanding when and how to avoid getting bogged down in the short-term, tactical plays that leave us all cold.  

It means reclaiming, or, perhaps, claiming for the first time, the ‘customer experience’. Last year a study into Global Customer Experience by PEGA showed that in global businesses, IT is twice as likely to lead CX than any other function. Why IT and not marketing? Once again, is it a case that CX is being seen as functional, when really the only way to deliver great CX is through emotional intelligence? 

A new era

This B2B revolution has been building for some time, though no-one could have quite expected the pandemic to give it such an emphatic kick in the required direction. Sure, B2B organisations have led the way for some time in using data and martech to help drive personal, relevant and timely comms. But these advances alone are not enough. Smart marketers know they need to translate the data into true insights, and then into creative inspiration. It’s still creativity that’s needed to spot new connections, and a shift in mindset that moves us from using data to optimise tactical decisions, to using insight to drive strategic decisions.

Now is the time to move beyond digital transformation to real marketing transformation. And B2B marketers are doing it. They’re operating with greater confidence than ever before. There’s a strut in their step and a desire to connect more readily with their audience.

And maybe that’s why you’re seeing more networks and groups investing heavily in B2B. Because for those who offer genuine full-service capabilities, who can bring the right experts together to provide joined-up thinking across all touchpoints in the customer journey, and, crucially, are able to do it on a global scale, there is an opportunity for B2B brands to truly connect with customers.

Taking the science and understanding that have always made the practice of B2B marketing so intriguing. And marrying it with the quest for developing more empathetic, emotionally qualified leads is what will truly help businesses earn the Superior Emotional Capital that attracts, converts, retains and grows valuable customers.

Guest Author

Kate Howe

Executive Director MSQ


Kate’s responsible for shaping and implementing our growth strategy and developing our multi-disciplinary proposition. She joined MSQ from Dentsu Aegis Network, where she led the network’s creative, customer experience and commerce agencies. She’s also spent time as the CEO and Chair of B2B agency gyro and was the Chief Marketing Officer of Gala Coral Group. Kate’s on the Board of Trustees at Macmillan Cancer Support and Honorary Secretary of the IPA.

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