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A New Study Seconds That Emotion Should Have a Strong Place in Your Marketing

Participate in a Community of Character. Honor Veterans. Reach Out to Friends. Take a Real Look at Self-Care. These are just four of the month of constructive suggestions provided by long-time SIPA member PaperClip Communications to their audience of “hard-working campus professionals” in their November Support Calendar.

 

Each item on this wonderful calendar—located on their Free Resources page—links to follow-up ideas, tutorials and resources. “PaperClip Communications knows how difficult and uncertain this time is, and we’re happy to offer these complimentary resources [their bold] to help our colleagues during this crisis,” they write on the homepage.

 

Back in March and early April, many organizations moved quickly to build COVID-19 microsites to accompany their regular website. While many of those produced huge bumps in traffic, they also created a new vibe—we care about you, your health and how you are coping. Stephanie Williford of SIPA member EB Medicine has talked about the pushback she got when their COVID site first appeared behind a paywall. They quickly moved it in front.

 

These are emotional lifts at a time when we all still need it most. It’s also smart business. A new report from global B2B marketing agency Stein IAS, In Search for the Emotionally-Qualified Lead (EQL), seconds the notion that emotion-charged marketing remains very important in B2B buying decisions.

 

“In an age of purpose and now a time of crisis, human emotion is front and center,” Reuben Webb, chief creative officer at Stein IAS, told MarTech Series (MTS). “This is a B2B revolution that’s been building for some time. In embracing digital marketing and marketing technology, many B2B marketers, have placed over-emphasis on such measures as Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales-Qualified Leads (SQL). At Stein IAS, our view is that another measure—the EQL—may be the most meaningful measure of all.”

 

Of course, it’s not just B2B. A quick look at Chesapeake Family’s homepage shows emotional connections through photos of families, kids trying to learn at home, and even a penguin. It’s just that B2B heartstrings are a little more of a surprise. According to MTS, a major study by Google and Gartner indicates that, while the average B2C brand has an emotional connection with between 10% and 40% of consumers; seven out of nine B2B brands have emotional connections with more than 50% of their customers.

 

Two years ago, at a SIPA Annual Conference, Rick Wilkes, OPIS director of marketing, talked about the importance of emotion in marketing.

 

“I think emotion is underrated in any kind of marketing, particularly with websites,” he said. “On the new OPIS site you see a refinery at sunset, and that’s the best a refinery is ever going to look. You’d be amazed in stock photography how many fuel places are within sunsets. It’s very soothing. So it’s a big bold image [and the words,] ‘Buy & sell oil & gas products with CONFIDENCE’—and the confidence is the emotional hook there.”

 

OPIS has had that up for a while so it’s obviously working—including the words, “OPIS delivers pricing and analysis you can trust…” “A successful brand is based on a connection that includes trust and an emotional bond which fosters a long-term relationship,” said Nick Hague, head of growth at B2B International. Indeed, with Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman finding that a whopping 95% of all purchase decisions are made subconsciously, it’s clear that B2B brands cannot afford to forget the importance of emotion.”

 

“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing,” said the famous “Marketoonist” Tom Fishburne, quoted on the site Instapage. They write: “Does it feel like marketing when you watch a poignant advertisement and connect emotionally with the subject? Does it feel like marketing when you read a genuine positive customer review of a kind waitstaff and great service?

 

“Emotional connections happen because we’re human, and we’re built for these connections, wired for them, and rely on them to live a rich, meaningful life. Despite our significant advances in science and technology, human emotion (mainly our subconscious) will always be core to our DNA. Marketing by appealing to raw and genuine human emotion is essential, smart, and pays off.”

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For Williford, Positive Feedback and More Traffic Lighten Heavy Workload

“Every day is hard. Often, there’s very little or nothing they can do. [In addition to patients,] they see their own colleagues pass away… It’s very stressful. Plus their hours might be getting cut. Many of them have had their budgets frozen because many hospitals and emergency departments are really suffering right now. They’re not getting business from elective surgeries and overall volume in EDs [emergency departments] is actually down.”
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That was from a conversation I had with Stephanie Williford, CEO of EB Medicine and a new SIPA executive board member, a few weeks ago. She was describing many of her customers who are ED personnel and ER doctors. I had interviewed people on the frontlines of COVID-19 before, but more in loans and banks and people hurting that way.

This was different.
“They have to deal with all of this. And then we have to assess that and figure out how to respond.” If that wasn’t enough, a couple days later Williford sent me a story from Buzzfeed News titled An ER Doctor’s Diary of Three Brutal Weeks Fighting COVID-19.
“This gets at the heart of what our audience is seeing and dealing with every day,” she wrote.
As an information provider but also a business, how do you respond? For Williford, the humanity came first. She spoke last Tuesday as part of the excellent two-day SIPA 2020 and repeated something she told me: That EB Medicine forgot to initially ask for email addresses on the free COVID-19 resources they posted on their site. Given the 340,000 and counting views for one primary article, it probably cost them a lot of leads.
But I think they can be excused for forgetting that.
“We were initially going to keep our [COVID-19] content behind the paywall, but we immediately got pushback on that,” Williford said Tuesday. “When we did put it in front, we got really positive response.” That 340,000-views article might typically get 10,000 views. “So traffic has gone through the roof. Every week we’re adding more content. We’re doing more regular podcasts, more social media. International organizations are asking if they can link to us, and if they can translate the content—Japanese, Spanish, Italian.
“We’re still mixing in our regular content. It’s not all COVID all the time, but we are pushing people towards the free content. We’ve seen pretty good results so far, with a couple hundred new email signups. Subscriptions have increased 9% we think due to the increased engagement. It’s definitely been a challenge and an increased workload—the COVID content plus everything else we do—but the customers appreciate having the information.”
As for the economic woes—some of their audience have had salaries cut in half—Williford said that she tries to be understanding and flexible. “We’ve kind of gone outside our wheelhouse [and become] a little more touchy feely. We’ve created a wellness resources section on our website. That’s something we’ve never had before. We’ve done blogposts about mindfulness, show them we care. Plus things llike, ‘Here’s where you can get discounted shoes, airbnb’s [it’s not always safe for them to go home] and free yoga classes.'”
And not every contact they make with customers is a sales pitch. Sometimes now, Williford said, they will just check in. “‘How are you doing? How can we help?’ We’ll remind them of the free resources we have available. We’ve actually had a lot of positive feedback from that. ‘Thanks for asking. I’m doing well. It’s been a struggle but I appreciate what you guys are providing.'”
Williford has also stopped any telemarketing. “They’re just so stressed; we thought adding a phone call is not going to help them. For our larger accounts, we’re doing virtual lunches—just casual conversation, again trying to pay attention to what their needs are.”
Still, the business continues. EB Medicine continues to invest in different areas right now, reallocating in-person event money to online sponsorships and exhibits. They’ve also expanded their retargeting and remarketing efforts with Google Ad Words; eliminated a step from their checkout process; added a pop-up if a visitor is on their website for longer than 30 seconds; and started doing live webinars. Williford just never thought their audience wanted that. Plus it’s a very competitive space.
But the world has changed.
“Our customers are really in the thick of it,” she said. “Fortunately, we have an editorial board for each product, and they really drive those product decisions. They’re able to tell us from the ground what [our customers] need. A hospital might not be able to develop their own protocol, for example.
From the humanity end, one line seems to guide Williford right now:  You can’t take care of your patients unless you take care of yourself.
“Our main focus is on the practical application—what can you do with us? Here’s what you need to do. Luckily we have a very connected editorial board.”

As for her own staff of 14, Williford has reached out to all of them during this time to see how they’re doing. But she believes more is needed. “We don’t have a regular company-wide meeting every week. But we’re getting ready to re-implement that again. I’m feeling disconnected and that we need that.”

If they’re seeing what she’s seeing, it probably makes sense.