Researchers say that 80 percent of all the data that exists today didn’t exist three years ago. Businesses can now hold, and often do hold, a phenomenal amount of information about their customers than they ever have before.
It’s not surprising that playing with all of this newfound information has become a business obsession for many brands. It usually manifests itself as companies mining server farms gain even more insightful data on their customers to enable them to communicate with the most personalized messages possible.
However, the pursuit of ultra-fine-tuned, hyper-targeted reflections of customers can quickly become a reductive, low-return endeavor. While it can drive important marginal improvements in performance, it can distract marketers, blinding them to the fact that business decisions are driven by the heart and not rational data.
The fact of the matter is that people make the decisions in businesses. As human beings, we seek qualities such as authenticity, trust, respect and a sense of self-worth. In short, we want to feel an emotional connection with the people and companies we do business with.
Specifically, our research study with the FORTUNE Knowledge Group, one of the global leaders in business journalism, found that — in business decision-making – the emotional far outweighs the rational when it comes to making decisions. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of 720 senior executives polled admitted that human factors (like values, culture and reputation) are more important than analytical factors when making business decisions.
Furthermore, 62 percent said that when it’s time to pull the trigger on making important decisions, they trust their gut more than anything else.
That’s why finding ways to humanize business and to build emotional connections with business decision-makers is the key to success. When people move beyond just buying your product or service and into the special space of buying into your company, your brand and what it stands for, then you’ll know you’ve achieved such success.
Our report, “Only Human: The Emotional Logic of Business Decisions,” and the follow-up report, “Beyond the Brand, Why Business Decision-Makers Buy into Strong Cultures,” explain that businesses with strong, defined reputations and cultures win. When choosing a company to do business with, 70 percent of respondents admitted that company reputation is the most influential factor. Company culture is also a key influencer, according to 53 percent of executives surveyed.
However, people don’t want to spend a huge amount of time understanding a company intellectually. They want to feel it, otherwise known as getting “a gut reaction.” They want to feel that a decision is right, and then most people try to post-rationalize it. Essentially, winning over an individual emotionally is by far the most powerful approach to winning their business.
Once you have used the insightful data to talk to your customers in a humanly relevant and timely way, and engage them enough to secure a face-to-face meeting, you have to bring the magic in the room, and embody the company ethos they have hopefully already bought into. In other words, if you have to spend a lot of time explaining your brand reputation and your company culture, then you have a problem.
So, yes, data is very important for informing marketing decisions. However, business-to-business marketers cannot allow it to become the be-all and end-all. They can’t allow themselves to be blind-sided by an obsession with big data. B-to-B marketers should think big emotion and small data. They should remember that each strong and successful business has a powerful emotive story that drives it. That is where the transformational magic is, not in the data.
Business decisions are deeply personal. They are high-consideration, career-changing moments; and there is plenty of analysis and rational thinking involved. As buyers, people are looking for a long-term partner they can relate to and collaborate with. In many ways, they are looking to find a small part of themselves and their hopes, dreams and ambitions in the business they buy into.
That’s why, ultimately, business decisions lie in the heart and not in the numbers.
Chrissy is the Business Development Manager at gyro London.