Any core differentiator in the B2B space is quickly copied and becomes the norm, rather than a standout – just consider the global B2B financial services landscape and the limited number of differentiators between the big players.

As a business buyer, when making a purchase choice for your company – whether you’re buying from an ICT provider or a commercial insurer – the reality is that, despite the relatively homogenous nature of the offering out there, you have quite a lot of choice.

So what makes you choose 'Bank A' over 'Bank B' – what else is at play, given the fact that if the logos were removed, you’d struggle to tell the two offerings apart?

In life in general, and this is more pronounced in the B2B world, people buy from people – and specifically, people buy from people they like. What makes the purchaser choose one salesperson over the other for their products?

The answer is chemistry.

Why chemistry?

Consumers feel a certain resonance with someone and that guides their instinct to trust one over the other, ultimately influencing their purchasing decision.

The major differentiator that one company has from another in this over-commoditised space – and one of the few things that can’t be reproduced – is their values, their essence and the way that the people who work for them embody those elements.

It’s about how interacting with that person – and by extension, that company, makes you feel. If you accept that and believe that’s what sways people’s decisions, you can work to create that chemistry in a piece of communication – designing an advertisement and crafting messaging that allows that chemistry to shine through.

Aside from being informed by their prospective clients’ deep-seated personal need, communication on that level also naturally filters out companies who wouldn’t buy from them, because they don’t share a value set – meaning that the targeting is more focussed.

Achieving this aim is at the root of an anthropological way to operate.

Anthropology in marketing

Anthropology is the study of human behaviour and what people feel in certain contexts. Their motivators. Their triggers.

Anthropology studies the emotional, rather than rational response – and when you can use insights into the emotional reactions of your target market, you can tailor your messaging to appeal to them on a level far below the surface need that they’re shopping to satisfy.

Most communications agencies develop strategies that are informed by research – but that research is typically quantitative market-based research: which percentage of customers thinks this or that, or what a focus group thinks.

It’s rare to find a strategy that looks beyond what the target market’s experience is with the product or service their client is trying to sell. On the other hand, anthropologically-based strategies will seek to understand the buyer’s context in a bid to create resonance.

These people are used to seeing messages from providers that advertise the problem-solving features of their product: faster, cheaper, most robust or most secure. The challenge is that all the messaging is the same, because of the lack of differentiation at this level of marketing.

Brands need to go into the field with CIOs and CTOs to try to understand consumers on a human level. They all have some very specific similarities, driven mostly by the fact that the decisions they make around digitising their companies sit almost solely for them.

They are responsible for future-proofing massive organisations, and will most likely only see the result of the decisions they make today, in several years time – inevitably when the company is either failing or thriving.

It’s a deep-seated fear of irrelevance – and it’s a fear they’d never discuss because many felt it would show weakness. This insight has nothing to do with a product and everything to do with understanding the context of the decision-making individual.

It’s not about tugging at heartstrings – it’s about genuinely understanding your target market’s decision makers on a purely human level and finding ways to make that fundamental, pivotal emotional connection that sets you apart of your competitors.

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