Top 3 Emotions to Tap to Transform Your B2B Tech Marketing

  • Leo Boon Yeow

There’s no debate about it. Yes, emotions play a large role in B2B technology marketing. Let’s accept this and move on shall we? 

Great! So now that we’re on the same page, you may like to know that there are 6 basic emotions that influence all buying decisions.

They are, greed, fear, altruism, envy, pride, and shame.

However, when you consider what the CIO does, and what they face on an everyday basis, you’ll realise some of these emotions may not resonate with your target audience. 

Let’s eliminate those that don’t apply. 

Greed – “If I make a decision now, I will be rewarded”

CIOs are already rewarded with princely sums to keep a company’s IT infrastructure running. 

And the best CIOs seek to understand stakeholder motivations and manage projects in a way that benefits the organisation.

Furthermore, decisions motivated by greed almost always come with excess baggage


If what you’re offering doesn’t work out, the blame will almost always fall on your product, or worse still, your organisation. 

So while greed is a powerful motivational factor, it should be avoided if possible.

Altruism – “If I make a decision now, I will help others”

Most people (but not all) want to do good. We want to help others succeed. That’s the mark of a great leader in an organisation.  

But since the CIO is busy making sure the business is running like a well-oiled machine, he wants to know how you can help him do that. Not how you can help him help others.  

The CIO is already tied down by other priorities like security, budgets, compliance, operations, processes, etc… You get the idea. 

Furthermore, CIOs are primarily charged with improving workforce productivity. Not make the work lives of individual employees better. They’re related, but the rationale is quite different. 

So no, many CIOs are not driven by the need to help others. 

Shame – “If I don’t make a decision now, I will look stupid”

Shame is a powerful motivator. Looking at the responsibilities of a CIO, there are already many things that can go wrong.

A CIO whose organisation had a massive data breach is going to want to make up for it by bolstering the organisation’s security. 

It’s great that you’re aware of existing shame or guilt, and want to use it to open new doors for your products or solutions. 

But you don’t want to remind them that they messed up, or that they are vulnerable.  Not if you want them as repeat customers. 

But what you can do is leverage on their fear of shame. 

And the top 3 emotions are…

By the process of elimination, we are left with three base emotions. Fear, pride, and envy. 

Two of them are deadly sins, which means they will work really well in our marketing initiatives. 

Fear – “If I don’t make a decision now, I’m toast”

Every year there are articles that harp about what should CIOs look out for, or what their top concerns are, and what they should prioritise in 2020

These articles exist to capitalise on the top emotion that CIOs feel. Fear. 

Of being left behind. Of repeating past mistakes. Of losing out to peers. Of not doing more. Of not knowing what they’re doing. Of underperforming.

And there’s a reason why fear is such an effective emotion for technology marketing.

The CIO is responsible for the organisation’s backbone—the IT infrastructure. 

Here, there are literally a million things that can go wrong. Or on which they can miss out.

Security. Shadow IT. Innovation. Performance. Data quality. Complexity. Productivity. Digital Transformation. Infrastructure disruption. Cost control.

A CIO’s fears encompass all of these areas, and more. As an added bonus, it even makes the CIO develop an emotional attachment to brands that can help him

Now that we know which emotion they respond to, the next logical question would be how?

Marketing to a CIO’s fears requires some finesse on our part. 

Most of us would instinctively choose to leverage on scare tactics. 

Scary ransomware. Uncontrollable costs. Corrupted Data. Missed opportunities. The list of things that can scare our CIO audiences go on. 

Yes, scare tactics are the obvious approach if you are looking to stand out in the crowd, or for short-term gains. But they can also backfire by turning your audience away.

For our long-term goals, we find that taking a supportive, reassuring approach often works better. 

CIOs know what they are afraid of. They rarely need us to point it out for them. What they want to know is WHO they can trust to alleviate their fears.

Example 1: Brand X UV vacuum is proven to eliminate 95% of dust mites in your bed, and 99.9% of vampires under your bed.

Example 2: Dust mites causes deadly allergic reactions. Vampires cause fatal blood loss. And they’re already hiding IN and UNDER your bed. Get Brand Z UV vacuum before you become a victim. 

Which brand would you rather buy from? Personally, I’d get Brand A UV vacuums because they’re proven to help alleviate my problems. 

I’d avoid Brand B because I already know what scares me, and I would think that Brand B is just playing on my fears (which they totally are)—or worse, fabricating new fears. 

By providing transparency, we are helping CIOs make strategic decisions to meet their challenges. 

This makes us a business partner CIOs can trust to meet their goals, rather than just a provider. 

Envy – “If I don’t make a decision now, my competition will win.”

Marketers have been using envy in marketing for a long time. Some say it has been used since advertising was invented. 

The premise is simple. Make your consumers want something that others already have, or can afford to have. 

However, like fear, envy is a double-edged sword. 

According to a recent study, using envy works really well—but only with people with high self-esteem.  

In today’s fast-paced corporate environments however, we find that envy can be highly effective. 

That’s because organisations are all caught up in the pursuit of growth. 

And research has shown that companies that embrace digital are far more likely to do better. 

It’s a highly competitive situation, and we’ve not come across a single CIO who wants the competition to win.

These CIOs already have the seed of envy in them. 

How can we use it to our advantage? Short answer? Case studies! 

Case studies highlight how well their peers or competitors perform with help from your product or service.

They might make your prospects go, “oh, I need some of that in my infrastructure.” 

We should then follow-up with a strong, aspirational message, and an offer to empower them to achieve the same level of success. 

We find that this approach can appeal to our audiences, regardless of their self-esteem. 

Pride – “If I make a decision now, I will look smart.”

By now, it may look like we’re compiling a list of deadly sins. We’re not. 

It’s a list of POWERFUL emotions that motivates today’s B2B technology buyer, AKA the CIO. 

And the final emotion on this list is pride (and its companion, dignity). 

Like the other emotions we’ve mentioned, this emotion can carry negative, or positive meanings. 

The negative: Pride can mean an inflated sense of self-worth or hubris.

Our customers can be vain or arrogant. 

But it wouldn’t do you any favours to point that out or insult them with claims that your solution is better than what they’re using. 

To use this emotion to your advantage, we need to come from a positive approach.

The goal here is to make our prospects look good.  

And when that happens, they are more willing to come back for more. 

For example, your product or service helped your customer win the “CIO of the year” award—or recognition from upper management. 

Do you think your customer will come back to you again? 

We’re pretty sure they will. 

Here’s an example of how we can appeal to a CIO’s pride. 

“As an IT leader, every decision you make determines your organisation’s survival. With Brand X, you get the power to drive successful change and innovation in your organisation.”

First, we give the CIO some recognition, and then explain how our product and service empowers the CIO to get into an even BETTER position.

Because which CIO doesn’t want to be seen professionally, as the driving force behind a successful business transformation initiative? 

Not many we suspect.  

With great power, comes great responsibility

Today, many B2B marketers are still under the false impression that technology purchases are driven by logic. Often, they are not

However, that said, appealing to today’s tech buyers still requires a masterful mix of the rational and the emotional. 

That’s because while powerful emotions can be used to attract, they still need the counter-balance provided by logic—otherwise, the emotions you use can repel just as strongly. 

By carefully studying your audiences, you will be able to find the right mix that ensures the efficacy of your marketing campaigns.

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