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5 Techniques for Engaging Prospects’ Emotions with your Content

by | May 23, 2018 | B2B Copywriting, Case Studies, Content Marketing | 0 comments

We’re used to treating B2B buyers as rational beings. We think of them making purchases for sound business reasons. In our marketing content, we appeal to their rational minds with logic.

But just like the rest of us, B2B buyers are human. They make purchases – including business purchases – for emotional reasons, as well as rational ones.

In fact, emotion might trump reason when it comes to making B2B purchases.

A 2013 study by Google, the CEB, and Motista tested the impact of over 70 brand benefits on a broad range of commercial outcomes. Those benefits were grouped according to whether they represented business value or personal value. The study found personal value has twice the impact of business value in B2B purchasing decisions.[i]

So, how can we engage our B2B prospects as emotional beings without being blatantly obvious about it – without making our marketing content overtly emotion-driven, like a B2C TV ad?

Consider the following 5 techniques for engaging prospects’ emotions with your content.

1. Storytelling

For centuries, storytelling has been the human species’ favorite and most effective means of communication. Throughout history, the main purpose of storytelling has always been to share narratives that hold deeper meaning.

Storytelling engages the emotions as well as the mind. People readily relate to stories, because they’re a form we’re highly familiar with. And marketers benefit because people become invested in stories. Once they start a story, they tend to keep reading because they want to find out what happens in the end!

Common storytelling forms that can be effective in B2B marketing include anecdotes, vignettes and case studies.

An anecdote, as you know, is a short narrative, usually based on a single, real-life event. Your sales and customer service staff likely have customer experience anecdotes you can use in your marketing content. Just ask for them. Better yet, ask them to email you any little customer stories they find useful and check back with them regularly.

Vignettes are close relatives of anecdotes. Merriam-Webster defines a vignette, in the context of storytelling, as “a short descriptive literary sketch” or “a brief incident or scene (as in a play or movie)”. I use the term vignette to mean a small, made-up story used to illustrate a point, situation or use case. Vignettes tend to be generalizations or composites of typical customer experiences.

Case studies – also known as customer success stories – are a form we’re all familiar with. Much longer that anecdotes or vignettes, case studies are detailed accounts of a specific customer’s experience with a given product or service. We’ll look at case studies in more detail a little later.

2. Analogies

An analogy is a frequently used storytelling technique, not a story form like an anecdote or a vignette. Analogies are comparisons of two otherwise unlike things based on the resemblance of a specific aspect.

Analogies can be useful when explaining something our audience might not be familiar with. Making a comparison between something you’ve just explained and something the already well known to your readers can help them better understand what you’ve just told them.

One of my clients gave me a great analogy recently. He had been explaining to me the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The PCI DSS requires merchants and service providers who process large volumes of credit card transactions annually to have a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) perform a yearly assessment of their data security measures. When he had finished, he said,

“Think of it like your taxes. You don’t get an annual reminder that your taxes are due. You’re expected to know when they’re due and submit your return on time. But when the IRS sends you a letter that says ‘Your taxes were due a year and a half ago; they need to be in by tomorrow,’ it’s kind of a similar situation.”

What makes this analogy emotional is that we’re all aware of the consequences of not taking the tax man seriously. The credit card brands are equally serious about PCI DSS compliance.

3. Dialogue

A dialogue is a short snippet of conversation with a customer. Dialogues are like anecdotes and vignettes but are usually briefer and contain only conversation. They can draw on real interactions or hypothetical ones. As with other storytelling techniques, use of dialogue within marketing content is meant to engage prospects on an emotional level by putting them in a customer’s shoes.

Dialogue is an especially effective technique for service companies whose employees have a lot of direct contact with customers. It can help show prospects what it’s like to work with your firm.

4. Customer testimonials and quotes

A staple of direct marketing for decades, customer quotes and testimonials are old standbys that are just as effective online as they are off.

In B2B, customer quotes frequently express how a business purchase provided personal benefits to those within the organization – in terms of making jobs easier, lowering stress etc. – rather than focusing strictly on business benefits.

Like anecdotes, customer testimonials and quotes don’t just grow on trees. They need to be found and collected. Work with your sales pros and other customer-facing colleagues to solicit testimonials and quotes in post-purchase contact with customers. Third-party testimonials from people just like themselves often strike emotional chords with prospects.

5. Case studies

Case studies are not just a credibility tool. They’re also great vehicles for tapping into customer emotion and demonstrating personal value.

Unfortunately, marketers often fail to leverage their case studies to those ends. Too many companies put the focus of their case studies on themselves and their offerings. In effect, they publish company success stories rather than customer success stories.

The solution here is to focus on an individual: your customer contact most heavily involved with your solution. Make him or her the hero of your story. Show your solution’s personal value to the hero as well as the business value it provides her company.

To reveal the personal value your solution brought your hero, you’ll need to search for it in your customer interview. Casey Hibbard, author of Stories that Sell, recommends asking open-ended questions like the following, which are specifically aimed at eliciting emotional comments: [ii]

  1. Tell me about a time when it was clear things needed to change. (This helps you get a quote about the pain of the previous situation.)
  2. What was going through your head at the time? (Here, you encourage the interviewee to think back on the experience.)
  3. Tell me about an a-ha moment when it was clear things had changed for the better. (This spurs the individual to come up with a specific anecdote about the positive change.)

Finally, remember you can get additional emotional mileage out of your case studies by reusing them in other content. Summarized, they can highlight personal value in white papers, feature articles and long-form content. You can also include excerpts or customer quotes from case studies in shorter pieces, like blog posts, when you want to show the human benefits of your solutions.

Takeaway Points

B2B buyers make business purchases for personal, emotional reasons as well as rational business reasons. Often, the former trump the latter when it comes to the final decision.

So, as B2B marketers, we want to engage our prospects’ emotions as well as their logical minds.

Five techniques that can help our marketing content engage on an emotional level are”

  1. Storytelling
  2. Analogies
  3. Dialogue
  4. Customer quotes and testimonials
  5. Case studies

Next Steps

Need help creating content like white papers, case studies and trade journal articles that engage your prospects emotions and highlight the personal value of your offerings as well as their business value? Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or email me at


[i]   From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands, The Corporate Executive Board, 2013.

[ii]   Hibbard, Casey, 3 Questions to Capture Customer Emotions, Compelling Cases, 2018.

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