By Laureen Peck
Marketers focused on promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, demand response and other sustainability initiatives learned something new when the New Accenture Survey Results came out recently. Not only did the study find that sustainability initiatives are becoming an integrated part of the majority of business operations today, it indicated that old perceptions of what motivates business decision-makers to operate more sustainably may not apply.
Marketers have assumed for years that business audiences are motivated almost solely by logical, feature-based considerations. It is no different when it comes to marketing sustainable solutions, services, or products. Looking at most trade magazines or online ads on business websites today, it is obvious that marketers appear to believe that business decision-makers tasked with purchasing or researching this type of product are motivated almost exclusively by mandated regulations and/or budgetary concerns.
The majority of advertisements that promote sustainable solutions, whether they pertain to energy efficiency retrofitting for buildings, energy efficiency products, renewable energy services or some other sustainability-producing product or service, rely on “safe” messaging and images. Most of these types of ads have headlines that say something like, “Save X percent on your building’s energy bills!” and use the same tired imagery over and over again. There are literally hundreds of ads online and off that utilize the same stock photography or images such as pictures of solar panels, wind turbines or buildings with tree symbols on them. Because most of the ads look, read or sound the same, there isn’t much to engage business decision-makers enough to make them want to pick up the phone or go to the website for more information.
There is a real opportunity that is being missed by most marketers to steal market share by stealing business peoples’ hearts. Case in point; although Accenture’s survey results showed that reducing energy and material costs was a certainly a top driver for business decision-makers, the number one motivation for this audience was their genuine concern for the environment and society. These decision-makers worry about the future of their children. They want to live in a healthier environment. They want to be heroes at their companies and in their own eyes. In other words, they are human beings who care about more than dollars and cents alone.
What this means is that if B-to-B marketers want to differentiate their brands’ sustainability-producing offerings over their competitors’, they cannot afford to ignore the deeper motivations their potential customers have. Decision-makers may use facts to justify their desire to buy a particular solution or to sell it through to other stake holders in their companies, but it is the emotional connection between them and the brand that will make them feel compelled to purchase one brand’s solution over another. The bottom line is one should not assume that engineers or CFOs only care about the bottom line. They have hearts to go with those minds. Business to business advertising particularly when it is trying to persuade a person to make a significant purchase needs to create a strong connection between that person and the brand, even if the person is sitting behind a desk. END