B2B Lust

It is possible to create a passionate desire in the minds of B2B technology buyers, but beware of lustful nerds.

Humans, including IT people, are of two minds, namely the practical and the desirous. We all need and want things, even in our daily jobs. Back when I was running big iron for a national retailer (my pre-marketing guru days), I had a boss who had a messianic drive to convert all of IT to UNIX. I took fiendish joy in finding the precise moments to demonstrate why it was, in the short run, foolish and extravagant, thwarting his sundry attempts to drive my proprietary platforms into non-use. But I did save the company millions in unnecessary short-term costs, so I don’t feel too bad.

My boss had UNIX lust, and it overrode his objective thinking. This is a major part of consumer marketing – generating irrational desire for products. Take a husband, wife and their new baby car shopping, and the divide between the rational (she wants a minivan) and the lustful (he wants a Dodge Charger) becomes instantly apparent.

Similar mechanics play in B2B marketing. People want things. Often they want things their own way, and they make corporate purchasing decisions to fulfill their personal want. My old boss was willing to spend whatever it took to achieve an IT environment that was top-to-bottom UNIX. His judgement was clouded by a passionate craving.

For SuSE Linux, an early Silicon Strategies Marketing client, we did something similar. Using deep interview processes, we explored what CxOs wanted in IT, then paired various elements of Linux with those desires. The key was starting with desire, then doing nothing to interfere with that desire. Instead we amplified it, justified it, and presented products to make it happen. When CIOs said they wanted their staffs to have deeper understanding of fewer technologies, we told them that story with a Linux ribbon tied around it.

Alignment is the key to B2B product lust, because of people like me, the ones that insert practicality into uncomfortable places. There is a constant battle within organizations between what individuals want, the organizational mission, and what is practical. You cannot help someone achieve their personal desires if it conflicts with corporate mission or if your solution is insanely impractical. But you can show how your product helps buyers obtain their vision. Begin by understanding their lust and organization’s needs, then transfer that lust to product features that satisfy both. You obtain significantly unfair advantage in doing so.

There is, however, one major reason not to do this. If you are successful in leveraging personal desires to achieve B2B sales, and your products do not make long-term sense for the organization, then you damage your brand. You make your quarterly numbers, but you poison the well for up-selling, cross-selling and buzz building. Unhappy customers include people in the customer company that were not your sales target, and they count.


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