good b2b tech websites don’t use technology…

Rigid power tools, anyone? Early example of emotion in b2b marketing.

I was struck by this when I was pitching a website revamp project to a company in the satellite business.  Some of competitors had great, emotional websites that told compelling stories about their technology; some were really mediocre.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking:

Emotion? Stories? In a business to business website?  

Using puppies to market waste treatment equipment?  Supermodels draped over supercomputers? 

Emotion is for B2C marketing.  B2C marketing is emotion.  You aren’t buying a beer, or a car or an air freshener.  You’re buying a babe / boy magnet.   Peace and quiet at home.  The fountain of youth.   Or some kickass outdoor adventure. 

B2B marketing is fact based and data driven.  It’s engineers, doing rigorous side by side comparisons, using well defined purchasing criteria …

Isn’t this sexy? Fact based, product-centric. Good if website visitors know what they want.

There is some truth to this.  B2B customers are paid to gather information and make well informed, non-impulsive purchasing decisions.   B2B websites need to help them do this.

Many B2B websites take the “product museum” approach: a picture of the “box”, surrounded by facts.  No emotion, just the data.  The problem is this overlooks what sales people know: People buy from people.

I would buy chemicals from these people. - from BASF's homepage.
From BASF’s website: I would buy chemicals from these people (


B2B customers’ decisions are heavily influenced by emotion: who they trust, who they like, who they want to work with, who looks like them.  They make decisions using emotion and justify with facts afterwards

And back to website design: human brains are hardwired by evolution to respond to color, movement, animals and human faces.  Our survival depended on being able to spot our fellow cavemen or a crouching lion.

Don’t take my word for it.  Here are three B2B technology websites from leaders in their industries that tell a story visually.

Caterpillar.  People and technology working together in challenging environments.  I could write a book about this website.

Caterpillar’s beautiful website. Note the symmetry of copy and image, the subtle “V” in the middle of the image. It’s as if we’ve stumbled onto the worksite. Workers do not face viewer, so as not to upstage copy.

Cisco Systems does something hard: it uses humor effectively.

Cisco: Confident silicon valley zuckerberg wannabe, or overwhelmed rust belt IT pro — click here, and we can help, no matter what side of the tech divide you are on.

The copy, layout and drama created by the similar but different side by side images.  You could imagine these characters in a big bang spinoff.

Does this mean it’s easy to be the next Cisco Systems? No. But adding visual elements that tells a story about how your product or technology is used or makes a difference to customers makes your website powerful.



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