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SaaS Marketing Strategy

30. 01. 2018

Why emotional targeting is the hidden ingredient your SaaS Company needs

emotional targeting in marketing

Every business out there is constantly thinking about how to increase its sales, profits, revenue and growth. A recent case study by Conversioner revealed that emotional triggers can increase a company’s revenue by 300%.


Emotions are the most powerful feelings that have a grand impact on people’s lives, including their buying habits and day to day decision making. Emotional targeting is a marketing technique, which is rooted in the fact that over 90% of people’s decisions (including purchase intent) are emotionally driven, and uses various emotional triggers in order to “win over” consumers.


All of that effort is great, but the thing is that both B2B and B2C consumers are some of the most selfish personalities you will ever encounter during your time spent in business. They don’t care about your business growth or market share: the one and only thing that they care about are their own benefits; what they can get out of you. And, the most important part here, is that those benefits aren’t even tangible (or rather, there is a lot more to that).

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The SaaS market is oversaturated today, with a countless number of similar companies offering roughly the same products, with similar features and benefits.

With so many products in the market though, what makes consumers choose one over other?

This is where emotions step in

This is also why storytelling is so powerful. It affects the readers and listeners on a deeper level, creating a close bond and a powerful connection – in other words, creating emotional engagement that drives people to make purchases.


A study published in Harvard Business Review found that emotions are what drive marketing campaigns to viral status. Another study by Pringle & Field has found that emotional campaigns outperform on virtually every metric: profit, revenue, conversions and market share.


Still, with all of this being said, many business owners are not utilizing one of the most powerful marketing techniques out there. Why?

The common misunderstanding of business today

The main problem businesses have today is that they don’t quite understand how the ways you do business have changed in the last 10-20 years. Before, businesses and brands had all the power in the world and they got to choose what to say, how to say it and where to say it – and the best part is, nobody could argue with them. If a business told you that something is good and you need it, then you had better hurry up and buy that.


Steve Jobs once said that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” and he was right. Before, people really didn’t know what they wanted and thanks to being an extraordinary user experience expert, Jobs drove Apple to success.


However, Apple isn’t about giving people what they what, because people don’t know anymore. In fact, Apple is one of the most emotional and user-centered brands in the world. Their tagline from 1997 says it all - “think different”. For people, this means they are different if they use Apple products, they are cooler, they are winning at life better than the ordinary guys.


Today Apple has built such a massive army of blind followers (aka Apple zombies) that are so emotionally attached to the brand, they simply don’t care what Apple offers them next: they will buy anything, because they are different and they feel happy when they buy/use Apple products. If there is somebody to learn from in terms of emotional branding, it’s definitely Apple.


You might think that I hate the brand because I mentioned “Apple zombies”, but you’ll be wrong. I own an iPhone and I completely refuse to use/buy any other smartphone. Can I logically explain the reason behind this?


Not really, and that’s not important to me. Am I an apple zombie? Maybe not as much as some other people, ready to sit in front of the store for four days to buy a phone, but yeah, a zombie I am. Do I care? Eh, not much.


The thing is, the business world doesn’t work like it used to 20 years ago. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. When you tell the market about your product and its features the way that TV show talked about the miracle blade knives, people remember and associate it with all the worst experiences in their lives: how they have been misled and maybe even cheated by brands that used the same techniques. That alone is enough to make such a powerful blockade inside their brain that they will never buy from you if you continue going down that route.


Consumers are smarter now. They know what they want. Your job is to point them in the right direction and make them choose you. If a consumer knows he wants a toaster, it’s settled, he just needs to pick which brand’s toaster he will choose, and you bet your ass they will use emotions to choose it, not logic or functionality or some other rational thing.


If you think that this is only my personal opinion, let me stop you. This is proven science. A. Damasio’s recent study has proven that emotions are the main factor for making any decisions (including buying decisions), and logic is only there to justify that decision later – this is simply a formula that the brain creates, in order not to go mad or feel guilty after making a purchase.


buyers decisions

The study has examined the behavior of people who had brain damage in the area responsible for emotions (they basically didn’t feel anything). The study found that these people couldn’t even make the simplest decision on their own of what to eat: sandwich or pasta.


The way of things have changed today. If you want to sell something to consumers, you can’t tell them what to buy – they know that already. Instead, you need to tell them why they should buy from you and not others.


TL DR: When people buy a product, they don’t just purchase the tangible benefits, the increased functionality or the high quality: they buy the experience and aim to become better versions of themselves with the help of your product. Obviously, no product can deliver this, and that is exactly why the product itself becomes irrelevant. All the power of successfully driving purchase intent rests with your brand and the ability to show consumers why and how they will become the better versions of themselves that they crave so much.

Benefits of emotional targeting

Emotions create a strong bond with the brand.


When it comes to advantages of emotional targeting, there are quite a few examples of brands successfully utilizing those in their marketing campaigns.


We have already mentioned Apple, and even brands like Google who, at first sight, have nothing to do with emotions, have started to leverage the power of emotions in their ads and marketing messages.


Another very successful and notable mention is Nike. This brand has successfully maintained and grown market share consistently, even with so many big competitors like Puma, Adidas and some of the “newly risen talents” like Under Armour.


For years, all of Nike’s marketing activities, including images, messages, TV commercials, etc. have been telling consumers that they can “win against all odds and stretch the limits of possibility with the help of their products, and do that in style”.


It’s not about the products per se, their quality or comfortability of usage: all the other competitors offer the same thing (with your eyes closed, can you really tell if you’re wearing a pair of Reebok or Nike?). It’s about becoming a better person, a better version of what you are today and this kind of intangible benefit is worth a lot more than simply good running shoes.


In case you think that emotional targeting only works for sports products or everyday consumer technology (like Apple), here is another ad that has shaken the internet lately with its overwhelming amount of emotions, and all consumers claiming that it’s one of the only ads they never skip.


chewing gum.jpg


The product? – It’s chewing gum.


Emotional targeting lets you control consumers’ emotions


In 2014, Facebook revealed that they had tampered with around 500,000 users’ news feeds for emotional research reasons, altering the number of positive and negative posts they saw each day.


The study found that people tend to mimic the emotions they get when looking at the posts. The positive posts received a lot of shares and positive responses, while negative ones were often just skipped/overlooked. Hence, to increase user engagement in light of this finding, Facebook has now included the “sad” and “angry” buttons in addition to the iconic “like”.


This proves that emotions can be used to control a user and lead him or her in the direction you want them to go. This is why it’s extremely important to take into account psychological triggers when thinking about your SaaS marketing campaigns. Most of the decisions people make happen unconsciously, and it takes only about three seconds to capture attention and persuade a person that your content (landing page, website, blog, video, etc.) is worth taking a look at.

Create memorable experiences for consumers

Memories are some of the most precious things in our lives.


Memories (both negative and positive) are what stay with us through our lives as years roll by. Most of us remember the first time we tried something crazy, our first romantic date, first career success/failure and a million other things that warm our hearts during cold nights.


To make use of memorable experiences, you need to associate your brand (not your product!) with such kind of life events. Consumers need to have the same (or close to) feelings when they choose your brand, as they have a memory of. The memorable experience you want to use, of course, depends on your consumers and their lifestyle.


For example, Coca-Cola has long associated their brand with happiness and even rolled out the tagline “Open Happiness” since 2009 for all printed and online marketing campaigns. The award winning campaign that has lasted for about 7 years now told people one thing: if you want to be happy, you need to drink Coca-Cola.

coca cola marketing

Happy memories are the most cherished and welcomed memories for all people, and they tend to remember these each time there is an occasion to. This is why the campaign was so powerful.


In 2016, Coca-Cola announced a new approach to their branding strategy, shifting to a global approach for marketing their brand and changing the tagline to “taste the feeling”.


Coca-Cola’s CMO Marcos de Quinto, who brought the “one brand for all” idea forward, said: “We are reinforcing Coca-Cola for everybody, it’s a brand with different variants, all of which share the same value and iconography. People want their Coke in different ways, but no matter what they choose, they will still get the same Coca-Cola brand taste and excitement experience: great.”


Notice how Coca-Cola’s branding isn’t about the product itself even a tiny bit: it’s a brand, an experience and it's about excitement. This is exactly what you want to achieve with emotional targeting.

How to use emotional targeting?

Emotions can be targeted and manipulated in many ways. The best approach is to use a combination of those ways including colors, written messages, visuals, etc.

Color psychology and emotions

Different colors have different, subconscious meanings to them that can be used to emphasize one emotion over the other. For example, red is the color of passion, power, ambition, determination and anger. Green, on the other hand, is the color of balance and harmony, love for nature, family and friends. Using a combination of different colors, while also making some colors stand out and reinforcing those with other contributing colors, can have a powerful emotional effect on your consumers.


Moreover, when colors are used in combination with the right marketing messages, they reinforce each other and make the emotional effect on consumers even stronger.


Just like you can use different colors and messaging, you can target different emotions with the help of basic psychology. Here are some ideas that you can utilize in your emotional targeting campaigns:


  • Fear – people fear of getting left behind, not fitting in with their surroundings, missing out on something important. Show them why they shouldn’t miss something associated with your brand
  • Trust – make your brand seem trustworthy to consumers and ensure them that their data and sensitive information is safe with you.
  • Belonging – people are social creatures. They always want to be and feel a part of something bigger. Show them how your brand unites people around a greater idea.
  • Competition – all people naturally want to succeed and be better at something than others. They want to show the rest of the world that they have achieved something greater than everyone else. Show how your brand will help them achieve that.


Emotional targeting increases retention, the foundation of SaaS success.


By now, you are probably asking yourself “so what does all of this have to do with my SaaS company?”


For a SaaS company, one of the most vital things is to extend customer LTV. The longer you can maintain an existing customer, the higher your profit margins will climb.


Emotional targeting is one of the most effective ways to make this happen. When trying to increase consumer retention, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration:

Cognitive biases

Cognitive biases are certain “bugs” in our brain that influence us in a manner that we, most of the time, are not aware of and alter our rational judgment in one way or another. There are a lot of variations of cognitive biases, so the following are a few that can be used to influence consumer retention.


Cognitive dissonance – There is a certain timeframe during which every consumer starts to second guess and question his or her purchase after the fact. This can happen if the person doesn’t receive the product on the spot or if it takes too long to realize its value (in the case of SaaS).


This can be one of the main reasons for decreased consumer retention since when consumers can’t see value for a long time, all of the effort that was put into making the consumer complete the purchase slowly becomes irrelevant.


To counter this “bug”, it’s important to keep consumers constantly updated on how soon they will get the product or, in case of SaaS, the value of the product.


Choice supportive bias – To put it simply, people tend to justify their purchase decisions with rationalized thinking after the purchase is complete. Even if the purchase was a mistake, we tend to forget about that and look for ways to justify our purchasing decision inside our minds. The bias is so strong, that even when you find something better after you made your initial purchase, your brain will still look for ways to justify your initial decision.


This is an excellent opportunity for SaaS businesses to capitalize on. Reinforce customers’ initial buying decisions with the help of email campaigns and continuously show them the value they purchased, along with the product, to increase their retention.


Status quo bias – People are creatures of habit. Once they trust a brand, make a purchase and like what they get, it’s difficult to change their perception towards that brand (assuming nothing that will make consumers unhappy happens). They already trust your company, and don’t want to risk trusting somebody else.


You can solidify their trust and emotional aspects of choosing your brand with the help of social proof or any other means to make them see that their initial choice was a smart decision.


Personalized messages and communication are another great way to strengthen the already existing relationship between your company and the customer, and offer content that is valuable to consumers on a personal level.


Hyperbolic discounting – There is an old Russian proverb that roughly translates into “It’s better to have a small bird in your hand, than a huge one in the sky.” When a consumer is faced with two different rewards, he or she will pick the one that is easier to obtain and faster to receive. This means that whenever you offer incentives, you need to think about something that is relatively fast and easy to get. It’s not about the incentive itself: it’s about how soon consumers can get it.


When we put all of the above together, we get one simple, yet very powerful message: Whatever products or services you sell, it’s the story and the emotions behind it, the experience you offer and the value that you bring that matters, not the product itself.


It’s about showing your consumers the way how to become what they want – a better version of themselves. For different businesses and different consumers, this means a completely different thing.


Your job is to find the emotional benefit that your SaaS brand is associated with and offer it to your consumers. That is how you will stand out from the competition, make consumers choose you and most importantly, acquire not just buyers, but loyal followers who will stick with you until the very end.


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Artash Arakelyan
CEO at Incredo. 6 years experience in internet marketing and marketing obsessed. Always thinking of traveling in exotic countries and wishing I could eat couture cupcakes all day long. My birthday is on Dec 17 and yes I don't mind anonymous birthday gifts!
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