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Why B2B should feel less like business - and more like poetry.

By Taylor Cole

I love poetry. When I have a few free minutes in my day-to-day, you’ll often find me jotting down ideas for poems in my phone, watching spoken word videos on YouTube, or reading the latest poetry collection I’ve picked up from the local bookstore.

Recently a friend and I were discussing a poet who has quickly risen in popularity over the past few years. This poet has had books on The New York Times Best Sellers list, has sold millions of copies of her collections, and has become a household name for writers and readers in the U.S. and abroad.

Despite how beloved she has become to many readers, this particular writer’s poems have never resonated with me… at all. While talking with my friend about how I’ve been unable to connect with this writer’s work, she agreed that the poetry was lacking, and thoughtfully articulated the reason why:

“It sometimes feels like she’s saying the most obvious or the prettiest thing she could say—like she’s only sitting on layer one most of the time when what I’m interested in is layer four or five.”

From my friend’s perspective, what this poet lacks is depth—and when it comes to poetry, neither of us are interested in surface level sentiments.

I think many of us can apply this desire for depth to most aspects of our lives. I don’t watch surface level movies unless I want to be put to sleep. I try to avoid surface level conversations unless I can’t think of anything better to talk about. And I’m not interested in working with or buying from surface level businesses because I’m trying to curate a life of meaning.

In our last blog post, one of our co-founders, Lenora Rand, discussed why it’s so important for B2C companies to have meaning. But meaning isn’t only necessary for consumer-facing companies. Meaning is also imperative for businesses that work directly with other businesses. Here are four reasons why.

Reason #1: You’re a single step in your customer’s journey.

With the rise of online shopping, buyers and sellers are now directly interacting less and less often. Think about it—when you buy something online, it’s rare that you actually contact a business directly to ask questions or get information about a product or service. Instead, you’re much more likely to scour google, read customer reviews, and watch videos about the product or service you want to buy. In an age of digital consumerism, we limit human interaction as much as possible.

In a buyer’s journey to their purchase, the business itself is often one of the last stops. According to Think with Google, most buyers are nearly 60 percent of the way through their purchasing process before they interact with the supplier at all. This means that businesses don’t interact with buyers until the buyer is already well into their decision-making process or has already made their decision—which means businesses have far fewer opportunities to convince potential buyers of their desirability.

Because businesses now get less of a say in the decision making process, they need to make sure that they’re known as an option well before they ever interact with buyers. So what can your business do to stand out and make sure you’re on the map?

Build a business that has meaning.

Meaning is what makes you you. It’s what makes you unique, and it’s what will capture the attention of buyers. Ultimately, meaning is your foot in the door that can persuade prospects to do business with you.

Reason #2: You’re going to be working with millennials—and millennials aren’t going to settle.

In 2015, a Think with Google study found that almost half of B2B decision makers were millennials. So even if your business doesn’t currently employ a lot of millennials (a choice you may want to rethink), you will encounter us in the businesses you work with pretty regularly. And in order to maintain good relationships with the millennials in these businesses, you’ll have to prove to us that working with you means something positive for the world.

In our last blog post, Lenora talked about millennials and the high level of importance they place on meaning. As a millennial myself, I’ve found this to be completely true.

I’m currently three-years-fresh out of college, so I have a lot of friends who are in the early days of their careers, and a lot of our conversations center around what we’re all looking for in a job. Of course, we’re dreaming of jobs with flexibility and upward mobility, but the topic that comes up most in these discussions—even with my less overtly career-driven friends—is meaning. When we’re scouring job boards or asking around for leads, there are few things that excite us more (well, other than maybe a living wage) than a brand that gets at the human element and provides its employees with a sense of purpose.

Millennials grew up watching our parents and grandparents working the same stuffy office jobs for years and years, and while we respect the work they did and the sacrifices they made, most of us have decided that that’s not the kind of life we want to live. We’re looking for something else—something more.

And that “something more” we’re searching for is a life lived doing good. We’re watching the world, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better—so we want to spend our days using our time and skills to do our part to change that, if we can. We want our jobs to be more than just jobs. We want to use whatever power we have in them to do something that feels like it matters—something that’s not adding to the negativity around us but is instead an act, however small, to make things better.

Reason #3: We’re all looking for emotional connections—everywhere.

In the Oscar-winning movie, Her, Joaquin Phoenix’s character, after going on his first (unsuccessful) date post-divorce, lays on his bed and laments:

“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I'm ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I'm not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I've already felt.”

This scene feels like a punch to the gut every time I see it. It’s such a powerful testament to the underlying quest we’re all on, often without even realizing we’re on it—the quest to feel, and to feel deeply.

Emotion is how we connect. We form our tightest bonds with the people who have seen us at our highest highs and lowest lows. Our favorite music is the music that makes us cry in the car or dance wildly around the house. And, often without even realizing it, we become loyal to the brands and businesses that don’t just sell us a product or service but make us feel like working with them carries deeper meaning than a simple business transaction.

When it comes to making meaning for your business, emotion will be the element that drives your purpose home. According to CEB’s 2009 customer experience survey, only 14 percent of buyers see something unique enough in most brands that they would want to pay for. Another CEB analysis shows that buyers aren’t interested in value propositions. Not all buyers speak your language, and what your brand may see as valuable doesn’t always translate. But if you can make meaning through emotional connection, buyers are much more likely to choose you—and ultimately to stick around.

Reason #4: If you want to work with meaningful brands, you need to be a meaningful brand.

We’re all drawn to brands with a clearly defined purpose, even if we’re unaware of it. Chances are, some of the brands and businesses that you want to work with most already have a strong sense of meaning. And if you want to collaborate with a meaningful brand—they’ll expect your brand to be meaningful, too.

It’s a beautiful idea if you think about it—businesses with purpose working together to do good. That’s the kind of collaboration we love to see—the kind that makes the world better.

At SmallGood we’ve worked with all kinds of brands on defining, clarifying, and communicating their purpose. We’d love to help you do that as well, so we’ve compiled a guide to help you start bringing out the meaning and purpose in your B2B brand. You can find the free PDF here.

Oh, and if you happen to be a poetry lover, like me, feel free to contact us at with a poem that’s inspiring you these days (extra points if it’s one about finding meaning). We’d love to hear from you.

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