Sentiment Analysis: A Primer for B2B Marketers

sentiment analysisHow do people feel about your company? You may think you know the answer to this question – your products sell well, you’ve gotten some great customer feedback, and your social media posts garner strong engagement. But, if you don’t actively analyze the emotions and attitudes people express about your brand and products, you might be missing the bigger picture.

‘Emotions’ and ‘feelings’ aren’t words that come up often in the B2B world. B2B products tend to be complex and more practical than flashy– so B2B organizations often value logic and reason over emotions.  

But, emotions play a larger role in B2B purchase decisions than you may realize. Consider these statistics (source):

  • 71% of buyers who see a personal value in a B2B product will make a purchase.
  • Personal value is two times more influential on buying decisions than perceived business impact.
  • 68% of buyers who see a personal value in a B2B product will pay a higher price.

This begs the question: If emotional response is so important to buying decisions, how can you measure them? Enter, sentiment analysis.

What is sentiment analysis?

Sentiment analysis is the process of gauging the attitudes, opinions, and emotions an audience expresses about a brand, product, or a specific topic. The goal of this tactic is to leverage the sentiments of customers to improve your marketing strategy.

As a marketing technique, sentiment analysis can be as complex or as simple as you make it. In its most advanced form, it involves implementing an algorithm that monitors conversations and quantifies opinions, attitudes, and emotions based on a predetermined scoring system. But, if you lack the budget for these technologies, fear not. You can still perform sentiment analysis by manually monitoring customer feedback.

Why is sentiment analysis important?

In today’s customer-driven world, it’s more important than ever to understand how customers feel about your brand. Modern buyers demand personalized marketing content and buying experiences– and if your brand doesn’t cater to their needs, they’ll look elsewhere. Sentiment analysis helps you pick up on customer attitudes quickly to tailor your strategy to fit their preferences.

How do you track customer sentiment?

The first step of sentiment analysis is to collect customer sentiment data. If you have a large following across multiple channels, this may seem like a daunting task. But, there are a number of ways to uncover customer attitudes and opinions– regardless of your budget and resources. Here are a few examples:

1. Social listening.

Today, the majority of online conversations take place on social media. For this reason, social listening is a crucial part of sentiment analysis. Social listening is the process of listening to conversations between customers and prospects on social media platforms in order to gain insights about your brand and industry.

Social listening involves tracking keywords and hashtags related to your brand and industry. For the purpose of sentiment analysis, you can find what people are saying about your brand on social media and categorize them based on attitude and emotion.

We’ve covered social listening in the past, so we’ll move on. But, we encourage you to learn more about social listening by reading the following post: Social Listening Best Practices for B2B Marketers.

2. Surveys.

One of the easiest methods to gauge customer sentiment is to survey or poll your customers. Ask your customers or a segment of your audience about their feelings towards your brand. Or, conduct a product survey that focuses less on specific product features and more on their emotional response to them.

Keep in mind, customers answer surveys differently than how they discuss your company ‘behind your back’, so to speak. So, make sure surveys aren’t your only method of sentiment data collection. Rather, use them to fill in the gaps.

3. Direct feedback.

It’s safe to assume your company provides a method for customers to contact you directly. This may include traditional support channels like email, chatbots, and so on. These channels exist as a means to support your customers– but they also contain valuable customer sentiment data.

Consider this scenario: Two customers contact you with a similar question, but express different sentiments. The first customer sends a polite email that seeks clarification about an issue they’re having, while the second customer expresses significant frustration about the same problem.

From a customer service perspective, you may approach these two customers with the same solution. But these opposing sentiments offer important insights into the different ways customers perceive your brand and react to problems.

3. Automated sentiment analysis.

Technology has become increasingly adept at recognizing human emotions. As a result, sentiment analysis is often linked to artificial intelligence. It’s true– there are a number of tools that track and analyze customer sentiment using complex algorithms. These tools commonly use a form of artificial intelligence called natural language processing (NLP) that analyzes human language for opinions, emotions, tone, and context.

But, we caution against fully automating the sentiment analysis process. Even the most complex machine won’t pick up on the subtleties of human language in the way a human can. So, we recommend you build a strategy that combines the efficiency of AI with old-fashioned human expertise.

4 Tips to Leverage Sentiment Analysis

By this point, you should understand what sentiment analysis is and have a good idea of how to collect customer sentiment data. Next up, learn how to use sentiment analysis to improve your marketing strategies. Let’s review four methods:

1. Track campaign effectiveness.

Marketers use a number of metrics to determine the success of a campaign. Maybe your latest campaign yielded a high number of likes, comments, new followers and website traffic. These numbers may look great in a marketing report. But, they rarely paint the full picture of how effective your campaign was.

Sentiment analysis allows you to look beyond simple engagement metrics and discover how your audience truly reacted to a campaign. This method adds a layer of qualitative data to the quantitative marketing metrics you’ve collected, which in turn creates a more realistic depiction of campaign ROI.

Example: Your business recently began to incorporate more video content, including short clips on social media and a demo that auto-plays on your product pages. Engagement and traffic numbers rise, but visitor-to-lead conversion rates drop off – and you can’t figure out why.

So, you examine your audience’s discussions about these recent changes. The short social videos receive great feedback, but there are a lot of negative reactions about the auto-play video on your product pages. Traditional quantitative metrics would’ve never revealed this flaw in your campaign. Sentiment analysis, on the other hand, allows you to identify the problem and make appropriate changes.

2. Improve your buyer personas.

Buyer personas are a marketer’s most trusted tool, as they inform every aspect of your marketing strategy. These profiles of your ideal buyers include basic data like job title and company size, as well as more precise elements like shared pain points and buying habits.

When you track the attitudes and emotions of your customers, you identify more human characteristics to include within your buyer personas. You learn how your prospects and customers respond to different types of content, what topics they get excited about, and so much more. These details flesh out your personas and help you become even more targeted and personalized with your marketing campaigns.

Example: You run an experiment where you track the sentiments of your top 100 buyers for three months. As you learn about their opinions and preferences, you identify a key commonality– many of your best customers speak positively about companies who feature their senior executives in live content like Q&As and demos.

This leads you to uncover a new characteristic to include in your buyer personas: Your top buyers value transparency and want to know the people who lead the companies they’re buying from.

3. Improve product quality.

As with campaign reporting, quantitative metrics alone aren’t an accurate measure of product quality. Only your customers can determine whether a product is a success or failure. Think about it– your newest tool may break sales records, but if many of your customers are underwhelmed by it, was it really a success? Sentiment analysis helps you discover customers’ honest opinions so you can improve your products.

Example: Your company releases a new version of its popular eCommerce platform. It performs well, but many of your customers reported only “moderate” satisfaction in your product surveys. You perform sentiment analysis on a segment of recent customers and discover a number of posts that describe your product’s interface as “annoying” and “ugly”.

So, you work with your design team to make improvements based on customers’ specific criticisms. Then, you reach out to your customers to let them know you appreciate their feedback and have made improvements.

4. Manage crises quickly.

No matter how great your company is, the reality is that problems will occur. The difference between a minor issue and a major crisis depends on how fast you react. Sentiment analysis allows you to recognize a problem in real time and correct it as quickly as possible. Companies that handle crises efficiently earn the loyalty of their audience– while companies that are slow to respond risk losing a customer’s trust forever.

Example: When you think of crisis management, one industry jumps out in particular and that’s airlines. From lost baggage to delayed flights, airline customers are quick to voice complaints online.  Some airlines respond immediately and offer real assistance to the disgruntled customer. Others react slowly or provide no real help to address the customer’s problems. After this negative experience, the airline loses this particular customer to a competitor that has a more positive reputation.

Key Takeaways About Sentiment Analysis

Today’s customers expect brands to truly understand them– not as buyers of products but as humans. For this reason, your marketing strategy must speak to their needs, pain points and goals – but never forget to appeal to their emotions and attitudes as well. Ask yourself: What excites my customers? What angers them? What makes them gain trust– or lose faith– in a brand?

Sentiment analysis helps you see how your brand is perceived, but more importantly, it enriches your knowledge of your customers. Think of sentiment analysis not as a standalone tactic– but rather a tactic that works in tandem with your more traditional marketing campaigns. Attitudes and emotions play an important role in the customer experience– and they should play a role in your marketing strategy, too.

Contact ZoomInfo today to learn how our people information database can improve your marketing efforts.