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Mind Over Market

When note taking app KustomNote rebranded itself as Transpose, “the easiest way to run your business,” they had good reason to think it would be successful.

The B2C startup had a following of over 90,000 users who were using the app for anything from organizing schedules to setting up vaccinations for their kids. Transpose pivoted to become a comprehensive B2B digital management platform and secured $1.4 million in funding…and their journey ended just two years later.


In the transitioning from a B2C to a B2B strategy, Transpose lost sight of what initially endeared their app to users in the first place. The application may have changed—organizing business as opposed to life—but Transpose was still speaking to individual people seeking to organize their lives. 

Transpose’s short-lived pivot illustrates a common pitfall for B2B companies: failing to understand and address the psychological needs of their target buyer. What Transpose forgot—and what many B2B companies never learn—is that businesses don’t buy things, people do. Inspiring them to action is impossible without a story that both creates value for the business and for them as individual stakeholders.

Each human decision-maker in a business has distinct needs, desires, and motivations. The story a company tells must resonate with these psychological drivers. The rational case for a product or service can be made to the business, but individual buyers will never embrace that without a compelling narrative that resonates with them individually.

A recent survey of over 2,000 office workers whose role involves working with B2B companies found that customers prefer interactions that fuel their psychological needs, regardless of whether they require more time or cost more money.

One question asked if respondents would rather have a problem be solved with a single solution or to be offered a few solutions. When asked to choose, over half preferred the opportunity to make their own selection. The experience of choice was viewed as desirable, even when it did not provide additional utility and took more time—the antithesis of a purely rational buyer.

When asked if they prefer a service provider who solves a problem for them or teaches them how to solve a problem without contacting the service provider, over 60 percent of respondents opted for the latter. 

Another question asked if respondents would rather “speak” with a chatbot—and have their problem solved in five minutes—or speak with a human and have their problem solved in twice as much time. The human option was preferred by nearly 75 percent of participants. And when respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of B2B service providers they interact with, 70 percent of those that provide “good” service were associated with a vendor that knows them personally. 

These findings are consistent with the Self-determination Theory, which suggests that all humans have motivations that are driven by three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy refers to feeling one has choice and is willingly endorsing one’s behavior. Competence refers to the experience of mastery and being effective in one’s activity. Relatedness refers to the need to feel connected and a sense of belongingness with others.

A brand’s strategic narrative should always be customer-focused and designed to empower the buyer. By addressing these three psychological needs as part of their story, businesses can craft messaging that will resonate with individual B2B buyers. 

Upwork understands that while people value expertise, they don’t want to be told what to do. The online freelancing platform connects businesses with skilled professionals from around the world and helps them find specialized expertise to scale their workforce as needed. Upwork has built their strategic narrative around giving businesses the autonomy to choose the best-suited professionals for their projects. This emphasis on autonomy not only facilitates efficient talent acquisition but also empowers businesses to achieve their goals with confidence and precision.

The platform emphasizes this ability to provide their users with a breadth of choice across their messaging. Take their successful B2B ad campaign “Hey, World.” In a series of short animated videos and eye-catching billboards, Upwork called out household names and brands such as Elon Musk and Amazon to explain how they could benefit from a freelancer from Upwork.

Through this campaign, Upwork positioned itself as a solution provider that understands the evolving needs of businesses, offering them the freedom and flexibility to find the right talent for their projects. The campaign compellingly captured what anchors the Upwork story: offering businesses the simplicity of choice rather than dictating their needs..

While product functionality is crucial to establish credibility in later-stage sales and marketing efforts, individuals’ inherent desire to acquire new skills and knowledge must not be overlooked. HubSpot, a CRM platform that provides software and support to businesses, taps into the psychological inclination of competence by making education a core value in their strategic narrative. The company’s culture code plainly states: “We believe success comes through educating customers, not exploiting them.” 

Hubspot helps customers build competence through educational content throughout their platform, even offering free courses and certifications on their partner platform, HubSpot Academy. 

HubSpot’s approach to their story is rooted in the understanding that B2B buyers are not only seeking solutions to their immediate needs but also aspire to enhance their expertise and capabilities.

In one recent campaign, the platform promoted its feature that allows businesses to create buyer personas and segment their customer base effectively. 

By emphasizing competence in their strategic narrative, HubSpot not only showcases their platform’s capabilities but also reinforces their commitment to empowering businesses through knowledge and skill-building opportunities. This feature is free, which also allows prospective B2B buyers to try out the platform without signing up for an account, tying hands-on learning experiences with fostering a deeper trust in HubSpot.

As for fulfilling the psychological need of relatedness, it’s hard to find a B2B company more successful than LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s strategic narrative is tied directly to their mission: to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. This mission is lived out throughout the platform with features and language that foster a sense of belonging and community among its users.

For example, LinkedIn rolled out Newsletters in 2022, which allowed company pages to create their own newsletters in the app. According to the platform, Newsletters are a “new way to build communities around topics that matter most to your customers with recurring Articles from your Page that members can subscribe to.” 

Newsletters is another in a long line of features including Live and Groups that underscores LinkedIn’s strategic narrative of fostering relatedness. By enabling companies to share industry insights and thought leadership directly with their audience, LinkedIn not only enhances engagement but also strengthens the sense of community and belonging among professionals on the platform. This initiative emphasizes the platform’s role not just as a networking tool but as a hub for meaningful connections and shared knowledge within the B2B sphere.

Stories have always been used to engage and persuade audiences. Strategic narratives provide a B2B band with the framework for how to communicate their unique value and engage the buyer at each stage of the funnel. But when they’re crafted with the individual customer in mind, they can become more: inspirational.

Understanding the intersection of psychology and business is key to crafting stories customers want to hear. Whether it’s understanding the need for choices, acknowledging the innate desire for continuous learning, or recognizing the importance of human connection in decision-making processes, B2B marketers should leverage these insights to craft compelling strategic narratives and engage with their target audience on a deeper level. By prioritizing autonomy, competence, and relatedness, businesses can forge meaningful connections with their prospective customers, driving loyalty, advocacy, and ultimately, growth.

Anya Reiser is an Engagement Team Lead at Woden. Read our extensive guide on how to craft your organization’s narrative, or send us an email at to uncover what makes you essential.