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Opinion and Insight

Confident Optimism: The Feeling That Matters Most for Forging Successful Business Relationships

New report, via gyro in association with the Financial Times, reveals the feelings that drive business decisions

Confident Optimism: The Feeling That Matters Most for Forging Successful Business Relationships

While it is easy for marketers to get distracted by the power of data and technology, a new report reminds us what really drives business decisions: feelings.

“The Business Feeling Index: The Feelings that Move Business Forward” report, conducted by the Financial Times Commercial Insight Group in collaboration with leading global business-to-business advertising agency gyro, asked FT readers across the globe to express what feelings are crucial for creating successful business relationships.

They say, amid today’s heightened global climate of uncertainty, one feeling has proven to be the most powerful of all: “confident optimism.”


Confident optimism arises when decision makers are not only assured of a company’s expertise, he or she must also feel a strong sense of optimism about what this partner can do for their business.

The Key Builders of Confident Optimism Are:  

Content: Customers need credible proof that businesses are not only experts, but that they will bring innovative thinking to the relationship. That’s why 70% of respondents say thought leadership is the most important element during the research phase. 

Culture: 83% say company culture is among the most important attributes in selecting a partner.

Crisis Management: 86% of respondents say the first moment of friction in a relationship is where you really find out about your partner. Successful handling of the crisis inevitably leads to a stronger relationship.

Communication: More than three-quarters of respondents strongly agreed with the statement that communication is the connective tissue of a business relationship.

Concluding Strongly: 65% say once the relationship is winding down, they want to walk away feeling accomplished.


The Key Killers of Confident Optimism Are:

Uncertainty: The feeling of uncertainty had the most negative impact, per 77% of respondents.

Overpromising: Drivers of uncertainty included overpromising (per 69% of respondents) as well as poor communications (60%) and lack of transparency (53%).

Arrogance: When considering a partner, 69% of respondents were turned off by arrogance. Pushiness also factored highly as a detriment (61%).

Somewhat surprisingly, respondents were indifferent about the size of a company. Only one-third cited being the biggest in the category as important and fewer than half (46%) were impressed with awards.

“The reasons behind the choices we make aren’t easily measured. Real people are tribal and emotional,” said Christoph Becker, global ceo+cco, gyro. “There is much to learn from the honest responses that Financial Times readers shared with us. But one fact is certain: Now, more than ever, marketers must focus on what their customers and prospects are feeling and deliver in a way that makes them feel both confident and optimistic. Human relevance in marketing has never been more valid and more necessary.”

“The Business Feeling Index: The Feelings that Move Business Forward” is a worldwide study of 315 FT readers (director level or above). The findings were supplemented by qualitative research, via Russell Research, as well as interviews with top marketers and the leading academic in the field of emotion in marketing, Columbia University’s Michel Tuan Pham.

To download the report, visit businessfeelingindex.com.