Accelerating Growth by Humanizing Your B2B Marketing Efforts
There’s a quote, often rightly or wrongly attributed to Maya Angelou, that states something like, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
While it wasn’t meant to pertain to marketing, there’s still something important marketers can draw from it, especially in an age where options abound and purchasing decisions have become more complex than needs and price points.
This is especially true in B2B marketing, where emotion was long considered ancillary to product specs and features. The pervasive thinking was that businesses are buying on practical terms and the marketing needed to reflect that.
However, research in recent years has painted a different picture – one that reveals an important place for emotion and humanizing B2B selling messages. Google found that 50 percent of buyers are more likely to consider a purchase when that person is emotionally connected to a company.
Additionally, Bain & Company developed a new paradigm for the B2B buyer, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that puts emotional connections at the top of the pyramid. Functional values of a business purchase, such as specifications, price and quality, are simply table stakes now, and organizations that master using intangibles in their marketing can differentiate and separate themselves from the competition.
Part of the reason for this shift in buyer thinking is rooted in the consumerization of the business buying process. Buyers are also consumers in their time away from work, and the changing nature of their purchasing experiences on a consumer level are fostering new expectations in the business environment.
Compounding this is the changing face of business decision makers, who are getting younger as a new generation of business leaders fill these roles. This new generation has been raised on easy and personalized shopping experiences, and anything short of this won’t seal the deal.
The bottom line is that marketing, whether compartmentalized as B2C, P2P or B2B, is ultimately aimed at people – living, breathing, emotional humans. As such, a little humanization can go a long way in your B2B marketing.
Humanizing your content
Here are some basic measures to move your marketing away from impersonal, jargony, spec-heavy, text-heavy content, giving your brand a more emotional connection with potential buyers.
Tell me a story
Purchasing decision makers, especially those who have been in their positions for any length of time, have been chased, called, emailed, pitched to, pitched at – it starts to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking.
In today’s purchasing environment, most buyers have done the majority of their research before they ever reach out for a sales rep. Chances are they’re already familiar with your product or service. What they need is an emotional connection that makes them want to buy it from you.
Stories are as old as human history because people connect with and can engage with them. Frame your marketing in compelling stories. Like the quotation at the outset of this article, if you make the buyer feel a connection to the story, they’ll remember that before they recall inexpressive product specs or your market share, for example. Chances are that some of your customers have powerful stories that would make great marketing content.
A major element of consumer buying these days relates to customer reviews. That’s leaking over into business buying as well. Potential customers want authentic use cases revealing how your products or services solved their problems.
While it can be hard for a company to willingly show its warts, savvy buyers won’t be convinced by an array of nothing but five-star, glowing reviews. In fact, research has shown some buyers will simply move on, assuming if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.
Transparency and authenticity can feel unnatural for a business marketer, but in today’s selling environment, it can inspire trust.
As social media exploded on the scene, businesses of all types were clamoring for ways to make it useful and profitable. As these media have become the fabric of daily life, it’s become apparent that in most business cases, they don’t make great direct sales channels.
What social media do provide, however, is an opportunity for an organization to show some personality. Don’t make your social media presence all about selling. Use these vehicles to reveal your company values, causes and even stakeholders. Tell the firm’s authentic stories and make social connections.
Taking the storytelling concept to the next level is brand journalism. At its core, brand journalism is content marketing that prioritizes a good story over useful content. Perhaps not the most effective tool for sales, it can definitely humanize your content and your brand.
An example can be found in the energy drink Red Bull, which publishes a branded magazine called the Red Bulletin that “honors those who have a passion for adventure, push the limits and don’t play by the rules.” Though Red Bull is a consumer brand, the concept doesn’t change. Craft content that people find interesting and grow your brand.
Business sales and marketing have never been completely void of human touch. In fact, that human element has been fundamental and is the reason company sales reps strived to build personal relationships with their customers.
But the digital era has changed the landscape. A study in 2014 found that only 12 percent of B2B buyers wanted to meet with a sales rep in person. Furthermore, 71 percent said they preferred to do their own research and would only reach out when they needed help or to take action on a purchase.
For a business, it’s now important to adapt that personal element into a digital environment, and one of the best ways to do that is by humanizing your marketing content. At the end of the day, you’re selling to a person, not a business, and people are emotional creatures who will remember how you make them feel.