How to Humanize B2B Marketing to Accelerate Growth7 December, 2018 / Articles
“I love being treated like a marketing target rather than a human being.” Said no one, ever.
While B2C marketing has learned to speak to consumers in increasingly human, authentic ways, B2B has been slower to realize the value of this approach. B2B marketing still has a tendency to speak to buyers in transactional terms or “sales-talk” that can feel impersonal and fail to inspire buyers’ trust. For brands to win back this trust, they need to follow the lead of B2C and humanize their marketing approach.
By adopting just two fundamental mindset shifts, you can relate more authentically to buyers and accelerate the growth of your brand.
No product or service is right for everyone, and today’s buyers are rightfully wary of approaches that don’t provide a highly transparent, balanced view. B2B marketing that hammers away at pros without openly addressing cons is likely to generate distrust and make a buyer that much less likely to commit. In fact, research shows that buyers who can’t locate negative reviews are likely to persist in their search or move on altogether. Either way, a lack of transparency can slow down the purchase process or jeopardize it altogether.
One of the easiest ways to humanize B2B is to connect buyers with actual customers who can provide balanced, non-biased feedback. Though you may be reluctant to connect buyers with other customers or to incorporate negative user ratings in your reviews for fear of appearing less than perfect, this is likely to backfire.
Today’s buyers are savvy enough to know that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Buyers want real use cases more than they want highly crafted case studies and gated referencing. They don’t want sales-speak, they want the complete picture from a human perspective that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even positive reviews need to be contextualized with use case and human experience. Tellingly, the least trustable online reviews are those that are so unequivocally glowing but so devoid of detail (“Amazing product! Best service in the industry!” “5 stars!”) as to give the impression of being generated by AI — of literally appearing less than human.
By being transparent, balanced and candid you’ll generate buyers’ trust and confidence in their decision. Even if they don’t commit to your product or service they’ll be much more likely to consider your brand in the future because they’ll trust you have their best interest at heart. From a customer lifecycle perspective, sugarcoating things to get a sale or sign an account rather than fostering a long-term relationship based on trust and transparency doesn’t do your brand any favors.
Tell compelling stories
Consumers are increasingly interested in the actual human beings behind the “public persona” of businesses and brands. B2C has responded by giving consumers an inside perspective on the brand by telling compelling stories about those inside it (employees and stakeholders), or those personally impacted by it. These kinds of authentically told stories leave consumers less likely to feel they’re they’re being “sold” and more likely to feel they’re being treated like family.
This approach helps to humanize the brand and B2B would do well to follow suit. Consumers and buyers alike increasingly resent the experience of being pitched. Human beings simply don’t like feeling they’re the target of a marketing ploy. What human beings do like is hearing and telling stories. It’s been said that though there have been cultures on earth without the wheel, there have been no cultures without stories. Stories are in our DNA and in their purest form are the most valuable “currency” of authentic engagement.
Think about the last time you were really excited about or deeply believed in a product or service and talked about it to a friend. Did you begin the conversation by rattling off a list of facts or citing product specs? Chances are, you shared how the product or service impacted your personal experience. Without even trying, you probably crafted a story around it. The lesson here is don’t ever try to “sell” to a buyer. Instead, tell a story that humanizes your brand and moves buyers one step closer to a solution that meets their specific needs.
For example, at Zen Media, we have a client in the financial services sector that markets to other financial professionals and fiduciaries, but do you think we focus on financial metrics when creating content for this client? Of course not. Instead, we help them tell engaging and educational stories about interests and concerns common to the ultimate beneficiaries of their services: senior citizens. This means we focus on telling stories that revolve around subjects like family dynamics with adult children, ways to preserve health and fitness throughout the lifespan, long-term care considerations, and so forth.
Just as the growth of B2C depends on human approaches to inspiring the trust of consumers, so too does the growth of B2B in respect to buyers. Buyers are more distrustful than ever of B2B marketing that lacks transparency and fails to meaningfully engage them with authentic stories that educate and empower. Now is the time for B2B to “speak human” and win back the trust upon which its growth depends.
This article was written by Shama Hyder is CEO of Zen Media & a renowned keynote speaker.