Tech Line

It’s Time to Put the Human Back in Marketing

Nobody likes navigating an automated phone menu, pressing button after button before finally—maybe?—connecting with a human. The same goes for generic marketing emails. I don’t know about you, but those emails get sent straight to the trash or spam folder without being read. Why bother and waste my time? The sender clearly didn’t take the time to research and qualify me before blasting me.

And yet, the technology exists for high levels of personalization for outbound messaging. There’s no need to use generic, templatized messages with [name] and [company] fields that automatically populate. One-size-fits-all approaches, a lack of personalization or empathy, and no attempt to understand specific problems will probably send most of these messages straight to the trash or spam folders without anyone ever reading them. Simply put, these kinds of impersonal blasts just don’t work.

In a world becoming more and more automated, we don’t want to lose sight of the human touch. While marketing has evolved to incorporate automation for manual processes rife with redundancy, companies must also empathize with their customers as they interact with the organization, its products, or its services.

When companies market to a generic person—rather than an actual thinking, feeling human who interacts with the world—they miss an opportunity to make a personal, business-to-human (B2H) connection.

In the marketing world, regardless of our roles as a business or buyer, we want to be helped. People buy from and sell to other people—not businesses. Why? Because we share something in common: our humanity.

We’ve seen marketing software evolve to incorporate more personalization into the buyer journey and pipeline. But in our post-pandemic world, the one thing more people crave is that human connection. B2H provides the personal, authentic approach we want. Yet, it seems antithetical to what people expect. It’s thoughtful, focused on providing an authentic and personalized buyer experience, where each touchpoint adds value.

This isn’t revolutionary…it’s simple: You can’t automate real relationships.

Let’s get personal with B2H marketing

Businesses typically fall into one of two categories: B2C or B2B. B2C’s reputation is often classified as fun and entertaining. It appeals to people’s emotions. B2B’s reputation, on the other hand, is based on logic, facts, and formality. Many view it as distant and boring.

Yet both approaches focus on selling to the customer’s needs. B2C measures marketing campaign success by analyzing conversion rates and leads; B2B zeroes in on account targeting, branding, and buyer personas.

So where does B2H fit in? How is it changing the conversation? Simply put, B2H marketing combines developing:

  • Knowledge about each customer;
  • Empathy and acknowledgment of their needs;
  • Helpful approaches to their unique situation;
  • Trusting relationships by consistently delivering meaningful, valuable information.

The key to an intelligent, effective B2H account-based marketing (ABM) strategy is leading with value—or, in other words, paying it forward. Empathizing with individual buyers’ situations first, not simply jumping headfirst into demonstrating your solution’s benefits, is a great way to break the ice. You’re not immediately selling something and you’re taking time to establish credibility and trust.

B2H is not connecting a B2C mindset with B2B creative strategies. That approach often results in a B2B message devoid of humor, authenticity, or personality. Viewing marketing from a B2H lens requires first seeing your customers as people—not leads, prospects, or conversions, but as human beings challenged with solving real problems. Those problems might be tech-, manufacturing-, logistics- or sales-related. But ultimately, your customers need something that you might be able to offer.

Ask the deep questions

What successfully drives B2H is empathy, which should shape the marketing content, strategies, and campaigns. A B2H approach requires marketing teams to ask the deep questions about the “why” behind a product or service’s existence. What problem was it designed to solve? Why was it made or designed? What is its reason for being?

Few B2B tech or software products are unique. Every tech company faces competition, regardless of size or history. Differentiation becomes a critical piece to drive success—but it’s also hard to do it successfully. Elevating storytelling, building human connections, and creating empathy might feel like risky approaches, but it’s what customers want.

B2H also leverages buyer-centric content (think blogs, social media posts or videos) to engage and convert B2B buyers. To be successful, marketers must understand their customer’s needs, offer useful and relevant information to address their unique situations, and earn their trust by consistently delivering value-added content and experiences.

Using a B2H approach in marketing empowers teams to find and incorporate the human stories behind the customer. Viewing campaigns through a B2H lens also enables marketers to evolve branding into an ongoing dialogue—rather than a monologue—with their customers. Marketers choosing to embrace authenticity and operate with passion will attract more attention and higher successes.

Tim Kopp is the Chairman and CEO of Terminus, the only account-based engagement platform built to deliver more pipeline and revenue through multi-channel ABM. He is a recognized marketing and technology leader with more than 20 years of experience at global B2B and B2C brands.