4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships

Posted on March 21, 2017 · Posted in Creativity, Marketing

March 21, 2017

by Brian Carroll

We need to stop treating our customers like objects with our marketing and treat them like people. Be human first by recognizing their humanity. So how do you humanize marketing?

Let me explain.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become weary of all the “personalized” emails that I’m receiving lately. It’s not that they’re all bad (but plenty of them are); it’s because, at the core, there’s something deeper going on. In sum, I’m treated as an object to convert rather than a person who may need help. Can you relate?

Virtually all the polished emails sent to me use marketing automation. And they’re mostly focused on getting me to do something. In most cases, that something is a click. I’m given a call to action link or a button to click on.

According to the CMO Council, “Only 20% of marketers are able to predict the next best action for their customers.” Additionally, Forrester Consulting discovered, “65 percent of marketers struggle to employ emotional marketing as they turn to automation to improve customer engagement.”

We have all this technology to connect with our customers, but they’re increasingly tuning us out. Why? Because they don’t feel it’s authentic, or emotionally relevant, and marketers are using marketing automation in a way that misses the bigger picture.

What if you put your full attention on one customer, one buyer, one potential at a time? Could you do a better job connecting and a building a relationship? Think about it.

It Doesn’t Take a Marketer to Know When It’s NOT Humanized Marketing

As our marketing technology, machine learning, and tools become increasingly smarter, so are our customers. Your customers know what real feels like. And they feel it when you’re sending them an artificial or generalized message.

But as a marketer, I know better. A real human being wrote a template. The email (even if it’s well written) and personalized in a few places, still feels hollow. Why? Because it’s scaled. And I know the game.  And, our wise customers do too.

Here’s the thing: as your sophistication grows, your customers become even savvier. Customers know authentic- sincere – communication from the scaled messages you send. They feel it. And as customers, we’re aware of it too.

Marketing Dehumanized: What It Feels Like to Be an Object

At its core, marketing is about building relationships. To do that we need to build trust. So why is it we do things in marketing that ignore this truth? Why do we do things that we think scale when at their core relationships are not scalable?

In this post, Jon Westenberg writes:

Treating people like leads instead of humans just doesn’t work. It doesn’t sell. It doesn’t push you to any level of success. You want to suck at marketing or sales? Dehumanize your prospects. And dehumanize your interactions with them.

For example, we can feel it when someone’s trying to push us to do something. We know when we’re treated as objects (we’re just a conversion, a click, or an increase in lead score). It’s dehumanizing.

We also recognize when someone cares. We know when a person wants to help us, and they’re not trying to push an agenda or manipulate us to action.

How to Humanize Marketing for Your Customer

To humanize marketing, apply this truth from neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. He said, “We are not thinking machines that feel; rather, we are feeling machines that think.”  Successful marketers are starting to recognize this truth.

When you are marketing to people, you’re trying to get them to do something or buy something. But when you’re marketing for people, you’re advocating for them. You’re doing something that helps and may make a difference. It’s time to become an advocate, rather than a marketer.

Marketing isn’t something you do to people. It’s something you do for people.

How often are you trying to move your customers to do something that will benefit you i.e. click, sign up, register and buy? Our marketing efforts are driven by our goal, our KPI, our quarterly income or profits. There’s nothing wrong with those measurements. It’s just that our intentions may become twisted when we start with our personal agendas as a driver.

What do you measure?  When you measure the wrong thing, your marketing can become wonky quickly. We’re not just seeking clicks. We want to connect and form lasting relationships with our clients.

Four Ways to Humanize Marketing to Fit Your Buyer’s Journey

When you think about your buyer’s journey, consider being sincere about helping them. If you automate your engagement, you need to emphasize the human touch more. That means that both you and your sales team need to have actual conversations with your buyers.

Use your marketing technology, database, and ability to segment to refine your initial understanding of your target audience’s needs. Focus on helping your future customers achieve what they’re trying to do at each step of the journey. Is this hard work? Yes. That said, I believe this is where marketers must focus their energy to make sure the buyer’s journey stays personal at each touch point.

There are things that customers expect to be scalable. For example, email newsletters. Still, they want relevant content. They don’t expect that every single newsletter personalized to their interests. That said, if enough of the content is irrelevant, they’ll unsubscribe.

People mentally unsubscribe before they finally remove us from their inbox. Customers move from interested, to ambivalent, and ultimately apathetic quickly.

Next, I’m going to suggest a few ideas on doing things that don’t scale. Why? Because they involve effort and our customer’s, appreciate and they can feel it when we invest extra energy.

1. Help like a concierge

If you want to know how to approach applying empathy to your marketing efforts, consider how a hotel concierge operates. What is their goal? To help meet the needs and be helpful to guests. Why can’t we approach our marketing and sales the same way?

Do concierges give the same advice and input to all hotel guests? Of course not. They do things that don’t scale. Still, they’ve prepared themselves to answer some of the same questions.  For example, what are the best shows? Where are the best restaurants for each occasion? How can I get a reservation on short notice? Where are the grocery or liquor stores etc.?

But the key is that they listen, they’re available, and their goal is to help. What can we learn? We can approach our customers by doing things intentionally like a concierge.

2. Do things that don’t scale

Our sales people do things that don’t scale all the time. If we don’t change our approach, we’re going to kill the value of marketing automation. You can’t automate trust. But you can build it over time by being intentional and seeking to add value with each touch. That’s at the core of doing things that don’t scale.

That might be opening Outlook and actually sending a personal message. Or picking up the phone talk to your potential customers. It is critical to know what customers want to serve them better. For more on this read, How to Put the Customer First in Lead Generation.

Our job is to make each person we engage with feel as if they are the most important person in the room.

3. Shift your focus to relationships

All marketing, selling and lead generation is about one word: relationships. It’s not about technology; it’s about people. We need to take the time to do things that don’t scale. This is from a terrific book, The Passion Conversation:

We form relationships in two ways. The first way is through dialogue, a virtuous circle of interacting through listening and responding that causes more interaction, listening, and responding. Relationships grow through conversation. The second way we form relationships is through a process called reciprocal altruism. That’s a fancy term to explain where people freely give to others with nothing expected in return.

Check out Lead Nurturing: 4 Steps to walking the buying path with your customers

4. Use applied empathy now

Empathy is your marketing intuition. Use your empathy to move out of your mind and into the mind of the client.  What’s the bottom line? Move away from me-first thinking to customer-centric thinking and speak specifically to their motivations.

If you don’t do this, you’re treating potential customers (aka leads) as objects and not as people. If you do that, your goal is to get them do so something. Instead, I advocate that you seek to understand them first; to know their motivation and learn what interests them. And even better, to know what might be helpful to them to get what they really want. For more read, How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline.

Ask this as you approach your marketing: Is that how we’d like someone to treat us? Is this how we’d like a friend or loved one to be treated? Finally, if you are in doubt follow this: Do unto others as you’d like to have done onto you.

Conclusion

Humanized marketing is about building people-first relationships.  Remember this: When you are marketing to people, you’re trying to get them to do something. But when you’re marketing for people, you’re advocating for them. You’re doing something that could help and make a difference. By following these suggestions, you’ll make a huge improvement in how you connect with your customers.

It’s your turn now. Have you humanized marketing for your company and if you did, how did it impact your use of marketing technology? Also, did I forget to mention any key points or components in the article? Let me know in the comments below.

This post first appeared on the B2B Lead blog.

Photo credit: Flickr user JD Hancock

About Brian Carroll

Evangelist, author and speaker, Brian Carroll knows what drives B2B buyers. As the founder of the B2B Lead Blog, a researcher and lecturer on marketing best practices, and leader in empathy marketing, he’s at the epicenter of the shifting B2B marketing landscape. Brian is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw-Hill). He is also the founder of the B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 19,533+ members. Brian recently finished a stint as Chief Evangelist at MECLABS (parent company of MarketingSherpa) and is now back to helping B2B understand and execute modern demand generation. He’s spoken to audiences on four continents, and he’s quoted in numerous publications such as BtoB Magazine, Selling Power, Entrepreneur, Target Marketing, Inc. magazine, Marketing News, DM News, MarketingProfs, and CMO. He and his wife Amy live in Circle Pines, MN.