Marketers across industries, take note: your audience is made up of human beings first, customers second. Whether you work in the B2B or B2C space, at the end of the day, we’re all just people. And to really resonate, the tactics marketers use to connect with the person on the other side of the screen need to reflect that.
As tech takes over, screen time grows, and the pandemic continues to take its toll, we all need a healthy dose of humanity to build trust among brands. People are craving personalized experiences, human interaction, and genuine added value in their everyday lives. But Salesforce reports that 66% of customers end up feeling treated like a number because of irrelevant information and disjointed or impersonal messaging.
That’s why it’s time to focus on H2H: a human-to-human marketing and communications strategy that puts people first.
Human-to-Human Marketing, Defined:
Simply put, human-to-human marketing is a marketing strategy that revolves around the fact that every marketing interaction a brand has with its consumers is ultimately a two-way conversation between two people — one human buying from another.
This strategy implores marketers to take a more personalized, conversational, and empathetic approach across their efforts to resonate and drive business goals, instead of the overly automated, generic, nearly robotic messaging and strategies we’re seeing so much of today.
Read on to explore how to think about the concept and how today’s brands can achieve it:
Craft Compelling, People-Centered Stories
To break through the noise and make a genuine impact, companies need to speak and sound like a person instead of a business. Successful brands start with a unique voice, crafted alongside a defined personality and visual language. Then they infuse that voice into everything they create and distribute to their audiences, from email campaigns and social media microcopy to sponsored content and long-form reads all the way to in-person and virtual experiences, and beyond.
“Customers want to see empathetic, human communication from brands. A softer marketing approach that focuses on human centricity is the only way forward.”
– Michael Kalli, Managing Director at Ello Media
studioID says: No matter the medium (or vertical) you’re working with, it’s important to prioritize the power of traditional storytelling. Utilize classic narrative techniques to ensure your content follows a plot line that the people reading can readily follow along and engage with. And be sure to use easy-to-understand words and language that sound natural and on-brand so that you’re building affinity while avoiding any potential alienation.
Additional insight: Customer spotlights and success stories are fundamental for effective human-to-human marketing, but don’t forget to “post lighthearted content sometimes,” advises Forbes — especially on social media.
“Not all of your posts need to be serious or promotional. One way to get more personal with your audience is to reveal a bit about yourself and your business. How much you do this depends on your brand and industry, of course. You can always provide some lighter content such as funny memes, photos of you or your staff, or anything that might amuse your followers.”
Reflect the Real World with Honest Visual Content
Imagery and videos are the first thing people see when coming into contact with your brand, so make sure they’re high-quality, thoughtfully curated, and up-to-date. No matter the content, customers expect realness and authenticity from the companies they choose to interact with. That’s why your visuals need to reflect who they are as people and the real world around them.
“Over 70% of the consultation we do with our customers is in visualizing diversity and inclusion… We’ve found that the imagery that works well is social, positive, dynamic, and candid.”
– Visual GPS | Getty Images
studioID says: Modern stock photography can be great, but it only goes so far when trying to capture the essence of human-to-human marketing. Consider upping your strategy around user-generated content (UGC) to create an archive of original visuals contributed by real-life members of your audience or customer base. Working with brand ambassadors and carefully picked influencers can also yield serious results when it comes to fostering genuine connections.
Additional insight: “Employee-generated content (EGC) shows the value and story behind your brand,” according to Hootsuite. “For example, photos of employees packing or making up orders or a video of your team talking about why they love working for your company. This behind-the-scenes content helps establish brand identity and works across social and ads to showcase authenticity.”
Add a Personal Touch with Humanized Messaging
By now, people are tired of getting automated messages and chatting with anonymous bots; these days it takes something more intimate to stand out. Addressing emails to a customer’s first name is a no-brainer, for example. But according to the American Marketing Association, “the sender name is another chance to be human,” and when updated to a real-life employee instead of the company name, clients reported an “immediate 20% increase in open rates.”
Humanization is the new personalization and targeted, niche content makes your customer the hero of the story — precisely the role they want to play, and one that makes for an emotional connection. But customized content and communications are only part of the puzzle. Research from Accenture shows that 91% of consumers prefer to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations as well, regardless of whether they’re powered by AI or real people on your team.
Consumers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value, stay with a brand for an average of 5.1 years vs. 3.4 years, and will recommend brands at a much higher rate (71% vs. 45%).
studioID says: Really get to know your customer base by having direct conversations on social media, via your site, or other relevant platforms. Reply to emails and DMs to nurture the relationship between your brand and its individual users or fans. Initiate surveys to collect first-party data and uncover the issues on your audience’s mind, and seek to solve those problems and roadblocks with content. Hold events and roundtables to better connect on a personal level with your audience and establish a community. Use all available channels to show an interest in who they are and the value they’re getting from your product or services, and find ways to go above and beyond where possible with scheduled feedback sessions, for instance, or a hand-written note that goes out with special shipments.
Additional insight: “Know when and how to connect directly with your audience,” says Dotdigital. “Two-way communication channels are a necessity; they’re the only way people will be able to connect with the humans behind your brand. Chat, social media, and messaging apps empower them to talk and be heard directly by the real people behind your brand.”
Unite Brand and Demand to Build Individual Trust
To really earn your audience’s trust, it’s imperative to unite brand and demand to build your business up in its category before offering your solution at just the right place and time. This kind of repeated targeting with personalized, quality content “works by reinforcing a brand’s message so that [people] grow familiar and comfortable with the brand,” Sprinklr says. And that’s how “brand recall and familiarity increases, resulting in a stronger consumer connection.”
“Brands don’t need to be loud, political or provocative to build up goodwill and trust — they need to listen, innovate, and deliver on their promises.”
studioID says: “Sophisticated marketers know that one asset or blog post does not result in a subscriber, let alone generate a lead,” according to Lieu Pham, our VP, Global Head of Strategy. “Trust takes time to develop, and the consistent cadence and drumbeat of a long-term content program can help to build and nurture real relationships with audiences.”
Additional insight: “In the world of brand building and lead generation, success doesn’t come overnight,” adds studioID’s Director of Strategy, U.S., Travis Gonzalez. “It comes from maintaining a regular rhythm of engagement with potential customers that takes the big brand moments and connects them to their everyday experiences and needs. This is what we refer to as an always-on content strategy, and it’s the fuel that will keep your brand top of mind for customers across the marketing funnel.”
Learn more about the human-centered nature of brand-to-demand marketing, and why it’s the best way for businesses to succeed in today’s crowded marketplace.