By Bryan Kramer
“The Modern Marketing Influencer Blog Series asked top influencers from across the marketing spectrum what’s on their minds and what topics and pressing issues in their fields they feel are begging for more insight. Here they share their thoughts on not forgetting the most important part of any marketing endeavor: forging that integral human connection.”
Marketers have a growing arsenal of technology that they can deploy to reach their target customers: AI, automation, bots, and more. And while there’s certainly a place for technology in marketing, I see one big problem: As consumers, we buy from people. We don’t buy from companies, and we don’t buy from robots.
Ultimately, we stay loyal to companies because of real relationships that have been created over time. In other words, marketing is not just B2B or B2C. All successful marketing is H2H: human-to-human. But how can you create these relationships with customers? The answer is, one at a time.
Here are a few basic ways you can bring the human touch back with H2H marketing:
The biggest communication breakthroughs in the past few years do not involve reaching a huge number of people with a single message. We’ve had that capability since the Mad Men days. The real revolution is that the communication is no longer one-way. Thanks to social media, consumers now have just as much of a voice as the companies that market to them.
So, how do you create the two-way conversations online that put customers at the center? Ben & Jerry’s created an Instagram campaign in 2012 that did just that. The company asked its active followers to upload pictures representing “euphoria,” with a hashtag that entered them for a chance to have their photos appear in ads that ran in the photographer-fans’ local neighborhood. Not only did the company’s most avid supporters get rewarded for participating, but the campaign reinforced the brand’s focus on its policy of sourcing ingredients from local independent farmers.
When you listen to your customers, you learn how to think like them. (After all, you’re a consumer, too.) You put yourself in the mindset of the buyer instead of using sophisticated language full of acronyms and big words. In fact, you do quite the opposite: You distill the complex into simplicity.
Here’s a personal example I experienced with Delta Airlines. I was on a Delta flight that had been delayed, and I was concerned I would miss my connection. I tweeted about it, and I received a DM response from a Delta customer service agent. After a quick exchange, the agent booked me on the next flight out so that I would make my speaking engagement.
As marketers, we need to focus on what we can control — our approach, our message, our understanding — and worry less about what we can’t control. Delta couldn’t control the delay, but it could control its response in a way that greatly enhanced the brand in my eyes.
Account-based marketing (ABM) comes very close to the type of relationship-building that I’m talking about. Large-scale automation is not well adapted to selling big-ticket items. The more human you are, the more likely you are to win the account.
Certainly, you can leverage technology to gain insight into your customers’ worlds and know when they’re performing certain activities online. Technology and humans can work together to create 360-degree views of customers, so that you know exactly what’s going on with them, where they are at in the purchasing process, and how you can meet their needs.
When it comes to ABM, find ways to personalize your offer to help elicit feelings of joy, delight, and surprise. Imagine creating content just for the account you’re targeting rather than something off the shelf, and/or sending them a personalized gift.
It was not that long ago that door-to-door salesmen would stop at each house and explain, “Here is why you need to buy from me.” It was a much more personal, contextual sale in which a human connection sold that product.
So much of technology is trying to take us farther away from the magnetic pull we feel toward one another. We crave community, we crave human relationships, and we want to be closer. And yet, we’re in our own cocoons. We’re stuck trying to automate and do everything digitally so we can do it faster. Now is a really good time to actually send something with a postage stamp on it. Write a letter or make something that is not automated and send it out, and then tag that in your system and see how it does.
I see a lot of companies trying to automate marketing without much success. That’s because they’re trying to compensate for what can’t be done. They haven’t done the hard work of trying to understand who they are, what their message is, what their brand is, and how they’re going to create and sell their product. And by the way, connecting also means doing what you say you’ll do, being genuinely helpful, and saying you’re sorry when you screw up — and mean it.
In the end, I stand for humans, and I stand for the fact that we need to figure out how the best combination of machines and humans can work together. Notice that all of my examples involved technology in one way or another, but they were human solutions, not technological. By embracing H2H, marketers can make the authentic human connections that lead to long-term relationships between customers and brands.
See how you can further get to know your customers better and create a better digital experience for them with “Accelerate Your Marketing Efforts.” “Ben & Jerry’s: Capture Euphoria,” Ad Age, 2012; https://adage.com/creativity/work/capture-euphoria/29939