Brands and organisations which understand that ‘business-to-business’ is actually ‘business-to-human’ build better relationships with their customers, stand out from competitors, and can more easily get customers excited about what they do.
Overused marketing jargon is often confusing and disengaging. To ensure success, organisations need to consider business strategies that build human connections with customers. In fact, 73% of people in a PwC survey said customer experience was an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
In the give-and-take of day-to-day business, the key to a human-orientated business strategy is personalising the customer experience and focusing on giving more than taking. This customer-centric model has been adopted and proven successful by B2C brands. Over time, numerous studies have shown us that personalising eCommerce and retail experiences leads to higher revenue and greater customer loyalty.
So why are B2B companies not jumping on board?
No matter how big the brand you’re connecting with, it is always important to remember that there are humans behind it.“Whether your audience is a single customer or a big corporation, the key to understanding how to engage with them is still about having an acute awareness of their wants and needs. Listen to your customers, minimise the listening filters, and read between the lines – it is an active and empathetic process with absolutely no assumptions.” This empathy then needs to be practiced at every single touchpoint with your customer, especially in the world today.
Here are three steps to take towards becoming a more customer centric B2B marketer. In the coming weeks, I will elaborate on each of these concepts in more detail.
Step 1: Engage in a human-to-human way
The best way to build a brand is to deliver clear and consistent experiences at each step of the customer journey. If you are marketing to people, you should communicate like a person. Too many B2B marketers still tend to use transactional terms or ‘sales-talk’. And many professional service businesses need to ‘sound professional’, which often means jargon, acronyms that no one understands, and writing that sounds like it comes straight out of a technical manual.
The first step towards humanising B2B is removing all the buzzwords. The general rule of thumb is that if you feel silly saying it out loud, then it is not human language. It is also important for B2B businesses to be available and present on the channels preferred by their customers.
Step 2: Put integrity and authenticity at the centre of how you operate
Customers and clients demand complete transparency, honesty, and frictionless communication. In a world rife with scepticism, authenticity needs to be at the forefront of every customer touchpoint. Inauthentic communication will inevitably fail to win your customers’ trust.
I was recently asked by a client if it is possible to be authentic in the media or if it is all scripted? My response to this question is that it is not possible to create an authentic brand experience in only one channel or medium.
Authenticity is a culture characteristic and element of brand that permeates through all customer experiences and touchpoints, with each touchpoint playing a specific role in telling the story that will ultimately create a cohesive and authentic experience overall.
If a marketing message is disconnected and inauthentic, it likely indicates a disconnect and misalignment within the business.
Step 3: Promote ideas and stand for something
Consumers have become interested in the actual human beings behind the public images of businesses and brands. B2C has responded by giving consumers an inside look at the brand and telling compelling stories about their executives, employees, and clients, as well as celebrities who endorse them. Companies such as Apple and Virgin can attribute a lot of their success to the charisma of their founders.
Research indicates that, globally, 64% of consumers identify as belief-driven buyers who are willing to buy or boycott a brand because of its position on social or political issues. A staggering 70% of customers say that their purchasing decisions are influenced by the social, health, environmental, and safety impacts of the products they buy and the companies that make them.
The successful B2B businesses of the future will be driven by brave leaders – not managers. Now is the time for B2B to ‘speak human’ and win back the trust upon which its growth depends.