The personal touch

David Murphy - Sponsored by: Leanplum

Joyce Solano, SVP of Global Marketing at Leanplum, asks how companies can put the human element back into B2B marketing.

At DMEXCO 2018, forward-thinking marketers will gather in Cologne to discuss the latest trends in big data, AI, and rapid innovation. They will also discuss topics of a personal kind — catching up on their kids, holidays, and football results — and let’s be honest, those conversations are the ones you enjoy and remember.

Which makes us wonder: Should we transfer personal connections to our marketing communications, too? We’ve noticed that as much as tech continues to evolve, we’re also witnessing a revival in human-centric thinking — a shift toward catering to individuals with deeper empathy and care, though now at scale.

This evolution is especially apparent in the B2B industry, where technology has a reputation for being “dry” or “out of touch with user expectations,” and branding efforts have done little to change this perception.

In 2018, don’t rely on traditional tactics when it comes to B2B marketing. Instead, utilise real-time engagement platforms, such as Leanplum, that leverage data to help brands understand their users’ needs and wants so they can deliver more meaningful interactions.

To keep up, B2B companies must rethink the way they do business and invest in ways to make their marketing drive loyalty. Many companies are now ahead of the curve and executing marketing campaigns that have a personal touch. Here are some ideas on where to start — and brands that get it right.

Rethinking the traditional B2B brand

Traditionally, the B2B industry has focused on feature-based marketing strategies, such as how-to guides, with few companies willing to deviate. As a result, brands feel uptight, obsolete, or too smart to be accessible. Forward-thinking competitors and savvy customers mean brands must do more to get traction.

It’s essential to inject bold personality into your branding efforts. The average B2B buyer is getting younger and expectations are evolving as a result. Companies must be willing to take risks with creative decision-making to resonate with this next generation of buyers.

Slack is a great example of this. Its person-to-person technology has taken the B2B world by storm because it’s so easy to use that it almost feels more like a social media platform than a professional collaboration tool. Slack defies preconceived notions of what a B2B brand is. It’s cool, unconventional, and so simple anyone can use it.

Another example is MailChimp. At events, MailChimp invests in more of a playful approach to its marketing strategy. Rather than giving away the standard USB and pen to visitors (have you got a bag full after DMEXCO?), MailChimp gifts thoughtful items like branded colouring books and Freddie-themed knit hats for cats. Injections of personality like this allow brands to be more authentic, relatable, and even, fun. Fun and B2B? Two words that must come together more often.

Dream up content for humans

With 94 per cent of B2B buyers conducting research online before making a purchase, education trumps promotion in the B2B world. But yet, B2B companies continue to push dull or technical content because they think they’re talking to businesses. In reality, nobody is marketing to businesses — they’re marketing to people. People want helpful and engaging content.

It’s time to step away from the corporate blog and engage in creative storytelling by using personable and expressive voices. Invest in design and add interactive elements like videos, quizzes, and webinars to grab your audience. Don’t be afraid to think outside the professional parameters and use tools like emojis in communications — it’s surprising how effective they can be in creating engagement.

HubSpot is an example of a B2B company that nails human-focused content, providing links to free ebooks, customisable templates, and strategy workbooks to help their customers do their jobs more efficiently. With over 400,000 subscribers and 4.5 million monthly visitors, the HubSpot blog has become the go-to resource for inbound marketing.

Do the math: sales + marketing = smarketing

Bridging the divide between sales and marketing is key to generating growth for B2B companies because it shortens the sales cycle and links ROI to marketing initiatives.

When sales is segregated from marketing, prospects can receive conflicting messages, and that disconnect negatively impacts their purchasing experience. Uniting the two means sales can share pain points to help marketing create more impactful content.

In turn, marketing can help sales provide better education to customers by referring them to relevant materials across sales stages. When activities between sales and marketing are synchronised, brands deliver more human-focused value and everyone wins.

What is the future of B2B marketing?

So whilst you may be in awe at the future of marketing at DMEXCO this year, remember that at the end of the day that even though new technology has undoubtedly allowed for smarter tactics, it needs to complement the basic principle that marketing isn’t about B2B or B2C, but H2H — human to human. Your job as a marketer is to not forget that human touch.

This article first appeared in the September 2018 print edition of Mobile Marketing. You can read the whole issue here.