H2H – The need to Humanise B2B Marketing.

H2H-Need to Humanise B2B MarketingYour products and services are and should only be extensions of your individual passion and belief system. Every time your customers interact with your brand they should feel as if they are interacting with you or your ideology.

Your Brand = You.
Your customer is your friend and your prospective customer is a great friend you are yet to make.

If you are in the driving seat of your business, i.e. C-Level Executive or Director, who need to take some serious decisions on a daily basis. I am sure that besides paying your bills, mortgage and funding your lifestyle there was surely a bigger reason why you took up such a senior role. I believe you did it consciously or unconsciously because you had the confidence, the aptitude and the will to take on greater responsibility and be answerable not just for yourself but also for hundred or thousands of your employees and thousands or millions of your customers.

I call you senior folks as ‘Problem Solvers’. The ‘Mums and Dads’ of the business world. The decisions that you take in your corporation irrespective of its size, will eventually affect the lives of a number of employees, customers and in turn the wider community.

Whenever I come across a Virgin brand, it feels like I am interacting with Richard Branson. When I use Apple products, it feels like I am being rubbed by the energy and zeal that Steve Jobs injected into Apple.

At BMA14, Cisco’s VP of Marketing – Karen Walker, said – “A brand is really an emotional connection you have with a product or service. Devotion to a brand begins and ends with an emotional connection. It’s no longer about B2B or B2C—it’s about being human-to-human.” (http://www.fiercecmo.com/story/bma14-ciscos-walker-says-emotion-key-driving-b2b-loyalty-sales/2014-05-30)

Cisco is a B2B company but some one as senior as Karen has a new way of looking at B2B marketing. A small shift in the thinking process of the senior marketing team helps drive change in Cisco’s global corporate messaging. Human to Human is the correct phrase to use. B2B and B2C is still a good way to differentiate the type of customer you have but it does not mean that both set of companies cannot have the same level of ‘human marketing’. Whether it is B2B or B2C in both instances, your customer, the person who decides to make a buying decision is a human being.

When you are such a passionate individual, why should your brand communications, your films and your written text be so formal, prescriptive and dry? The B2B communication is plagued with over formality and archaic formats of communication. This I think stems from the fear of being perceived the wrong way. You don’t want to loose a million dollar deal because you used the wrong word, or dressed the wrong way or cracked a bad joke. In the attempt to secure the deal, many a times you wash away your personality from your communication, which makes your brand look very dry.

After 10 years, Oliver Altmann, formerly Chief Executive Officer at Publicis and veteran Paris creative, has founded a new agency called – Altmann+Pacreau. He says his motivation to start his own company is – “An opportunity to bring back the idea as the first priority and propose a media neutral agency, where media, technology as ways to touch a consumer, will come after, but not before the idea.” (http://adage.com/abstract?article_id=293490).

Arianna Huffington, recently mentioned that she sees the single biggest growth sector to be – Content Marketing. (http://www.inc.com/arianna-huffington/founders-forum-the-press-release-is-over.html). “Content is just a fancy word for Storytelling. Storytelling has always been at the heart of everything, whether you are a novelist or a brand. It can be very short, storytelling on twitter or visual story telling on Instagram or blog. Even with Huffington Post, a lot of traffic comes to the site because of where it is shared. The day of the press releases are over. Writing a post for your Facebook account could be a far more important strategy than just producing a strategy that is going to be trashed.”

We have Karen Walker from Cisco talking about connecting emotionally with your customer and Arianna Huffington asking you to adopt a content marketing strategy. So how can you as a B2B marketer achieve that? I think the best way to do that is to tell the honest story, which is filmed well. Let the film tell your customer what you believe in. And I promise they will believe in your brand.

We at Ekstasy Films are passionate filmmakers, who love telling good stories. We truly believe that films are the most powerful means of communicating your message. We consult a wide variety of national and international brands and help them conceptualise and produce engaging and creative films for their brands, products or happy customer stories. In consultation sessions, we find that generally a lot of focus is given on ‘what they do’ and ‘how they do it’ as a business but very little attention is paid on ‘why they do what they do as a business.’ Simon Sinek, who famously speaks about the powerful model for inspirational leadership in his Ted talk – “Golden Circle” (http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action) says that answering the ‘why’ about your business helps you differentiate your brand in the market place and gives you a unique identity. I would say it also helps you humanise your product and services and helps establish a more meaningful connection with your customers.

By humanise I mean to communicate as you will to your friends and family.

So a good human B2B communication needs to be:

– Relaxed
– Enthusiastic
– Transparent
– Responsive
– Answerable
– Honest
– Engaging
– Conversational

Advantages of humanising your brand communications:

– You make your customers your friends. Which means they are more receptive of what you offer them and at the same time you are answerable, in terms of making sure that your product or service quality hits all the benchmarks.

– Suddenly communication and marketing becomes more fun. Its like organising a big party and takes away the stress of suffocating brand guidelines.

– Makes your brand real. If your brand makes a mistake, you can say Sorry and you will get a second chance.

– Have a more innovative brand.

– Customer feedback loop is enhanced. 

– Helps you and your brand to Breathe and Relax a little, which aids in its longevity.

 Adds more value to your brand.

– Improves customer service and in turn increases customer retention and loyalty.

Some conceptual challenges we have overcome in our consultation sessions:

Typical Response One:
We are too large a corporation and it is difficult for us to come across as human. How do we change that via this film?

We Say – The principles are the same as that of public speaking. You can address a gathering of two or a gathering of eighty thousand individuals. They all want to hear what you have to say from your heart. All you need to do is to communicate to them as if you were communicating to one person. Personalise your content, make it relevant for the target audience, and be genuine.

Typical Response Two:
I know everyone in the industry and I don’t need to make an extra effort to communicate creatively with him or her on a regular basis.

We Say – So are you saying that because you love your partner and know them for a long time, you will become complacent in your relationship with them and stop wishing them on their birthdays or anniversaries and stop buying surprise gifts to express your gratitude for them to be in your life? Similarly you should not take your B2B customer relationships for granted.

Typical Response Three:
My customers are very senior decision makers. They don’t like to see videos. They just want to read something and make a decision.

We Say – The power of video is now undisputed. Researches lead by Cisco and Gartner suggests that if a brand’s communication does not move towards video then it risks being labeled out-of-date. If time is of essence, then use shorter videos and get them produced very well. You will be surprised how much information you can pack into a 1 min video. Once the video has helped you win the attention of the senior decision maker then you can supply them with more written, image or verbal based communication.

In our current assessment of the B2B brands – Cisco and GE are leading the way in H2H marketing. But we know that there are a number of B2B brands out there that can improve their business many fold by adopting the Human approach. We at Ekstasy Films are working with some very aware brands that are using our help to humanise their brand messaging, by using the power of video.

Writer – Mike Saraswat | Founder at Ekstasy Films

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