As I reflect on over 20 years in marketing, I’ve come to an obvious, yet important realization:
Marketing just isn’t the same as it once was.
And that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay—it’s the way it should be.
In the past, marketing often wasn’t its own entity. Identifying yourself as B2C or B2B made all the difference; they were just two different things entirely. At the risk of oversimplifying, B2C was all about building your brand through paid media and pushing out products, while B2B’s main focus was on generating leads.
But now it’s 2017, and all of that has gone out the window.
How B2B and B2C Are More Alike Than Different
Today, B2C and B2B have flip-flopped roles in a way no other function ever has. The lines between the two have become so blurred that B2B marketing today is nearly unrecognizable. It focuses on buyer personas, is engaging, and relies heavily on branding and messaging. At the same time, B2C marketers are focused on measurement and conversion rates.
Are we course correcting? Has this shift always been in the stars for marketing? The two worlds have converged so quickly that it’s hard to tell. The thing is, even though the approaches might have started differently, they’re now converging on nearly identical objectives.
As my good friend Jay Baer at Convince & Convert preaches, helping is the new selling. We can’t have increasingly personalized experiences in our lives as consumers (i.e., tailored product recommendations on Amazon) and not expect to have the same experiences when we buy software. Whether we play the role of consumer or business, we all want to be helped instead of sold to because we all have one thing in common—our humanity. People don’t buy from businesses. People buy from people.
A New Era of Marketing
The tech landscape is buzzing with the latest talk of artificial intelligence, bots, machine learning—you name it. The thinking that seems to be increasingly pervasive is that machines will replace today’s human interactions. The latest innovations will lead to more automation and less human interaction. Therefore, many of you may find it counterintuitive that I am about to introduce a new era of marketing—one that involves a more personal, authentic approach than ever before: business to human marketing, or B2H.
B2H marketing is the contrarian approach. In a world plagued by short attention spans and on-demand decision making, B2H marketing is the opposite of what everyone is clamoring for. It’s a more thoughtful approach, focused on personalized customer experience in a way that is authentic and empathetic, with value added at each touchpoint. Hear me now: Technology can’t solve all the of the world’s problems. Frankly, you can’t automate authentic relationships.
I know I’m not alone in my thinking here, but I believe my career path blending 20 years of B2C and B2B experience has opened my eyes to the phenomenon of B2B and B2C merging into this new era of B2H marketing.
Living by a New Standard
So how do you live by the new business-to-human standard that is required to be relevant in today’s marketplace? It starts with a deep understanding of the market that you’re selling in. You have to be an expert at knowing your customer’s needs and what it looks like to walk in their shoes. Empathy creates authenticity. You can’t fake your way to authenticity. This is why many acquisitions end up stumbling over time; the acquiring company just doesn’t “get” the market in the way the incumbent did.
An empathetic approach to selling begins with treating each buyer differently. By segmenting your customer audience, you enable yourself to truly recognize the unique problems and challenges of their business (and life). Doing this builds trust. However, before you even get a seat at the table to have these conversations, you must prove thoughtful enough to become a true, trusted adviser. I believe this stems from being helpful, available, and adding value.
Imagine this everyday scenario: Your phone rings as you’re working on something important, you glance at the incoming number to see who it is. Do you take the call?
If so, it’s because you recognize there is mutual value despite your busyness. You make the time. We simply gravitate to those we have authentic relationships with and those that add value. They cut through our often over-cluttered lives and make a genuine impact.
Now, imagine your buyer getting bombarded by countless calls and emails each day, and you will get a picture of how hard it is to be noticed. For this very reason, B2H marketing matters more than ever. It allows you stand out from the noise, making you more effective than ever.
In essence, this is the challenge in the new era of marketing: Are you the call they take the time to answer?
Humanizing Your Brand from the Inside Out
Your brand is the sum of the conversations you and your team are having with customers. The greater challenge here is how to empower your entire company to embody a B2H mindset and create an entire brand based on authenticity. When this happens, the compounding results are incredible and often create a broader movement.
B2H begins at the foundational level of the company: the employees. At its core, a B2H mindset must be infused into a company’s culture and be embodied by all employees. A consistent message and voice must reverberate throughout the company—from marketing to sales to customer success and so on. The best brands achieve this by “marketing from the inside out,” branding every touchpoint to create a consistent and cohesive experience. Just one inconsistent experience with the brand and the entire approach can fall apart.
The best mechanism for garnering a B2H mindset across the company is through immersing employees in the full experience of the brand, so they can feel and embody it first-hand. Employees must understand the market, the problems, and how to help, not just at an intellectual level but at an emotional level. Brands that can walk in the shoes of their customers and understand their points of view (rather than cramming their own agenda down their throats) are the ones whose authenticity and genuineness shine through.
B2H Marketing Is More Than Being Customer-Obsessed
B2H marketing is a combination of being knowledgeable about your customer, empathetic to their needs, helpful to their unique situation, and trusted from repeatedly delivering meaningful and valuable information. It’s a delicate balance of all of these things, but the outcome is authentic and memorable.
This is really hard to do, and it’s about so much more than being customer-focused or even obsessed. It’s hard because authenticity doesn’t scale. It’s even harder because it starts with your employees. It may feel counterintuitive to put your employees before your prospects or customers, but it starts by marketing from the inside out and leading with an authenticity and passion that becomes contagious.
The B2H revolution is coming. Are you ready?