Much is demanded of today’s marketers. Gone are the days of ‘spray and pray’ marketing through a handful of simple channels with blind faith that something is going to stick and thus be deemed ‘working’. Today’s marketers need to be able to think like a business owner, a financier, an IT pro, a salesperson, a behavioral psychologist and a buyer. Sounds lofty? It is. But if you had to boil it all down to one simple skill of mastery, it’s this: common sense.
Talk like a human
Have you ever gotten an email or gone to a webpage and the company continuously referred to itself in the third person? Or bored you to death with soulless corporate speak? Or was so verbose and overly formal that you found yourself wading through words trying desperately to figure out what they could possibly be trying to say to you?
B2B marketing organizations suffer from an identity crisis. Not all of them, but many of them; especially those within older, more established companies. They want to sell to modern buyers (obviously), but they seem to cling to an old notion that the more formal and corporate-y you come off, the more impressed people will be; the more likely they will be to trust you; and of course, the more likely they will be to spend lots and lots of money.
Today, no one is impressed by that. People aren’t formal. Humans buy from humans, and no one is fooled or impressed when you suck the humanity out of your communications. In fact, they’re just going to be turned off.
Now, there’s balance to be struck here. When you send out a fancy HTML email with a pretty banner at the top, words no one will read, and a call-to-action (CTA) button, everyone knows the corporate machine sent it. Don’t try to pretend like Joe Salesguy sent a “personal” note just to you, Thomas (you may go by Tom, but our CRM says “Thomas”). “Thomas” is a human…with common sense…he knows better.
BUT if you want Thomas to read(ish) your email and click on your CTA, you need to make him feel a little bit special. It’s fine to use his name – it will get his attention – but what he really wants is to be treated like the intelligent guy he is. He knows you’re a corporate marketing engine, but talk like a human would talk to another human, get your point across, and maybe he will click that button and download that report.
Think like a human
Everyone says ‘think like a buyer,’ and they’re right! If you struggle with that concept, let’s just dial it back a bit further: think like a human. How do humans behave in their natural environment? Once-upon-a-time the answer was: they sought out interaction with other humans. This fact of humanity was what made old school sales and account management practices so successful. People wantedto interact with other people, and be sold to. That’s just not the case any more.
This morning I read a great post, entitled “Death of the Enterprise Salesman,” which beautifully sums up the changing behavior of the westernized human. They don’t crave real human interaction until they’re pretty sure they know what they want. They don’t want to be sold to, they want to be influenced and nurtured. They want to keep you at arms length but still feel a loose human connection (as Garfunkel and Oates* would say: an “unattached cohesion” created by the internet).
That’s what people want. Marketers, you’re in a perfect position to give it to them.
To bring this full circle, I suggest, marketers, you start by applying some basic common sense to your marketing efforts. You are humans trying to market to other humans. What would work for you? Your friends? Your colleagues? Try that.
*For those of you who don’t know, Garfunkel and Oates is a musical comedy duo that drill into the hilarity of the simplest things in life. While not my favorite medium for comedy, these ladies nail it with their witty lyrics. If you’re unfamiliar with the above reference and/or are looking for a laugh, check out this video: “Happy Birthday to My Loose Acquaintance.“