We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again – brands live in the hearts and minds of people. This includes B2B companies When making decisions, people are influenced by both rational and emotional factors. B2B companies aren’t solely defined by what they sell, but they tend to focus on the rational benefits. As an Atlanta-based B2B and B2C full-service agency, C.E.K. & Partners counsels and builds brands for B2B and B2B companies that more meaningfully connect with their customers. In other words, we help companies infuse emotion into their brands, moving them from talking in industry jargon to communicating in a conversational manner like people do.
We’re in the Human Era
We’re in what has been dubbed the Human Era. Brands are moving from institutional to more human; after all – your ideal customers are people. Sure, they can identify what you offer, but how can you help them understand why they should select your company – in what might often be perceived as a sea of sameness when it comes to benefits, features and even point of difference.
Humanizing B2B companies' brands has become increasingly important in categories such as financial services and healthcare, which tend to have lower Net Promoter Scores (NPS) due to the confusion and frustration often associated with healthcare and financial services which is still recovering from high-levels of consumer mistrust.
Is Your Company Exhibiting Human Behaviors with its B2B Marketing?
An Ad Age article provides questions your company should ask itself to help determine if your B2B company is acting more like an institution or a person. If you answer yes to most of them, regardless of the industry you’re operating in – you have work to do.
Do you send emails that have “Do Not Reply” addresses?
Do you measure your call center on how quickly they get off the phone with customers?
Do you make money in ways that customers don't know about?
Do you steer people away from the product that makes the most sense for them and drive them to the product that's most profitable for you?
Do your leaders avoid unscripted speech?*
Do your company and its employees feel uncomfortable apologizing when a mistake has been made?
*Note: we adjusted this from scripted to unscripted.
What Traits Do Human Brands Possess?
According to the Ad Age article, human brands express customer empathy, talk and act like people, and empower individuals. We’ll add to that – they delight and surprise and communicate with passion.
One example is TD Bank's human brand platform. We love how their website says: if
something matters to humans, it matters to them. “Wherever you are, we're there for
you. Especially online. From convenient online banking to our Twitter page, where you can talk to real people. And of course you can do your banking or apply for an account at 3 am if that's your thing.”
The examples are many from JetBlue people back at the center of travel to Grady Hospital putting patients front and center in their “I would not be here without Grady” marketing campaign (which received a Healthcare Marketing Impact Award). The same holds true with brands leading the way with the Internet of Things (IoT), like Cisco.
While not a comprehensive list, here are a few tips to get you started with humanizing your brand:
1| Create Your B2B Company's Brand Personality
While brands create personas to understand their ideal customers, it’s also important to create a company persona. What is the personality of your brand? Is it friendly? Is it smart, but humble? Is it formal or more casual in its communications? You get the idea. This helps to guide the voice of the brand, and also helps guide employees’ everyday decision-making and actions. And, it should be consistent with your brand values.
2 | Talk to Your Customers and Employees and Discover What Matters
Market research doesn’t need to be intimidating, expensive or take months to conduct. Why not ask your customers – why did they choose you? Also speak to your employees. What do they love about the company? Having a third-party partner conduct these interviews or focus groups will lead to more candid conversations – which will help you uncover the right insights. What you hear can be used to inform what you say about your company or the language choices for messaging within your communication materials.
3 | Lead (or at Least Join) the Conversation
People interact with one another; your B2B company should too. Show up and join or lead the conversation. Social media is a channel where people get to know companies, and seek information and opinions. Is your brand accessible and engaging?
The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has found that 90% of consumers would recommend a brand after communicating with the company on social media channels, and that 83% would try a brand following social media contact. Use social media for engagement and for influencing new customers.
What are you waiting for?
4 | Create Engagement
Of course, your brand is still a business, here to add value to peoples’ lives while also turning a profit. Engage and humanize the brand by giving employees, leaders and customers a voice.
Employees’ perspectives provide a peek at the culture as they share their reasons for joining the company or what they are working on.
Leadership or top sales reps can contribute to shifting the brand away from a corporate identity through posting comments, articles, blogs or other communications that reflect the corporate personality. Additionally, they can showcase how they live the company values in their daily life with their involvement at the community level.
Customer testimonials provide another perspective, answering why people have chosen your brand. For more on the value and how to approach customer testimonials, check out the article, ”abc title here.”
5 | Storytelling for B2B Companies – Across Channels
All of the above should be packaged into your brand story – ideally, incorporating your company's purpose. A story provides a foundational platform based on your brand’s personality and values. Conversations with employees and customers will help to hone the “why” your brand is chosen and what makes it “special, better and different.”
Also, the storytelling offers you a platform for both joining and leading the conversations and creating engagement. For more on the impact of storytelling and how brands with stories outperform the market, check out the article, “Storytelling: What Is Your Brand Story?'
Above all else, it’s important to be authentic – as well as honest. While you needn’t lead with the reasons you need to humanize your B2B company's brand – honesty is the best policy. After all, the intention of humanizing your brand is to create meaningful connections and relationships – which we all know are built on a foundation of trust and reliability. Lastly, just remember you’re talking to people who have a heart and soul. People want a reason to like your B2B company and seek a connection beyond the product or service.
Do you need help humanizing your B2B company's brand and moving your brand voice to one that is more conversational? Give us a call for a free one-hour consultation.
About C.E.K. & Partners
C.E.K. & Partners is a woman-owned branding and strategic communication firm that helps brands connect with their customers and accelerate business growth. We help category leaders reposition their brands and help them put in place the strategies and tools to establish thought leadership and grow. Our hand-selected team of senior practitioners holds expertise that spans custom market research design, brand strategy, content marketing, and more.
Read our story about how our agency offers big agency experience with the heart and soul of a small one!