You cannot fake it. You should not even try.
What am I talking about? We have plenty of efforts these days focused on humanizing in B2B Marketing. Which I believe is most definitely a good thing. However, we also have more savvy and knowledgeable customers and buyers in the digital age. And, one thing I can share with all of you based on recent batches of in the field qualitative buyer interviews over the last year is this:
Buyers and customers can tell when you are faking it.
One Constant Missing Link
Over the last year or two, there has been plenty of good how-to advice and content related to humanizing your business, your brand, and your content. I have noticed one constant missing link in this dialog. It is an important prerequisite for today’s organizations to learn. The missing link is this – in order to humanize your business and brand, you must first have a deep understanding of your customers and buyers.
Without such understanding, it is like going to a party and someone you just met is pretending obnoxiously to be your best friend. And, we all know what our first instincts are when this happens – to leave the party. This is what I mean by you cannot fake it. Attempts to humanize without deep understanding can make your customers and buyers want to leave the party.
The Intent Matters
One attribute customers and buyers are considering today is in determining intent. Customers and buyers develop attitudes and perceptions related to what is the perceived intent of organizations attempting to connect with them. Why is perceived intent so important and how does it relate to humanizing your brand? In this way – if your humanizing efforts come across as fake, then buyers are likely to perceive the intent of such efforts as smoke and mirrors. I make this statement not on the basis of a scientific quantitative study but on the basis of qualitatively interviewing a few hundred buyers in the last few years.
One area we need to be on guard for is living in a world where we believe digital technology is the only form of human connection. Where we are enamored with all forms of marketing and sales digital technology, which takes us away from seeing the real story of our buyers. Watch this video and see how we can end up in a world where we all live with our heads down glued to lit-up screens:
Getting Buyers To Perceive Good Intentions
When we build friendships and relationships, these happen over time. We establish a bond of trust and respect. Such bonds lead us to trust the good intentions of those close to us. In order for B2B organizations to establish perceived good intentions with their potential customers and new buyers, their actions must speak to having understanding. What this means is B2B organizations can foster well perceived intent by developing a humanistic approach to their efforts.
This is where buyer persona development can be helpful. Personas were born out of the human-centered and user-centered design methodologies taking root nearly fifteen years ago. They still apply heartily towards attempts to understand users and buyers today. Buyer persona development is a disciplined human-centered approach to bringing humanistic understanding to today’s customers and buyers.
When we speak of buyer personas as humanistic understanding, we speak to understanding who buyers are, what goals motivate their actions, how they behave, how they think, why they make the choices they do, what influences them, and what emotional behaviors impact their decisions. We want to understand the human experience contextually, the scenarios where they unfold, and the mental models of buyers.
It is important to note what buyer persona development is not. What it is not is a profiling exercise focused on validating basic sales intelligence related to business-speak buying criteria, initiatives, product-related success factors, and generic buying process language. While such profiling intelligence is important, let us face it – you cannot get very humanistic in this context. And, this is a reason why companies who have invested in buyer personas did not get the results they sought. They turned out to be a rehash of previously established sales intelligence and offered little guidance on how to humanize their brand, as well as content.
Humanize Your Brand And Content
Developing a human-centered marketing approach is essential today to connect with the most astute as well as digitally savvy buyers today. It will continue to evolve where the old ways of sales-centric and product-centric modes and language will give way to human-centered ways of relating.
Modern marketers today must become more human-centered marketers. Meaning, they will need to develop humanistic understanding, talent, attributes, and skills. Buyer persona development, as a disciplined human-centered approach, will continue to play an integral role in how companies can humanize their brand and content. Why? Because you cannot wing it nor fake your understanding of buyers no longer.
(This line of thinking has led to active work on two forthcoming books and guides. One entitled A Guide To Buyer Persona Development and the other is entitled Humanize Your Brand. They are meant to be helpful in offering guidance on the authentic human-centered approach to buyer personas as well as humanizing your brand and content. Please visit the links and sign up for future updates.)