4 Ways To Make Complex Marketing Human-Centered

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Tony Zambito

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Management of Complexity
Management of Complexity (Photo credit: michael.heiss)

As more and more businesses undergo digital transformation, we see more investments pouring into digital technologies.  The aim is to be omnipresent and somehow, someway – get a corner of mindshare with buyers.  What organizations risk is this – the more they automate, the more they become less humanized with their customers.

It is a scary thing.  Customers and buyers can amount to nothing more than accounts and fields on a screen.  Recently, I read an article where a customer was referred to as “it”.  You cannot get any less human than this!

High Stakes Still Exists In The Digital Age

Many buyers are faced with high stake decisions.  In recent buyer interviews I did on behalf of a company I was helping, senior level executives were responsible for purchase decisions well over a half million dollars.  Now, not all decisions are as complex or involve such a dollar amount.  But, for some, making decisions on a $25k-$50k purchase can still feel like a million dollar decision and just as high stakes.

One thing we can all be assured of is this – if a purchase decision, regardless of the dollar amount, feels like a million dollar decision, it will not be made with one click from a laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet.  Such a decision is filled with human fears and emotions.  In the evolving hyper-digital world economy, it is easy to get lulled into a belief of every decision becomes a digital one.  With no human interactions required.

Human Interaction Matters

What people care about most in the new digital economy is high touch in a high tech world.  Organizations must find balance in offering high touch interactions – from actual human-to-human interaction to high touch digital connections, which have human interaction attributes.  Let me elaborate a tad bit on this point:

Modern marketers must take care to not be out of balance with digital marketing automation.  Focusing entirely on automating processes as opposed to reaching understanding on how to use digital technologies to enhance human interactions. 

Without a human-centered approach to marketing, all we may be doing is automating bad processes.  And, unintentionally, automating the very things our customers and buyers find as turn-offs.

4 Ways To Build A Human-Centered Approach To Complex Marketing

For complex marketing and sales, organizations can look at these four ways to incorporate human-centered marketing into their company DNA:

(1) Get To Know Your Customers and Buyers – With Discipline

For many organizations, getting to know their customers and buyers can be a fragmented experience.  Involving the use of CRM, Salesforce Automation, tracking inbound marketing, big data, and much more.  What is missing is a disciplined approach to understanding customers and buyers qualitatively – to understand them as people.  The modern marketing organization will need to take a disciplined approach to understanding how big data and qualitative research can blend together to tell the story of their customers and buyers.

(2) Do Persona Development on Three Levels

The new digital economy is changing the way people work, buy, and operate.  Creating new means of digital and virtual pathways towards getting things done.  Meaning one-size fits all content and interactions designed for buyers alone just may not cut it anymore.  Human marketers will need to develop persona-based understanding on these three levels:

  • Customer Personas: developing a human-centered understanding on how existing customers are evolving and developing networks of suppliers as well as collaborators is becoming increasingly important.  Treating existing customers generically as “new” buyers will get you out of touch with realities.
  • Buyer Personas: as originally intended, buyer personas are focused on how goals and behaviors influence purchase decisions.  The goals and behaviors of people engaged in buying can be very different than when they are existing customers.
  • User Personas: While designing for users has been a staple of persona development, the rise of user influence in purchase decisions is a new emerging phenomenon.  The voice of users becoming increasingly important on how to be more efficient and effective.  Interesting enough, we are seeing more organizations focusing on human capital and employee engagement.  One way is through active participation in decisions affecting how they work – including the technologies and services they use.

(3) Develop Human-Centered Marketing and Sales Strategies

Our deep understanding of customers, buyers, and users – in a very human way – is at the core of human-centered marketing.  Strategies related to content, communications, interactions, and engagement should be about our human understanding on how to best help people accomplish their goals.  Translating our efforts to get to know customers deeply and the use of persona development into meaningful ways to connect with customers and buyers in a very human way.  Our marketing and sales strategies delivering the desired types of human interactions customers seek.  Doing so in ways where customers see and experience fulfillment.

(4) Focus On Enhancing Human Interactions

This point does echo my mention above.  The difference here is in having a disciplined approach to translating our understanding of customers, buyers, and users into modeling new ways of human interactions.  Adopting digital technologies to help us market and sell better should have the aim to enhance human interactions and human fulfillment.  This means we should be looking at all touchpoints involving marketing, sales, service, and support with this explicit aim.  Far too often, it is easy to fall into the trap of designing and using new technologies to help internal operations and efficiencies – without incorporating human-centered views towards enhancing the human connection.

Human Marketing Versus Commodity Marketing

Without establishing a personal and emotional connection – a human connection – to customers and buyers, many businesses will be left to compete on only one plane.  Price.   Relegated to the very cold and inhuman place we call commodity.  Where the language is about buying criteria and other cold business speak terminology.  Commodity marketing is today’s marketing dead end.

Although we may deal in the complex, it does not mean we have to approach such in a cold and inhuman way.  The modern high stakes buyers of today seek to have goals fulfilled and emotions, whether they be fear or passion, be part of a human experience.

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