Written by Jonny Aldridge
People buy from people. The old adage is as true today as it’s ever been, but many B2B brands still promote themselves by product and service alone. Appealing to your customers at a rational level is one thing, but what about the commercial benefits of being personal and relatable, and tapping into their emotional drivers?
The most successful B2B brands know that being human builds trust, drives sales and secures competitive advantage. Here are four ways to humanise your brand.
Know your brand
Just like every person is different, every business is too. So humanising your business goes much deeper than cracking jokes on social media. Fundamentally, it comes down to going through a brand strategy process and knowing who you are as a brand.
Ask your business this. What makes you different and better? What do you stand for? What do you sound and look like? Brand strategy helps answer these questions and identify what attributes, personality and tone of voice you want to portray to your customers. The brand strategy process is an important investment and can take weeks, months or even years. Crucially, it’s nearly impossible to devise a brand strategy without humanising your company.
Take the lead from some of the world’s most successful B2B brands. Microsoft’s B2B arm has developed a compelling comms strategy for small and micro businesses. Instead of focusing on its own products and technology, Microsoft uses case studies from real business owners to showcase how its technology enables them to succeed. Even without Microsoft’s resource and budget, any business can be this effective if it knows itself and its customers.
A solid brand strategy will also help you avoid pitfalls. It’s tempting to look to consumer brands who have their humanity down to a fine art – but is your brand really an irreverent renegade like Virgin or a personable pal like Innocent? Having a clear brand strategy helps you find your own values and voice, rather than creating a pastiche of someone else’s.
Emotion drives decision making. We know this is true for our daily lives, but B2B companies often assume that they’re operating in a rational environment where product and price take pole position. The fact is, your customers don’t become automatons between 9am and 5pm, they have fears and anxieties and frustrations which your company solves. B2B brands that appeal to the emotional drivers in their audiences can gain competitive advantage.
Doing this is actually easier than it sounds, as most rational promotional messages can be translated into emotional ones. When you tell your customers “We provide a reliable service”, the subtext is “You can trust us”. When you say “Our product is more sustainable than the competition”, what the customer feels is “You’ll look savvy and feel proud for buying with us”.
Think about this framing device the next time you’re communicating a rational message. How does your customer feel? What emotions can you appeal to in them—trust, relief, pride?
Choose your words carefully
Be precise with your language. This is closely linked with tapping into those emotional drivers above, where one operative word, like “trust”, can make all the difference. The success of a customer email, webpage or social media post could come down to employing the perfect humanising phrase.
Here’s an example from the website homepage of accounting software company Xero, which leads with the strapline: “Beautiful accounting software”. Now, we all like a well-designed app, but accountancy being beautiful? Think about the subtext of that phrase. What it implies is a seamless user experience and intuitive user interface. What it says is “beautiful”.
Your brand doesn’t have to be “beautiful”, but by choosing your words carefully you can humanise it effectively.
Show your face
Finally, a simple way to humanise your company is to show your company’s humans. This could be featuring your CEO or senior members of staff in a company video on your website and across social media – do your customers even know what these people sound like or what their mannerisms are? Even better, choose a topic your business cares about, such as sustainability, the economy or social mobility, and become a thought leader in that area, writing insightful articles and speaking at key events.
For an internal comms or recruitment campaign, this could also involve showcasing your staff. Humanising your brand at this level makes you relatable and engaging, which helps attract and retain talent.
Remember, your customers don’t purchase from an anonymous entity. People buy from people. So building the human side of your brand not only increases engagement and trust, but also drives sales and generates growth.
Read more about brand strategy and PR on our news and views page