Making B2B Marketing More Human

March 3, 2022

Note: This article was originally posted on the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) website. Optima has been a proud and active CMA member since 1998.

As technology and automation in B2B marketing grows, there are increasing calls to make B2B marketing more human. As we like to say at Optima, ‘B2B is B2P’, where P is (obviously) people.

The Big Human Idea

Compared to B2C, B2B almost always comes with longer customer journeys and multi-level decision processes. For long term success, your marketing and sales people need to collaboratively address the entire journey with the best affordable communication for each critical stage. Sometimes that communication method is best handled by humans, but the message must always be for humans.

Always Use a Human Creative Approach

Transparency is what we currently think B2B customer want, but it’s more complicated than that. What they want is trustworthiness. People trust people who are forthright about their failures, weakness or simple differences. Your customers will search for negative reviews or the ‘cons’ of your offering if they aren’t provided by you. Unless your product/service is truly right for everyone, provide this transparency. This may be contrary to traditional ‘never go negative’ sales thinking, but very little of B2B is traditional. Case studies handle this well because they wrap any negativity in a story that ends with positive business results. Online collaboration brand Ryver has been very successful with their ‘transparent’ creative approach which recognises Slack as the segment leader and pivots to where Ryver is superior.

Strategically Use a Human Communication Approach

Optima Communications runs an on-going outbound campaign for Purolator, Canada’s leading integrated freight and parcel solutions provider, targeting its SME customers. Optima calls less active and inactive customers to find out what’s happening with their business, and where appropriate, offer a discount incentive to re-engage. Registration for the promotional offer is the campaign KPI. The results are registrations in the range of 30% to 40% (on successful call connection) and double-digit year-over–year efficiency improvements.

Optima agents identify themselves as ‘working on behalf of’’ Purolator, not as an employee. In this very human context, the conversation results in the capture of extremely valuable qualitative information:

  • What has changed with the customer?

  • Why they have been shipping less or not at all?

  • What could be done beyond the promotional offer to get re-engagement?

This kind of invaluable learning is rarely provided by customers on their own, or by algorithm.

Why It Matters

There are still things people can do better than machines and your B2B customers are still human. Business to business marketing is still humans marketing to humans. It’s the combination of technology and people applied at the right moments in the customer journey that drives great B2B results.

What’s Ahead?

Smart B2B marketers already understand that all B2B marketing creative should have a human/emotional approach. In the future, they will constantly be divining which parts of their customers’ journey are best addressed by a human communications approach, and will refine their mix of people and technology accordingly.