Seven Ways to Humanize B2B Marketing

October 27, 2015

While B2C and B2B marketing practices are distinct in many ways, they both ultimately involve making your message resonate with people—meaning emotions a significant role. The notion that business buyers are dispassionate and coldly rational is overstated.

Certainly, practicality plays a large role in B2B procurement. Attributes like product functionality, ROI, total cost of ownership (TCO), fitness for purpose, and integration capabilities are undeniably important.

7 ways to humanize B2B marketing

But more personal, individual benefits also matter to business buyers, particularly as more consumer and consumer-like technologies make their way into the workplace. It’s nice that a piece of software “streamlines processes,” but 1) everyone says that (an exact phrase search on Google for that brings up more than 40,000 results); 2) no one would buy something that complicates processes(!); and 3) how exactly does that help the individual business buyer in his or her job?

Thing is, the core message of most B2B products and services revolves around how a vendor’s offering helps its customers (companies and government agencies) do things better-faster-cheaper. Those are vital benefits to be sure. They need to be part of the marketing message and backed up by case studies and other proof (not just claims).

The problem is those messages themselves often aren’t differentiating, and even when they do, product and service features are generally easy for competitors to copy. And, again, those messages are about organizational benefit (rationally appealing), but don’t address the personal, individual needs and wants of business buyers (emotionally appealing).

So how can a B2B vendor stand out, and potentially create more sustainable competitive advantage? Here are seven ideas.

Talk about personal benefits.

Go beyond better-faster-cheaper to address the personal needs of those on the buying team. What do they value? Getting home earlier in the evening? Increased status at work–maybe a raise or promotion? Reduced frustration?

The importance of emphasizing personal benefits in B2B marketing was noted in recent research from CEB, which found that when vendor messages are focused only on business benefits, “86% of B2B customers do not see enough difference between suppliers to pay more for it. However, our research also shows that ‘personal value’ is twice as powerful as business value in achieving a broad range of commercial objectives (including awareness, consideration, purchase intent, willingness to pay a premium, loyalty, willingness to recommend).”

This is because ‘B2B buyers must see sufficient personal value to overcome the risks they take on when advocating for a particular supplier’s solution.”

Determining the best messages requires really knowing your buyers, and using exercises like empathy mapping or creating buyer personas as detailed in the work of Tony Zambito and others.

Rental car companies and airlines do an excellent job with this, promoting cost-saving travel program messages at the business level while also promoting their simplicity and convenience to business travelers. One enterprise software vendor talks about making its IT customers into business heroes. Payroll and HR outsourcers emphasize how they take mundane, tedious tasks (like regulatory compliance) off the plates of small business owners and corporate HR staff alike.

Tell stories.

Though it’s vital to communicate product features and benefits (on both a business level and, as noted above, a personal level), stories are also very powerful. Stories help connect emotionally with buyers, and are also more memorable: research has found that after a presentation, 63% of attendees remember stories, while just 5% remember statistics.

Stories are used commonly in consumer marketing, but are also increasingly part of B2B marketing campaigns as well, with notable examples including GE, HubSpot, and Intel.

Use data to personalize messages intelligently.

Use whatever information you have at your disposal to make your emails and other communications as individualized as possible.

In a small company with a limited product line and contact database (as well as, generally, limited resources) this may be as simple as segmenting your list based on common characteristics like title and company size.

Marketers in mid-sized companies usually have marketing automation software installed (e.g., HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, Genoo, etc.). All of these are helpful in customizing messages for different market segments, if not quite down to the individual level.

Large enterprises can utilize sophisticated data mining to target messages to customers. However, the human element remains vital, to avoid over-reliance on data mining that can backfire and damage the brand’s image.

Optimize the customer experience.

The single most powerful and cost-effective form of marketing in existence is customer word-of-mouth (or word of mouse) advocacy.

Turning customers into stark, raving fans of your brand or product is something that can’t be purchased. It has to be earned. But it can be, by focusing not just marketing but company-wide efforts on creating a great customer experience, from the initial communications prospects receive through the buying process to ongoing customer service.

This is much more than a marketing campaign—it goes to the heart of the business and internal culture. A remarkable customer experience starts with creating an great employee experience.

Be a great place to work.

Employees are natural advocates for the business, and can be very influential. But their hearts will really only be in advocacy if you provide a great work environment.

Research has shown that happy employees make for happy customers—and both combined make for higher profitability.

Like happy customers, happy employees can’t be bought (at least not entirely). Compensation plays a role to be sure, but having managers who inspire and collaborate (rather than dictate and micromanage) is among the most important considerations, along with work environment and scheduling flexibility.

Prioritize integrity.

Trust goes a long way toward removing friction in marketing and sales. Like customer loyalty, it can’t be bought—it has to be earned. And it has to be consistent. Trust is challenging (but worthwhile) to earn, easy to lose, and almost impossible to regain once lost.

Which means integrity in all customer interactions, up and down the organization, has to be built into the culture. This may sound basic, even simplistic, but it’s more difficult than one may think. It’s easy to cut corners “just this once,” or tell prospective buyers “little white lies,” in order to make the quarterly numbers.

But short-term thinking can lead to long-term loss of respect—internally and externally. Integrity must be consistent to have value in humanizing a brand.

Be involved in the community.

Employees and customers alike want to work with organizations that act as part of a larger purpose. “Community” in this case can mean not just the local community, but also the industry community or even global “community.”

In the B2C world, Target’s corporate giving and TOMS Shoes One for One program are well known examples of community involvement. But community involvement can take many different forms, from a credit card company creating a forum to help small businesses to providing a platform for community-based technology organizations to companies that encourage employees to volunteer their time to worthy causes.

Sometimes (rarely) B2B marketing is simple: it’s about having the clearly best product, lowest price, or widest distribution network. Most often though, it’s not. It’s about differentiating your product or service in a crowded, competitive market. That’s when humanizing your marketing—and entire approach to doing business—can make all the difference.

Post to Twitter


What To Do When Your Facebook Ad Gets Rejected

October 20, 2015

Guest post by Pierre-Lou Dominjon.

Many factors go into creating Facebook Ads: headlines, copy, images, offers, targeting, bidding and more all have to be considered. Once you’ve assembled and created your ad, you still have to check it against Facebook’s guidelines and rulebook. If you add a landing page, the fun and chaos increase even further.

Facebook advertising tips

Image credit: Revinate

It’s therefore no surprise that a large number of Facebook Ads are rejected. When an ad comes back rejected, it can be frustrating, especially when the advertiser has a hard time figuring out what went wrong. Knowing what to do when a Facebook Ad gets rejected however, makes it easier to keep things going smoothly and get your ad back up and running quickly.

Here are some quick tips for what you can do.

How You Will Know

When you’re waiting for your ad to get approved, you can check its status through an ads manager, or through an aggregating platform like Growmobile. It will either be marked as pending, accepted, or rejected. The approval process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours.

When your ad gets rejected, you’ll not only see that it’s been rejected, you’ll also be given a reason by Facebook.

Some reasons are very specific, such as “you used a blocked word or phrase.” Sometimes, the explanations are more vague, and you’ll have to go investigate the problem yourself. Either way, it’s time to get back to work on the ad and see what needs adjusting.

How to Get Your Questions Answered

If you have questions as to why an ad was rejected, or if you want clarification or more direction so that you can make sure your ad gets approved next time, you can contact the Facebook Ads team directly. Doing this can provide you clear directions on how to proceed in a way that your ad will likely get accepted for the next go-around. You can also live-chat with a Facebook representative to get those answers quickly. You can contact Facebook and an ads specialist here.

Revise and Resubmit

Facebook doesn’t have a computer program or software that automatically approves ads, as many have previously thought; they have a team of trained, experienced employees whose sole jobs are to approve or reject Facebook Ads.

Because of this, certain sites mistakenly recommend resubmitting the same ad without making any changes, saying that “the system is subjective,” whether to opinion or human error.

That is not the case; these experts are highly trained when it comes to Facebook Ads (hence the term “experts”) and they know the rule book front to back, as will the person next to them. Approval of Facebook Ads is much less subjective than some people seem to think. If your ad gets rejected once and you resubmit it the same way, there’s a 99.99% chance it will get rejected again.

Here’s a fun bonus: if you continue to submit the same unrevised ad time after time, it can lead to your account being suspended or even banned. Additionally, if you receive several ad rejections you run the risk of having your quality score reduced, negatively impacting your ad delivery and your KPIs (how much you’re paying for clicks and impressions).

Because of this, it’s highly recommended to always make the suggested revisions the first time around, and not continue sending an unrevised ad—this will make the process go more quickly and be less painful for everyone.

Tips to Keep Your Ads from Getting Rejected

While it’s not the end of the world if your ad is rejected, we’d all rather save some time and have them approved the first time around (or at least the second time, since continuing to submit rejected ads can lead to your account getting banned).

Here are a few quick and easy tips to make sure ads get approved:

  • Some industries have additional guidelines for how they can use Facebook Ads. Liquor companies, for example, can’t advertise to anyone under 21, or to people within certain regions. Medical and pharmaceutical companies can’t advertise products requiring prescriptions to acquire. Review Facebook’s rule book to check for additional industry rules for your business before you run your ads.
  • If your ad gets rejected and you have a landing page, check the landing page first. Landing page issues are among the most common reasons ads get rejected, for problems like offers not matching up, or the fine print not being spelled out. You can see a full list of common landing page errors here.
  • Some ads will be rejected because consistency is a problem. The image doesn’t match what’s being advertised, the copy doesn’t match the headline, or the offer isn’t consistent in the ad and on the landing page. Consistency is key.
  • Be mindful of the 20% rule. This is a rule Facebook has that states that text can’t take up more than 20% of an image on an ad. Some platforms offer a built-in tools to check if an image passes the 20% rule by activating a grid across a picture dividing it up into sections.
  • Other common reasons ads get rejected include having automatic downloads, implying an endorsement from Facebook, and having misleading content. You can take a quick peek and review them all here so you know what to be on the lookout for.

Final Thoughts

Though it’s frustrating when an ad you’ve worked hard on comes back rejected, it’s always best to pinpoint the problem, adjust it, and try to resubmit it again once you’ve addressed the issue. Again, attempting to just resubmit the same exact ad again without fixing anything can lead to your account getting suspended or banned, so it’s just not worth the risk.

Adjusting your ad is often relatively easy, and while some complete overhauls are needed, it’s always worth it in the end to make sure it gets approved with the next submission so you can start running your campaigns—and seeing ROI—as soon as possible.

Pierre-Lou Dominjon leads the MakeMeReach division of Growmobile by Perion.

Post to Twitter


Empathy and Marketing: How to Turn Your B2B Prospects Into People

October 13, 2015

Guest post by Brooke Cade.

Social media has changed the way we interact with each other. Not only on a personal level, but also of course in business. Brands know they can’t ignore these platforms (which is why 95% of B2B marketers have created corporate social media accounts) and the successful companies have figured out a way to effectively engage and build strong relationships with their customers. One key to  sound business use of social media is empathy.

Using emphathy in B2B marketing

Image credit: Flickr

In the marketing realm, there’s a lot of talk about empathy. But do you know how to appropriately use it in a business context, and more importantly, what are you doing to apply it to your marketing strategy? Empathy is defined as the act of putting yourself in another person’s thoughts, feelings, personality, and circumstances to provide them with not only better service, but to foster long-term relationships as well.

One aspect that can get overlooked, especially on the digital platforms, is the importance of listening to your customers. A negative review or comment can get us jumping down another person’s throat, but have you stopped to acknowledge their review and see what you can do to rectify the situation? Successful brands are utilizing these situations to better market their brand, but surprisingly, many companies are not. By ignoring your customers, even online, you not only turn them off from your brand, but you risk losing other potential customers.

How can you use empathy to connect with customers online (and off)?

First, take time to understand your customers. Through learning about their hopes and dreams, fears and concerns, you can build their trust and gain valuable insights on what you can do to serve them better. Talk to your customers, collect feedback, and develop strategies to better identify with them to meet their needs and demands.

As you begin to know your target audience better, you can start to build a campaign around empathy. Pull in your team, along with managers and stakeholders, to brainstorm and throw out as many ideas as possible. During the brainstorm session, use an empathy map to look at the four aspects of the customer experience: thinking, feeling, doing, and seeing.

In each section, consider your customer’s perspective and ask yourself the following questions:

  • • Thinking: Ask yourself, how does the customer perceive themselves? The product? What are their dreams and fears? When you are clear on how your customer sees the world around them, you can better anticipate their needs and how your product or service can benefit them.
  • • Seeing: How do your customers view their community? What is missing from the world around them? When you understand the world from your customers perspective, their values, you can build trust and connect on a deeper level.
  • • Doing: What are they doing to change their lives? What are their daily habits? How does your product or service help them reach their goals? If you know the answer to these questions, you can better identify your customers needs and how you can help them find a solution.
  • • Feeling: How do your customers feel after using your product? How do they express their feelings? Customers base a lot of their decisions on how a product makes them feel about themselves and the world around them. Are you connecting with them on an emotional level?

How can you apply this in your marketing strategy?

Let’s take a look at Extra Space Storage. In their recent video campaign, 10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Having a Baby, they were able to use empathy to connect on a personal level with first time parents. (Though this is a consumer marketing example, the principles apply equally well to B2B marketing.)

By taking time to identify their customers’—both current and future—hopes and fears (thinking), the company able to reach people on an emotional level (feeling), and make the connection that some memories will want to be saved and past down. In this campaign, they built a connection with their customers that went deeper than just the product or service.

What can you do to apply empathy in your next campaign or email outreach? As you utilize the empathy map exercise and brainstorm with your team, possibly a few times, you will gain deeper insights into your customers and the way you can provide them with better service.

At the end of the day, what it really comes down to is: are your customers feeling like they’ve been heard? The way you can answer that question, and show your customers that you’ve heard and care about them is with empathy.

About the Author: Brooke Cade is a freelance writer with When she is not writing, Brooke is committed to learning more about helping businesses and sales professionals improve their customer experience.

Post to Twitter


Are CMOs Putting Too Many Eggs in One Media Basket?

October 6, 2015

Editor’s note: this post was originally published on the MeasureMyBrand blog.

According to recent research, U.S. digital advertising revenues rose 16% last year, and the trend indicates another double-digit percentage rise this year as well. As the economy improves and marketing budgets increase, the dollars are flowing disproportionately to online ads.

Marketers last year spent $19 billion on search advertising, $7 billion on social media ads, and almost $4 billion on display (primarily banner ads).

But are these increases the best way for CMOs to spend (still hard-earned) marketing dollars? Or would a different allocation across channels contribute more to long-term brand success? And how can CMOs make such decisions?

There are several reasons for CMOs to take a hard look at digital advertising, particularly non-search ads, in the coming year.

First, as the IAB research also notes, increased competition for limited ad space has led to “higher prices in the cost per click for ads.” More bucks will be required to get the same bang.

Second, ad blocking software is a growing concern. A quarter of all Internet users, and 41% of millennials, now use ad-blocking browser plugins. That’s a lot of eyeballs not seeing ads.

Third, and most importantly, spending on digital advertising needs to be balanced against other channels, as paid presence is just one pillar of a paid-owned-earned-shared media strategy–and not always the best for achieving long-term brand objectives.

paid owned earned shared media

Image credit: Pear Analytics


As noted here previously, the KPIs most important to CMOs fall into three groups: brand, competitive, and website performance measures.

Digital advertising can increase brand awareness, but must be created and targeted very carefully to have a chance of improving brand preference. Ads viewed as stalking or annoying (a significant concern, given the growing use of ad blockers noted above) can actually reduce brand preference.

Online ads can improve webshare (the competitive share of a brand’s web presence within a product/service category)—but it’s an expensive way to do so. And they can actually decrease website engagement, as ad landing pages often have high bounce rates.

None of this is to suggest brands should spend less on digital advertising, or even necessarily that they shouldn’t spend more. But CMOs do need to focus on the most revealing, future-looking KPIs in order to make the optimal decisions for their specific circumstances.

For more on this topic, download the Web Marketing KPIs white paper. Learn about web presence optimization as a web marketing strategy. And be sure to follow CMO Dave on his 2015 Measurement Odyssey on YouTube!

Post to Twitter


Looking for Surprises in the 2015 B2B Lead Generation Trend Report

September 29, 2015

This year’s B2B Lead Generation Report from Holger Schulze of the B2B Technology Marketing Group on LinkedIn was recently published, detailing key trends, best practices, and challenges for B2B marketing professionals.

2015 B2B Lead Generation Report - Technology MarketingThe reports high-level findings were about as surprising as discovering there really is gambling going on in those casinos:

  • • The top two priorities for B2B marketers are increasing lead quality and lead volume.
  • • 59% of respondents said generating high quality leads is their biggest B2B lead generation challenge.
  • • Lack of resources such as staff, funding and time remains the biggest obstacle to successful B2B lead generation.

So, were there any surprises in the findings? Here are several conclusions from the report that may be at least bit more unexpected and noteworthy.

Quality trumps cost. 68% of respondents identified “increasing lead quality” as their top priority for the coming year; just 14% said the same of “reducing the cost per lead.” Vendors are generally willing to spend more on marketing in 2016 if that results in leads with greater win potential.

Marketing becoming more about sales than PR? 42% of respondents said that converting leads into customers was among their top challenges. For high-value business products like enterprise software, servers,  and production equipment, this is the job of sales. But for low-value, frequently purchased, commodity-type products, marketing often is sales. The same is often true for low-cost SaaS applications.

Meanwhile,  just 17% indicated that “generating public relations and awareness buzz” was among their most challenging tasks. It isn’t clear if this is because the role of brand buzz is under-appreciated, or if most marketers simply don’t find this to be challenging.

Less signal, more noise. Just 16% of B2B marketing professionals rate their lead generation efforts as “very or extremely effective.” Ironically, the proliferation of new tools and channels for reaching potential buyers hasn’t made lead generation easier, but rather has made it more difficult for marketers to make their brand messages rise above the noise and stand out from the crowd.

High-touch beats high-tech. Conferences and trade shows were rated as the most effective lead generation (which mirrors findings reported here previously), with 88% of respondents using live events and 32% calling these efforts “very effective.” Meanwhile, just 4% of B2B marketers believe mobile marketing is a highly effective tactic—and 59% don’t use this medium at all.

SEO is valuable, but misunderstood. About 80% of B2B marketing pros rank their company website and/or SEO as very or somewhat effective for lead generation. Only about half say the same for tactics like PR, content syndication, blogging, or social media—though those efforts are vital in increasing a brand’s overall web presence, which is vital for improving search engine rankings and ultimately driving more website traffic.

99 problems, but the economy ain’t one. Finally, at least somewhat surprisingly, few marketers view current economic conditions as a significant problem. As noted above, lack of resources is cited as the top challenge in B2B lead generation. About 40% of marketers also identify lack of high-quality data and audience insights as key challenges. Just 12% cite the economic climate or lack of demand.

And there’s much more. Just 15% of respondents said marketing contributes half or more of company revenue. 24% just plain don’t know. Whitepaper and eBook downloads are by far the top producers of leads, according to 59% of respondents; just 4% say the same for podcasts. LinkedIn is viewed as the most effective social platform for lead generation; Vine is the least.

Download the full report for all the details.

Post to Twitter


« Newer EntriesOlder Entries »