Be human. Your customers will thank you.

Technology, analytics, ranking, ROI, KPI, metrics, SEO, statistics, widgets, automation, media … each of these has a role to play in marketing a brand, but sometimes we put too much weight on them. We get caught up in making sure we have installed the latest plug-in, created a presence on the newest social network, and optimized our content to within an inch of it’s life. We forget that search engines and apps don’t buy our services – human beings buy our services.

Your brand needs to be human, too.
Whether you’re selling coaching or core processors, pet sitting or software, connecting with your customers on a human level is critical to capturing their interest, building strong relationships, and nurturing brand loyalty. People do not fall in love with brands because of what they are. People fall in love with brands because of “who” they are – the people behind the brand, the human experience of the brand, the emotional “why” and “so what?” of a brand.

If the face of your brand lacks a human element, you’re making your job as a marketer much harder than it needs to be. You’re setting yourself up to do a lot of extra work around convincing prospects of your brand’s value. Though we humans like to think we make choices based on a logical thought process, the truth is we usually make decisions based on gut reactions. We “like” a person or a product or a brand “just because.” Though a side-by-side comparison of two similar products might tell us that product A is the logical choice, if product B has found a way to connect with our human, emotional side, it will have the edge.

Four ways to humanize your brand:
There are four brand element categories that can benefit from the human touch: message, language, visuals, and interaction.

Message:
A human message focuses on people and their problems instead of products and their features. You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s worth repeating: talk about benefits, not features. Don’t make your product the star of the show, shine the spotlight on your customer. Talk about her life, her problems, her goals. Provide clear examples of how your product or service has real world applications for her.

Language:
Use simple, straightforward language to communicate your message. Don’t get tangled up in corporate-speak, marketingese, or technobabble. Talk like a human being. The shorter and simpler you can be in your presentation, the higher your audience’s comprehension and retention. Use stories and anecdotes – story is the language of humanity. Stories are easy to remember and share. Develop a conversational tone and style that is pleasant to read. Don’t be scared off by the naysayers who warn it’s the kiss of death – give humor a try. (Humans love to laugh.)

Visuals:
Please, please for the love of the marketing gods, do NOT use boring, seen-everywhere stock photography. The ubiquitous image of the office girl in glasses seen drawing a flow chart through a clear white board does not give anyone the warm and fuzzies, and it doesn’t do anything for your credibility either. Take the time to source interesting images that speak to the personality and philosophy of your brand. Better yet, invest in custom photography. Use nice head shots on your team bios, add head shots to your testimonials, include accent images throughout your website and in your ebooks and white papers. The rise of sites like Pinterest shows that we humans are visual creatures – give your customers something to look at.

Interaction:
Perhaps most importantly, be human in your interactions. Encourage conversations on your blog, and participate in them. If you engage in social media, don’t make it all about you or your product. Share other people’s content, share non-business content, don’t be afraid to show your personal side. Write emails that sound like emails, not like mandates handed down from on-high or slick sales messages wrapped in pseudo-informational content. Make customer service a central focus of your humanizing efforts. Your policies should advocate for the customer, not act as laws to keep her toes to the line. Provide direct access to real people. Respond promptly. Don’t freak out if customer interactions include banter or chatter or gossip about favorite TV shows. Embrace it. Those are the moments that make magic.
If you can humanize your brand, you will have an easier time connecting with customers. You won’t have to push so much on the hard sell. You won’t be cornered as often in feature- or price-based showdowns with competitors. Your brand will have that je ne sais quoi which appeals to people’s emotional, gut reaction side. And – just like that – you win.

So, how human is your brand? When you convert a customer, do you know what tipped the scales in your favor? Did the human element come into play?

Image Credit:  Anthony Reeves

8 Responses to “Be human. Your customers will thank you.”

  1. Amen to all of this. This is something I talk to my clients about all the time – we are people behind the avatars, the blog, the business!!

    I made a conscious effort a few months ago to use simpler language and ditch the jargon to make my message easier to grasp – it changed things completely for me and my business. I know all the jargon and I could talk the talk I learnt when I did my masters but who does that help?

    Oh, and as for visuals – doodle!

    • Exactly, Ameena. I worked for a long time in corporate promotional companies and traditional advertising agencies. Buzzword-laden lingo was everywhere. It’s an old habit that’s easy to slide into, but – like you – I’ve made a conscious decision to step away from that in favor of plain English and clear communication. No bells and whistles needed.

      And – YES!!! – doodle. LOVE your doodles and everything they embody. Fabulous. :)

  2. Hey Jamie,

    Great Message. I agree, a business needs to be human. In my blog, I try to make the posts user friendly and relate able. Recently, I have also been interested in writing as if I am conversing with my readers (I have done that in the past, and have got great results). Then again, I like changing up things once in a while and experimenting with something new. As far as language goes, I try to keep it simple (I believe in Einstein’s quote – If you can’t explain it simply, then you haven’t understood it well enough).

    Sadly, I don’t use any visuals in my blog posts (I attribute that to laziness to finding great images). I think it is something that I need to change.

    With interactions, I have tried different approaches with different sources. For instance: In twitter, I have tried just tweeting out quotes and tips that are related to my niche (I did get great results with). I have also tried the conversationalist approach – just conversing with others and nothing more. Each of these approaches have given me different results. I am also trying new techniques with commenting (right now, I am doing a commenting experiment) and seeing what works.

    Anyways, I do appreciate your post,

    Thanks for the thoughts,

    Jeevan

    • Hi, again, Jeevan!
      Thanks for hanging out on my blog this way. Very fun. :)

      Deciding on the right “voice” for your blog involves a combination of what’s natural for you and what your audience needs/wants to hear. It usually takes some time to figure out the best balance of authority and conversation, etc. Take your time and don’t try to force it. Experimenting the way you are is the perfect way to get there.

      RE: images – they are important! I know they can be a pain in the arse to find. (I swear, sometimes it takes me longer to find the right picture than to write my whole post.) BUT … it adds a layer of “flavor” and style to your blog that makes it easier for people to remember you. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Humans are visual creatures. Most people actually (gasp!) hate to read. Including a visual helps to bring your message together in your reader’s mind.

      Interactions are another are that take time. You’ll find your groove. For Twitter, I always recommend my friend Mark W. Schaefer’s book, The Tao of Twitter: http://www.thetaooftwitter.com/

      Good luck and have FUN!

      • I am still experimenting (hopefully, I won’t give up as I did for my old blog).

        I guess I can spend a little more time finding great images for my blog posts – Thank you for the encouragement, Jamie :)

        Thank you for sharing the link! I will check it out :)

        • Don’t give up, Jeevan! Usually, when you are most frustrated and worn out is just when you’re about to break through a barrier of some kind.
          Keep at it!
          ;)

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