HELLO. I AM A ROBOT. WOULD YOU LIKE TO PURCHASE MY SERVICES.
This is what most sales pitches sound like to me. Light on personality, imagination and personalization, heavy on pushy, salesy jargon. More talking than listening.
It takes effort, planning and coordination, but you need to find ways to humanize your marketing. It’s about much more than just avoiding corporate robo-voice. Humanizing entails meeting people on their terms, being thoughtful, and harmonizing your efforts to make sure all touchpoints complement one another.
It’s about using marketing to fuel success!
Why Go to the Trouble?
Unless you do something REALLY specific (otter taxidermist, floating burrito restaurant boat captain, etc.), you probably have competitors. Which means you need to work harder to stand out and increase brand loyalty. Treating customers like fellow human beings (instead of pieces of meat with credit cards) is an obvious yet critical place to start.
Aside from the practical, cosmic karma virtues derived from common courtesy, personalization and personal, human connections can have major implications on your bottom line.
Let’s run down a few ways to humanize and harmonize your marketing efforts.
1. Solicit Feedback
Every business wants to know more about their customers — who they are, what they like, what turns them off, etc. — and yet surprisingly few are willing to take the time to get their input.
Granted, not every customer is willing to provide feedback, generate ideas or ‘join the conversation,’ as we often say. But you won’t know if you don’t ask.
The key here is soliciting feedback in a way that’s not intrusive, annoying or time-consuming. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: Would you be more likely to respond to a survey on email or social media? A good old fashioned print piece? A phone call?
Whatever format you choose, just make it easy for people to participate and make their voice heard.
And most importantly, make sure you acknowledge and incorporate the feedback you receive to better meet your audience’s needs. Otherwise you’ll have wasted everyone’s time (including your own).
2. Give Shoutouts, Show Love
Discounts are great. Birthday wishes and retweets are nice. But when’s the last time you did something truly thoughtful for a customer? I mean really above and beyond?
Showing love to your audience never comes back void. Exceptional customer service (and general thoughtfulness) never goes out of style.
Taking the time to do something special for a client can make them a fan for life. And in our digital age, you might gain the added benefit of having your praises sung in cyberspace.
Why not take a few hours to come up with creative ways to show how much you genuinely appreciate the people who do business with you? Have you considered a custom event? Are you using content marketing to grow relationships and facilitate engagement?
3. Give Back, Together
You don’t have to have a ‘buy one, give one’ business model for altruism to be a key part of your corporate ethos. Charitable action and awareness can be a great way to build camaraderie with your customer base (and among your employees) … IF done in a way that’s inclusive, uplifting, personal and genuine.
If you’re passionate about a cause, why not invite your audience to get involved as well? Are you having a volunteer day? Invite people to join you! Are you trying to reach a certain fundraising goal, or meet a need at a local school? Let your audience know about it and reach your charitable goal together. Community-based teamwork is awesome.
Just be sure to do your due diligence before promoting a charitable endeavor, and confirm it’s not anything potentially divisive or controversial. Keep in mind that it’s a thin line between edifying, bona fide philanthropy, and something that will be perceived as cynical and self-serving.
Tread carefully here, as one tone-deaf gaffe or inadvertently insensitive social media post can quickly backfire and have a dehumanizing effect on your marketing efforts.
4. Talk How People Talk
Striking a balance between ‘professional’ and ‘conversational’ messaging is a challenge for any business. Not too stilted, but not too breezy. Not too many emoji. Enjoyable, but not unprofessional.
The best advice here is to just be yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not. To use an annoying but accurate sports cliché: ‘Play within yourself.’
Whatever ‘persona’ you project, be consistent, courteous and clear. Be responsive and empathetic.
Ad and marketing copy should be persuasive, of course, but not overbearingly so. It’s OK to toot your horn about your products/services and why you’re so great. But everything you write should be customer-centric.
Finally, don’t try to mimic the style of Buzzfeed, The Economist, or your competitors. Just be you! (Hopefully you don’t talk like a robot.)
5. Weave it All Together
Last but not least, we’ve reached the ‘harmonizing’ portion of our program. Like most things in life, marketing is all about finding the right blend.
Every audience is different, with different motivations and preferences, so marketing mixes should vary according to taste. Keep in mind it’s your audience’s taste that matters. It’s not all about you and what you think is snazzy.
Since there’s no ‘one size fits all’ marketing plan, you get the fun job of selecting the ingredients that make up your particular marketing stew. The onus is on you to take the temperature of your customers and track engagement metrics to create the most appealing concoction of channels and content possible.
How you pepper the pot with events, email, social, video, graphics and other content will change with time, but the key is to remember whose palate you’re trying to please (not your own).
All your communications and touchpoints should work together and reinforce one another, not create a cacophony of confusion. They should, ideally, harmonize to make your brand stronger and reach more people where they are.
As consumers continue to be inundated with an endless array of communications and purchase options, marketers need to increasingly humanize their messaging in order to foster loyalty and gain an edge over competitors. Some smooth Boyz II Men harmonizing across channels won’t hurt your cause, either.