Human to human in inbound marketing
Marketing is about connecting and being a real, live human — not a droning corporate tool.

Marketing can become a self-consuming and navel-gazing perpetual motion machine. If you aren’t tying your marketing to achieve direct sales results, then I have a hard time figuring out why you’re marketing. Grabbing attention, engagement, personality, aren’t ends in and of themselves, they’re stepping stones to get to someone buying something from you.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole. Or sound like a lifeless corporate drone.

Human-to-Human Marketing

The genesis of this article is from a Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion, session at INBOUND 14. A series of statements from him got me rethinking the term B2B:

  • This is business.
  • All business is personal.
  • All sales are personal.

[I would add that all marketing is personal too, though you could also just lump that into sales.]

B2B; B2C; or even P2P (people to people, which had a couple of years’ run during the social media stampede a half-decade ago); whatever, I’ve never totally bought into these categories because when it comes to marketing, you need to create content for humans, whether directly as consumers or indirectly if they’re buying for their business. All of the great books about copywriting (and the leading lights of inbound marketing) focus on this basic element: know your customer. Also, all great copywriting is based on psychological insights – about, you guessed it, people.

I hate arbitrary TLAs (my favorite “three letter acronym) as much as the next person, so let’s not focus on H2H, P2P, B2B, B2C, or B2P (business-to-people) ; but on what marketing needs to put front and center: the person (in the form of the customer of whatever you’re peddling).

Sound Like a Peoples [or Speak Like a Human]

The part of this I want to emphasis is this: sound like an actual person. You don’t sound human with a mouthful of buzzwords (note: I’m not talking about technical jargon, which streamlines communication).

I think of buzzwords and business-speak as “sugar words.” They might taste good – at least to some people – but they aren’t really good for you. Utilize, maximize, and all the –ize words. Move the needle. Bleeding edge. Open the kimono. You can even make a sentence that means nothing: We are world-class providers of robust solutions at the right price point that leverage a scalable ecosystem to empower employees to take business to the next level.

And, really, does ideate need to be a word? Headcount; those are people you’re talking about – particularly if you’re talking about “restructuring” (oh, wait, “letting go” – fired is the word). Think out-of-the-box? I’d like to put the next person I hear say that in a box and nail shut the lid. is awesome at letting the air out of gaseous buzzwords.

Why be human? Trust.

It’s About Trust

“The business that we’re in, that you’re in, that I’m in – whether it’s swimming pools, whether it’s marketing services, whether it’s selling rocket fuel to airlines – this is a business of trust,” Sheridan said. “As soon as the company realizes that this is a business of trust, they start to focus on what matters and what they have to do to engender and generate more trust than anyone else in their space.”*

You earn – and I mean earn – trust by being human. Don’t be a marketer or a salesperson or whatever title you have, be a person. Trust starts with connecting on a personal level – dogs, children, movies, toy soldiers, love of Civil War history (those last two work well with me).

Don’t get so wound up in the technical aspects of marketing, the doing of everything, that you forget who you’re doing it for.

In my work, I’ve recently rediscovered how fantastic personas really are. For years I paid lip service to the idea of personas, having a vague, good enough perception of who I was talking to – and that worked “ok.” A well-developed person is a fantastic reference when you begin to create blog and asset ideas. I find myself rereading the various personas and spending time trying to see the world like they do. It’s harder than just spitting out content, but ultimately more effective. (though, admittedly, as a 44 year old guy trying to think like a 55 year old female office manager, there are limits – even to my imagination!)

I try to help people do their jobs better. I’m “doing marketing” but I’m also trying to be helpful – and doing that weird content marketing mental jujitsu of marketing without marketing.

Don’t Put Lipstick on a Pig

Finally, don’t just talk the talk. After all, it’s really hard to fake a personality. There’s not business me, I might tone down my, uh, ribald sense of humor in a business setting (at least until I know you), but if you met me out and you’ve done business with me, you won’t suffer mental whiplash.

Be you. Be useful. Earn trust. Do these things, and you’ll be successful.

Thanks to Allison Lloyd, Editor at DOCUMENT Magazine, for allowing me to write for her. This post was originally an article for her magazine, but she asked a few pointed questions about this one — like all good editors — and got me thinking about her audiences’ needs in a different way. The rewrite for DOCUMENT, loosely based on this original, is here: Marketing: How Customer Personas Can Help Build Trust and Brand Loyalty.

Just as I finished this, I found that there’s a book on this subject written by Bryan Kelly, There Is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human. It’s excellent and the Kindle version is a fast read.



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