B2B marketers have been pushing for personalized content for a good long while. Now we’re also trying to humanize content — to make the case that B2B buyers are human beings who want to connect with other humans on an emotional level.
Isn’t it remarkable that we still have to make that argument?
But I’m not here to write another 1000 words about humanizing content. I want us to take it a step further, beyond personalization, humanization, personality and empathy.
B2B content marketing needs to come from the heart.
True, genuine heart is the last frontier in content. Every brand has an Instagram with behind-the-scenes content to boost authenticity. Every brand is striving to give at least the appearance of sincerity, personality and transparency.
A lot of it is about as deep as the checkout clerk telling you to “have a nice day.” To stand out now, B2B content needs to hit on a more fundamental level.
Why Write from the Heart?
Even as we talk about “human to human” or “B2Me” marketing, we still tend to think that B2B content needs to be head-driven, mostly logic and reasoning, with a thin gloss of personality and emotion on top to “humanize.”
The truth is, of course, that humans are inherently emotional creatures who seek connection with each other. We most often decide with our hearts first, then apply logic in retrospect.
B2B content with heart seeks to make a connection first, then supply value, then finally ask for a next step. It has to be in that order.
So, what does it mean to write from the heart?
1. Upgrade Personality to Passion
I am not passionate about, say, a software-as-a-service platform that collects customer data for marketers. And I’m not sure I want to meet the person who is.
But I am passionate about less intrusive marketing, about people getting connected with solutions that meet their needs, and about a future where marketing is helpful and productive, not annoying. So I can lead with the passion, the why that drove us to create this solution, and then I can talk about the product’s capabilities.
2. Upgrade Empathy to Compassion
Let’s face it: The marketing term ‘empathy’ sometimes has little to do with what the word actually means. While we may strive for truly feeling someone else’s hopes and fears, it tends to be in the service of persuasion, rather than connection.
Compassion is more than just walking a mile in someone’s shoes. It’s sincerely desiring to help them — to ease suffering, bring joy, and help them be successful. Do you care if the people you’re marketing to get promoted, get to spend more time with their kids, can finally afford to buy a starter home, and so on?
If you can show that you have true compassion for your audience, beyond the solution you’re offering, you’re far more likely to make a connection.
3. Upgrade Authenticity to Vulnerability
Here’s a hard one. Very few brands want to seem vulnerable or fallible. Even with behind-the-scenes content, they tend to present a highly sanitized version of the business. If you admit a fault, or share an obstacle you had to struggle to overcome, will you lose people’s trust and confidence in your brand?
Absolutely not. You’re writing to people who experience hardships and make mistakes. You’ll make a better connection if you show that your brand is made up of fallible human beings, too.
There’s nothing more authentic and transparent than a warts-and-all look at the problems your company faces and the ways in which you try, fail and ultimately succeed.
4. Upgrade Thought Leadership to Humility
What’s the fastest way to make a connection with a stranger? Ask them to do you a favor. Ask for help. Most salespeople are familiar with this phenomenon, sometimes called the “Ben Franklin Effect.” The idea is that if someone does you a favor, they’re demonstrably more likely to do a second one, and to regard you more kindly than if you had done a favor for them.
I think the same is true with content marketing. Thought leadership content tends to lack the notion of humility — it usually focuses on establishing knowledge and authority, of the author as an inerrant source of truth.
The problem is, no one really likes a know-it-all. A hefty dose of humility can make thought leadership content much more engaging, and much more likely to start a conversation.
Imagine a blog post that goes, “I’ve seen success in my business with x, y, and z. But I’m still not sure how to best go about a, b, and c. What are your experiences? What do you do in this situation?”
The thought leader in this case is adding value by sharing their own experience and success, but also allowing others to share their expertise as well. The result can be a conversation that benefits everyone involved – author, audience, and brand.
Your Heart Will Go On
As Maya Angelou famously said, people may forget what you say, but they will never forget the way you made them feel. And the best way to engage someone’s emotions is to share your own. We can’t settle for the shallow marketing equivalents of passion, compassion, vulnerability, and humility.
We need to embrace the difficult but rewarding task of bringing our whole hearts to what we’re creating.