Not B2B or B2C, it’s H2H

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s not businesses doing business with other businesses, but rather people doing business with other people.” In the professional services world, we’re really starting to see this personal touch influence marketing and communications and believe it creates an enormous opportunity to update how your company is speaking to its customers.

On this week’s episode, we chat with Ida Cheinman, Principal with Substance151, a Baltimore-based branding and communications firm, about human-to-human (or H2H) marketing and the value of a likable brand.

“If branding is a feeling, why do we list our features and benefits instead of finding the heart of the matter and getting them to experience an emotion?”

CQ: In an April 2015 Entreprenuer article by Melanie Spring, she states:

Branding is a collection of all of the interactions of your business, essentially a feeling the customer gets from those interactions. So if branding is a feeling, why do we list our features and benefits instead of finding the heart of the matter and getting them to experience an emotion? It’s a valid question.

What would your answer to that question be?

IC: I think there are really a couple of reasons. One of them, is that our discipline and the marketing industry has changed so much, and we have so many generations in the workplace, some of which began their careers before the age of digital. I think there’s that little bit of an inheritance of the old way of doing marketing and communications. But I think, specifically in the services industry, there’s a fear of not being super professional. We’re so focused on acting professionally – and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, we absolutely should – but somehow, that idea of professional got confused with boring and impersonal.

I think that as marketers in this field, we are guilty. Sometimes I feel like we all come to the office and we check our humanness at the door. And we march into the office and we sit behind our computer and we start speaking in this jargonny, robotic monotone that has zero personality and also zero energy, and really no chance of attracting anyone what-so-ever. It really becomes professional at the expense of personality, and it doesn’t have to be.

CQ: In the professional services world, we’re challenged with assigning a persona to our professional services brand. How do you recommend marketers start that journey of finding who that persona, or avatar, is?

IC:  I think we all know personas are really important because it’s absolutely critical for us to know who we’re communicating with. And when identifying your own firm’s persona, you must remember there’s a huge difference between personality and behavior. You want to define your personality very clearly and it needs to be based on who your audiences are and fit with your firm’s culture. Because you can’t force it, it has to come naturally.

Once you’ve established your personality, or persona, then think about human behavior or brand behavior that matches it. We act differently in a conference room than we do at a happy hour, but the situation doesn’t change your underlying personality. Your values. It is the same with your brand. It shows up differently on LinkedIn than it does on Facebook. Nobody ever said, “we want to come across as boring,” but don’t try to build your personality around what you think it should be. Find that unique voice for your brand and then you have to stick with it, otherwise you lose authenticity.

CQ: How do you infuse that likability into something like a proposal or other non-social touchpoints? 

IC: It’s very important to have a strong brand foundation that establishes the core values for your brand, your personality, and how you want your brand to come across. Even in proposals, you really have a chance to pitch your brand and your firm and try to infuse that likability. Just think about your brand message points, your case studies, and the way you open the proposal as related to that personality. It requires knowing your personality and being comfortable with it. Putting your brand out there, the same as putting yourself out there, it’s scary. It’s stressful. But you need to take that risk as a brand. Otherwise you won’t be able to compete because the human-to-human replacing corporate speak movement is happening and everybody will catch on. You don’t want to be left behind, and still be that robotic, boring entity.

CQ: We’ve talked a lot about the marketer’s role, but the likability of your firm really comes down to the one-on-one interaction between the actual individual providing the service and the customer they’re providing it to. What role does recruiting play in the general likability of your firm?

IC: Every employee within your firm, no matter how big or small, is a marketer. It’s very important that every single person in your company, from the most junior to the president, understand, buy in, and really feel your brand. Otherwise they won’t be able to communicate it. I recommend that you do a series of internal workshops, and spend time on educating your internal teams and helping them understand what your brand is about. It’s that important.

Listen to the Podcast

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Links and Resources

About IDA

Ida Cheinman is founding principal and creative director of the strategic brand communications firm Substance151 and past president of SMPS Maryland. She has 20 years of industry experience in branding, marketing and design across print and digital media. With a niche focus on professional services, her clients range from numerous A/E/C firms to professional associations; her work has earned multiple design awards and industry recognition and appears consistently in national and international design publications. Ida frequently speaks and writes on the subjects of branding and marketing and she’s been published in the SMPS Marketer.

Have questions or want to chat more with Ida? Post your comments below or connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Double Dip with Ida

Join us Thursday on the podcast where Ida will share stories about her career and advice for helping marketers create change within their organizations.

“It’s that curiosity. Maybe that’s the designer in me, but I think in communications, marketing, all of those fields, it’s really important to constantly try to do something different and push yourself. To really self-educate because things change so much, and so fast. It’s not just about software, but you have to know the tools to do your job. It’s this constant push for learning new things, but I think that’s the creative, great part of the field we’re in. I think if you’re not enjoying it, you just shouldn’t be in this field. But if you are, there’s so many opportunities.”

Music by SONGO 21 – Studio sessions 2003 by SONGO 21 is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Next on Communiqueso

Next week, we’ll welcome Julie Huval, marketer with Beck Technology, to talk about tracking, applying, and leveraging marketing analytics.