How To Humanize Your Marketing Efforts [Q&A With Brian Honigman]

A lot of business owners and managers struggle with understanding how to effectively engage with customers online. Most business owners know that they need to be active and present on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, but not as many know how to actually connect on a human level with their current and prospective customers online. Similarly, most business owners know that blogging should be included in their marketing efforts, but few understand what they should be writing about, what their customers need help with, or how to develop a brand voice.

If you’re a business owner and you’re interested in strengthening your brand reputation, reaching new customers, and building loyalty among your current customer base online, you need to focus on adding a human component to your marketing efforts.

We recently talked with Brian Honigman, a marketing consultant who shares his insight on sites like Forbes, The Next Web, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur, and asked him to answer a few questions in order to help business owners understand why the human factor is so important when it comes to marketing to and connecting with consumers online. Read through our questions and his answers to find out how and why to start humanizing your marketing efforts.

Why do you think businesses and brands struggle so much with being transparent and authentic when it comes to marketing to people online?

Brian: Many businesses still operate as if it’s 2010, especially when it comes to their marketing. This makes it more difficult for many organizations to adapt to the changes in today’s economy where the consumer has more control than ever. Change is difficult and unfortunately, many businesses try to hold onto old ideals that prevent them from truly being transparent and authentic to their customer base and employees.

Marketing automation is necessary for a lot of businesses, but what can businesses do to still sound and look “human”?

Brian: Marketing automation is important for many organizations in order to appropriately scale their efforts to reach the right customer base with their messaging. However, it’s important with marketing automation that every step has been crafted to match the unique needs of your target audience. Marketing automation is like a ship helping your business traverse the sea (the consumer landscape) but it’s critical to have people at the helm in order to get to your destination (be useful for your customers). To be human craft each step of your marketing with the interests of your audience in mind to help personalize the messaging they are receiving.

What do you think classifies “sounding like a human being” to people? Or what do people look for?

Brian: Sounding human being is subjective, but creating a relatable voice for your organization, especially with your marketing, comes down to three key elements, some of which I’ve already mentioned in the above questions. First off, know who your target audience is when you’re trying to talk to them. This is the foundational step to making your company voice human, talk to your audience similarly to how they talk to one another and tie in their unique preferences, interests and needs. Secondly, ignore consumers outside of your target audience when it comes to how your voice is crafted. A strong brand voice resounds with customers you’ve developed a product or service for and may or may not with others, but they aren’t paying your bills, so ignore them. Lastly, be consistent with your voice everywhere. I can’t stress this enough. Your company voice should be applied to signage, email, your website, product copy, landing pages, social media and everywhere else your business is active.

What are some actionable tips you could give to business owners who want be more authentic and “human” in their marketing efforts?

Brian: Again, being more human means that you really understand your own product or service and how it provides value to a particular customer base. Once that’s established, you can better craft a voice based on the key interests of your audience and what your company is comfortable with executing. Whether humanizing your brand is accomplished through comedy, being relatable, saving customer’s time, providing ongoing value or otherwise, it needs to consistently address a few themes in order to successfully project a humanizing feeling from your organization. Another great way to come off more human is to showcase the people that run your business, whether that’s a founder or another employee. Include the participation of your team in a video interview, with photos on the website or some other form of inclusion in your marketing.

Are they any tools, books, or other resources you recommend?

Brian: When it comes to humanizing your brand, I’d recommend using Twitter extensively since it’s a great tool for facilitating one-to-one communication between your business and your customer base. In terms of resources to reference on how to humanize your brand, I’d check out Marc Ecko’s book, Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out, as well as Dave Kerpen’s Likeable Business.   

What are some small and big businesses who are doing a good job of this? Do you have any favorites?

Brian: Some businesses that have really humanized their brand include Warby ParkerBuffer AppUber, and Southwest Airlines. Check out their web properties to see a consistent approach on how they present themselves to their target audience.

Are there any really terrible examples out there?

Brian: In terms of terrible examples, these businesses don’t understand who they are trying to communicate with, tend to try to be something that they’re not and haven’t properly created a product or service of value. This comes across in the inconsistencies in their brand voice or lack of a voice all together.

Some people say that creating user personas can help with establishing voice. Do you agree with that?

Brian: Buyer personas are critical to humanizing a brand. As I referenced earlier with different words, your target audience is important to understand from the very beginning. To get a firm grasp on your target audience, really think about who you’re developing a product or service for. From here gather feedback from consumers to see what resonates and what doesn’t in the form of interviews, focus groups and surveys.

Was it ever a challenge for you to humanize your own content and if so, how did you overcome it?

Brian Honigman Q&A

Brian: It was difficult to humanize my own content only when I tried to be someone that I’m not and wasn’t paying attention to the demographics of my readers and customer base. I experiment a lot with my approach to marketing my business, which sometimes leads to failed experiments. I learned to stick with what I know and continue to work on creating content that I know delivers value. By keeping a strong focus on the interests of my audience when creating content I see more results and that’s always a good thing.

Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant, freelance writer and professional speaker. He works with both startups and brands like Sumall, Dell, Adknowledge and others focused on marketing, business and technology. He’s spoken at NYU, UNICEF, Huffington Post Live, the American Advertising Federation and for other organizations and conferences. He is a contributing writer to the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, the Huffington Post, Forbes, the Next Web, Mashable and others. Follow him on Twitter @BrianHonigman.

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