Welcome to the Business-to-Human (B2H) Movement
Businesses don’t care about your content. They don’t read your blog, click on your ads, or buy your products or services. People do.
People are emotion-generating machines. Of course, we want to do well at our jobs, get promoted—but we also want to be entertained. We want to laugh and enjoy time with our friends and family. Most of all, we want a sense of community. That’s what modern B2B marketing lacks: the human factor.
Enter brand, or I should say: re-enter brand.
In the 1.0 marketing world of the 1990s, brand was king. VPs of marketing would throw logos on pens and host company tradeshows, while sales teams basically cannibalized growth. This was the “get a badge and move into ACME CORP headquarters and sell to that one customer for the rest of your life” era.
Then came marketing automation in the early 2000s. Every online article and discussion was centered on the rise of the CMO and the use of automation as a means of scaling growth through technology. This allowed a single marketer to reach hundreds of thousands of people through email, and the power shift of growth moved from sales to marketing. But in this transfer, brand was pushed out almost completely.
Even today, if you search for B2B marketing best practices, 9 out of 10 articles are on demand gen, account based marketing (ABM), and these traditionally “growth-oriented practices” that were crystalized during that web 2.0 period.
What’s happened, however, is we’re all onto the trick, and we’re tired of getting emails. If you're like me, you spend the first hour or so of every day deleting emails that are obviously sent via some type of marketing automation platform. Consumers—and I use that word deliberately—are tired of being automated.
Why? Because automation, in the traditional sense, lacks community. It lacks empathy. Customers want someone to listen to them and care about their unique struggles—not make broad assumptions based on their LinkedIn job title. They want value to be the driver of the conversation because value builds trust.
The demand gen answer to this problem is personalization at scale (ABM), but what it comes down to is how do we change the way the market thinks about our logos, executive team, and core value proposition? How do we move away from the “vendor” title and become a thought partner who’s genuinely there to help?
Welcome to marketing 3.0: the rise of B2H (business-to-human). At Gainsight, for example, our goal is to celebrate the human behind the job title. As marketers, our role is to anchor around the person, the profession, and make them heroes.
The B2C world knows this. They have to, after all, because they’re selling to individuals, not “businesses.” But we’re all consumers—and that’s no different in B2B. Recently, however, we’ve seen forward-thinking B2B companies embracing this shift and recognizing that marketing efforts must be built around the human.
To put B2H in practice, let’s look at David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory (also known as Three Needs Theory), define the three main motivators for human behavior, and lay out some real-world use cases for B2H.
3 Principles of B2H: McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory
In 1961, Harvard psychologist David McClelland extended Abraham Maslow’s research into human motivation and released the seminal book “The Achieving Society.” In which, he identified three universal motivating drivers: a need for achievement, a need for affiliation, and a need for power. B2H marketing is structured around helping consumers fulfil their desires by satisfying each of these motivators.
1. Need for Achievement
We all want to be good at what we do. It gives us a sense of purpose and reinforces our worth, our value, but so much of B2B marketing is product-centric, which ignores this very crucial motivation.
However, if we shift our marketing to add value to our potential customers by becoming a thought partner who offers content and advice that equips them to work smarter and shine in their role, then, by osmosis, those feeling of achievement are intimately linked with our brand.
Current best practices focus on taking a challenger position against competition—to show how we’re better than Microsoft or Salesforce or whomever—but this tactic, while beneficial in sales conversations, fails to address the need for individual achievement.
When we started Gainsight, our market was so new that we couldn’t just build technology and products to go sell; we had to first help people define their strategy and processes and discover how Customer Success would fit within their organization. Without that investment in the achievement of our customers, we wouldn’t have been able to create demand for our product, plain and simple. We had to seed the market with knowledge to help individuals within companies succeed in order to spur our own growth.
2. Need for Affiliation/Community
For many of us, we are the only one at our company who does what we do. This can make us feel isolated, alone. We need a community, and that’s where B2H comes in.
To build a community, at Gainsight we took a page from the marketing 1.0 playbook: live events. There’s a cathartic sense of relief when we meet others who are facing the same challenges we are. We can empathize and share tactics and help each other.
Our events are all about facilitating the discussion of best practices to arm our customers with the knowledge to make them the hero of their organization, but rather than pushing that information down from the top, we enable the conversation through the community. We aren’t the ones on stage speaking; we are the stage.
However, you don’t want the community to dissolve once the lights come up and the last speaker leaves. This is where video can help. In addition to recording event sessions, we also interview the speakers and attendees, get a sense of the buzz in the hallways and the small intimate places to capture the value of the community. By placing all of this content on a microsite, using Vidyard, our conversations can continue after the lights have come on and the stage is empty.
3. Need for Power
In today’s business world, power comes in the form of thought leadership. Sharing expertise and knowledge isn’t just beneficial for those individuals consuming the thought-leadership content, it also meets a third need for the person sharing. It builds their authority.
If we structure our initiatives around achievement and community properly, we create a platform for our customers to increase their authority. By investing in the success of the individuals within the community, these experts—these heroes—we have helped rise up can then become our most vocal champions. Their strength comes from the value created through B2H.
As we move into this new era of B2H, it’s easy to bring with us the trappings of B2B: an over-reliance on automation for the sake of scale; our one-sided conversations about product features; and the attitude that we’re selling to businesses, not consumers. But if we shift our focus to the human, to doing everything within our power to help them succeed, the rest will come naturally. Because we—marketers—are humans, too, and in B2H, we’re allowed once again to act like it.