Never underestimate the corporate world’s ability to take something that should be intuitive, and make it weird by overthinking it.
Case in point: We used to say, “B2B doesn’t have to be boring.” Which indicates that for a long time, folks truly believed that B2B did have to be boring — that B2B buyers were a unique species of creature that operated without emotion and wanted the driest content possible.
Now we’re talking about how we need to “humanize” B2B content. And doesn’t that sound like some kind of filter you run your content through after you make it? I picture something that looks like a fax machine, where you load the content in the top, and push a big red button marked “HUMANIZE.”
“We’re ready to ship that blog post, Johnson — wait! Don’t forget to humanize it!”
Now, I get that B2B brands are dealing with millions of dollars worth of business. It makes sense to be mindful about how you represent the brand. But there’s a difference between caution, and so much second-guessing that you end up having to relearn how to talk like people.
We can’t make content first, and then “humanize” it as an afterthought. Content should be about humans, by humans, and for humans, from the early planning stages to publication and beyond.
Here are a few ways you can make your content more relatable.
5 (More) Ways to Humanize Your Content
Nearly all of the marketers I know are actual humans (I’m still convinced Brian Solis is a highly advanced android from the future, but that’s beside the point). We’re all capable of making content for and by humans — we just need to unlearn some misconceptions and give ourselves permission to do it. These tips can help you start.
1 — Talk Like a Person
Corporate jargon is a language all its own, with its own vocabulary, cliches, and even sentence structure. It can sound stiff, dry and deeply unnatural to your audience.
For example, we might say: “Going forward, our software solution can be used by busy sales professionals to activate their data and achieve more meaningful results.”
When what we mean is: “You can find more potential prospects in your data with our solution.”
There are a few elements that set corporate-speak apart from actual human language:
- Passive voice. For example, “This article was written by me” is passive. “I wrote this article” is active. Active voice is more powerful, more emotionally compelling, and far more natural.
- Lack of “I” and “you.” I blame high school English class for this one. Every piece of marketing content should have an actual author who is present in the text. The word “I” is not your enemy. On the flipside, it’s okay to say “you” when you’re talking to your audience. Engage them directly!
Even better, if you and your audience are part of the same group, use the most powerful word of all: WE. We need to address this problem. We all feel a certain way sometimes. I can’t overstate how powerful a sincere we can be.
- Fussy vocabulary. Don’t utilize a less common word when you can use a simple one instead.
- Jargon. If you’re talking about how your solution delivers customer-centric data-driven insights… well, that’s how the marketing team would talk about it, sure. But what does it mean to your audience? Use terms that match how your audience talks and thinks — and don’t just guess. Part of keyword research is learning your audience’s preferred terminology.
2 — Feature Your People
The first section is all about the minor adjustments that make your content sound more human. For the rest of the post, we’re going to talk about how to make sure it actually is more human.
To start with, I said above that every piece of content should have an actual author who is present in the text. That means using first-person pronouns regardless of what Ms. Funke in 9th-grade English would say. But it also means having a point of view, an individual outlook on the world as opposed to a corporate one.
One of the best ways to do this is to co-write the content with people in your company. Writing about your brand’s customer service? Interview a customer service agent. Want to explain how your solution works? Feature one of your R&D folks or engineers.
As the marketer, of course, you’ll help shape and polish the content. But you’ll be ensuring each piece has a unique point of view, and that it doesn’t all sound like marketers trying to sound like other folks.
3 — Make Your Customers the Stars
Another easy way to make your content more human is to feature your customers. It makes sense: Your target audience is people who would benefit from your solution, which means they’re folks who are a lot like your existing customers.
This goes beyond just featuring customer success stories or case studies. Those are a staple of content marketing, of course, but they’re not the only way to get customer voices into your content.
Look for ways to bring your customers’ expertise to a wider audience. What do they know about their business that could help others in a similar situation? What can they say about current trends or upcoming developments?
Putting customers front and center not only helps humanize your content and bring more value to your audience, it also helps deepen your relationships with the customers themselves.
4 — Co-Create with Influential People
In the B2C space, influencer marketing is more like micro-level celebrity endorsement — it’s all about giving people money to feature your product. B2B influencer marketing is more about co-creation — working with experts to make content that is valuable to your audience. It’s not, “Bob Johnson says to try our solution.” It’s “Here’s what Bob Johnson says about the future of your industry, and we’re happy to bring you his insights.”
When you involve influencers in your content, you’re adding additional human voices to your content. Let the influential people in your industry add their credibility, expertise, and most importantly, personality to your content. It’ll make your content smarter, more personable, and more likely to connect with people.
“Let the influential people in your industry add their credibility, expertise, and most importantly, personality to your content. It’ll make your content smarter, more personable, and more likely to connect with people.” @NiteWrites Click To Tweet
5 — Find the Stories
As the survivor of many college creative writing classes, there are three words tattooed on my heart: Show, Don’t Tell. Look for the stories that illustrate what you want your reader to know.
We understand this instinctively in conversation. Humans are hardwired for narrative. You wouldn’t say to a friend, “Our new dishwasher is 37% quieter than our old model! It registers at just 15 decibels, more quiet than a whisper!”
Instead, you might say, “So last night, I started the dishwasher, but I forgot the baby was sleeping! I was so scared she would wake up — it took so long to get her down last night. And you know that old dishwasher sounded like a freight train when it hit the rinse cycle! But the new one is so quiet she didn’t even stir! She was in such a better mood today after a good night’s sleep.”
Whenever you find your content getting sales-y, try to refocus on the story. Look for the emotions, the moments of drama that relate to what you’re trying to say. And no fair saying there are no emotional stories to tell about your brand’s solution. If human beings are buying and using your product or service, they are experiencing emotions and generating stories.
Humanize for Human Eyes
Every B2B marketer is also in someone else’s target audience. We have all experienced an emotional connection with content, even with marketing content (mine will always be the Like a Girl campaign). So it should be intuitive to make the kind of content that we respond to — “humanization” shouldn’t be an afterthought.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that your case study about your SaaS should make someone break down in cathartic tears. But it should mean that the case study tells a compelling story that it engages the reader’s attention and rewards it, and sounds like it was written by a person rather than a committee.
Need help utilizing data-driven customer-centric content (just kidding)? Check out our content marketing page and hear what our customers have to say.