4 ways practice human-centered marketing and get better results


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Have you thought about how you can humanize your marketing?

This post is going to focus on why may want to reconsider your current marketing approach and 4 ways you can to practice human-centered marketing.

Why we need to be more human-centered? 

We have more marketing to sales technology to connect with customers today, but they’re tuning us out.

Why? Because marketers and sellers are using technology in a way that is creating barriers to real customer connection.

For example, I was talking with a VP of Marketing recently about helping their SDR team get better results with empathy.

We looked at the SDR team’s data and saw her team sent a huge number of cold emails to targeted accounts with little response.

When she saw the data she talked about how she was getting “tons of cold-emails.”

She said about after being promoted to VP Marketing six months ago she felt like every technology and martech provider put her on their ABM hitlist.

“I feel like someone painted a target me when I got promoted,” she said.

And went on to say, “I can tell they’re canned and delete them, they all seem to copy each other’s approach.”

The irony wasn’t lost. She was realizing her own SDR team was doing the same exact thing to their potential customers.

What is human-centered marketing?

Human-centered marketing requires empathy because it puts customers experience at the center of all our marketing and sales efforts. It begins with understanding our customers perspective, desires, and motivations so we’re relating to them as humans and not objects we’re trying convert.

It’s grounded on this truth from neuroscientist Antonio Damasio.

He said, “We are not thinking machines that feel; rather, we are feeling machines that think.”  

When you are marketing to people, you’re trying to get them to do something or buy something you want. That’s object-based marketing. But when you’re marketing for people, you’re advocating for them. You’re focused on helping them a get result they want or get rid of a problem they no longer want to have. That’s human-centered marketing.

Being human-centered feels different to customers

As our marketing technology, machine learning, and tools become increasingly smarter, so do our customers.

Customers know authentic- sincere – communication from the scaled messages we send. They feel it.

Your customers know what good marketing really feels like. They know it. And they sense it when you’re sending them scaled or generalized message.

Yes, you might be saying but a real human being wrote an email template.

The email (even if it’s well written) and personalized in a few places, still doesn’t feel good.

Why? Because it can feel scaled.

But it’s easy to forget when we sit at our desks. Or when we try to think like our customers.

You are not your customer

Saying we are not our customers seems obvious right? However, research shows our personal biases and preferences get in the way of understanding customers wants, desires and motivations.

Let me explain:

We think “if I was the customer, how would I feel?” As the customer, “would I like this? or “Would this appeal to me?”

This starts our marketing from a bias that’s not customer centered and we do this all the time.

Check out, Why Marketers Fail at Customer Empathy and How to Fix it

For example, I had an email exchange with Brent McKinley, the Director of Business Development at ExeVision, Inc who shared this great story:

When I was director for a large tech company in Mountain View CA, my team printed coffee mugs that said “I Am Not My Target Audience!!”

This mug has been on my desk for over 20 years, helping me remember to “get outside of my own mind”.

This constant reminder has guided my marketing thinking and my focus on a customer’s needs, more than anything else in my entire career.

I love that. We all should have that mug on our desks as a reminder.

Are you focusing on the customer journey or the sale?

How often are you trying to move your customers to do something that will benefit you i.e. click, sign up, register and buy?

Our marketing efforts are driven by our goal, our KPI, our quarterly income or profits. There’s nothing wrong with those measurements.

It’s just that our intentions may become twisted when we start with our personal agendas as a driver.

What do you measure?  When you measure the wrong thing, your marketing can become wonky quickly. We’re not just seeking clicks. We want to connect and form lasting relationships with our clients.

When you think about your buyer’s journey, consider being sincere about helping them.

Add the human touch to your martech stack and beyond

Why do we do things that we think scale when at their core relationships are not scalable?

Here’s what I mean.

Forrester Consulting discovered, “65 percent of marketers struggle to employ emotional marketing as they turn to automation to improve customer engagement.”

If you have a martech stack (don’t we all now?), you need to emphasize the human touch more.

That means that your marketing team needs to have actual conversations with your buyers.

Use your marketing technology, database, and ability to segment to refine your initial understanding of your target audience’s needs.

Focus on helping your future customers achieve what they’re trying to do at each step of the journey.

Is this hard to do? Yes.

That said, I believe this is where marketers must focus their energy. This is what makes a better customer experience. We must be more human-centered with our marketing.

For more ideas, Mark Schaefer released a terrific book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. And he created this fantastic Manifesto for Human-Centered Marketing for his book.

Source: A Human-Centered Marketing Manifesto by Mark Schaefer https://businessesgrow.com/2019/01/17/marketing-manifesto


Four Ways to Adopt Human-Centered Marketing Today

1. Help like a hotel concierge to make the customer experience better

If you want to know how to approach applying empathy to your marketing efforts, consider how a hotel concierge operates. What is their goal? To help meet the needs and be helpful to guests. Why can’t we approach our marketing and sales the same way?

Do concierges give the same advice and input to all hotel guests? Of course not. They do things that don’t scale. Still, they’ve prepared themselves to answer some of the same questions.  For example, what are the best shows? Where are the best restaurants for each occasion? How can I get a reservation on short notice? Where are the grocery or liquor stores etc.?

But the key is that they listen, they’re available, and their goal is to help. What can we learn? We can approach our customers by doing things intentionally like a concierge.

2. Do things that don’t scale 

There are things that customers expect to be scalable.

For example, email newsletters. Still, they want relevant content. They don’t expect that every single newsletter personalized to their interests. That said, if enough of the content is irrelevant, they’ll unsubscribe.

People mentally unsubscribe before they finally remove us from their inbox. Customers move from interested, to ambivalent, and ultimately apathetic quickly.

Our salespeople do things that don’t scale all the time.

If we don’t change our marketing automation approach, we’re going to kill the value of marketing automation.

In sum, you can’t automate trust.

But you can build it over time by being intentional, showing you care, and seeking to add value with each touch. That’s at the core of doing things that don’t scale.

That might be:

Opening Outlook and actually sending a personal message.

Picking up the phone talk to your potential customers.

Writing a personal note in your own handwriting. For example, check out what Drift with their direct mail messages.

See what I mean.

It is critical to know what customers want to serve them better.

For more on this read, How to Put the Customer First in Lead Generation.

This will humanize your marketing quickly: advocate for your potential customer, be curious about and care about helping them get what they want.

You want to make each person you connect with feel like they matter to you and you want what’s in their best interest.

Also, check out this post Growing B2B Sales with Trust and Empathy

3. Shift your focus to building relationships

All marketing, selling and lead generation is about one word: relationships.

It’s not about technology; it’s about people.

We need to take the time to do things that don’t scale.

This is from a terrific book, The Passion Conversation:

We form relationships in two ways.

The first way is through dialogue, a virtuous circle of interacting through listening and responding that causes more interaction, listening, and responding. Relationships grow through conversation.

The second way we form relationships is through a process called reciprocal altruism. That’s a fancy term to explain where people freely give to others with nothing expected in return.

Relating to people like this is the heart of one-to-one marketing.

Also, check out Lead Nurturing: 4 Steps to walking the buying path with your customers

4. Use your applied empathy now

Empathy is your marketing intuition. Use your empathy to move out of your mind and into the mind of the client.

What’s the bottom line?

Move away from me-first thinking to customer-centric thinking and speak specifically to their motivations.

If you don’t do this, you’re treating potential customers (aka leads) as objects and not as people. If you do that, your goal is to get them to do so something.

Instead, I advocate that you seek to understand them first; to know their motivation and learn what interests them. And even better, to know what might be helpful to them to get what they really want.

For more read, what is empathy-based marketing?

Ask this as you approach your marketing:

Is that how we’d like someone to treat us? Is this how we’d like a friend or loved one to be treated?

Again, this seems obvious but it’s not. Check out, Why Marketers Fail at Customer Empathy and How to Fix it


Human-centered marketing is about building people-first relationships.

Remember this: When you are marketing to people, you’re trying to get them to do something. But when you’re marketing for people, you’re advocating for them.

You’re doing something that could help and make a difference.

By following these suggestions, I hope you can use them to make a huge improvement in how you connect with your customers.

It’s your turn now.

Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments below.

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Updated: 5/22/2019

The post 4 ways practice human-centered marketing and get better results appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Hi Brian,

    I liked your perspectives, in particular “Help like a hotel concierge to make the customer experience better”. Great analogy!

    I’ve a few questions:

    1) Is your human-centered marketing approach similar to customer success management?

    2) Is the application of your approach limited to B2B customers?

    3) If this approach works for B2C customers too, can it be successful without AI?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi Sampson,

    1) Human-centered marketing applies to the entire customer lifecycle from the first contact to sales to retention to account growth.

    2) Being human-centered applies to B2C and B2B. Here are some examples of human-centered B2C brands: Patagonia, Apple, Starbucks, and Microsoft are just a few that come to mind.

    3) Yes, this approach can and is successful without AI. Here’s why: AI doesn’t practice empathy, which is essential to human-centered marketing and design. What AI can do help is augment our understanding. AI augments and enhances our ability to get insights and give us more content/context to help us connect with people/customers.

    I hope this helps!

  3. Brian,


    1) Customer Success Management (CSM) also “applies to the entire customer lifecycle from the first contact to sales to retention to account growth”. See, for instance: https://blog.hubspot.com/service/saas-customer-lifecycle

    Does it mean that Human-Centered Marketing (HCM) is something similar to CSM, or is a subset or one of the tools or tactics of CSM? If all are negative, then what is so special about HCM and what sets it apart from CSM?

    2) Any types of businesses or industries won’t benefit much from applying HCM? Say for example, convenience store like 7 Eleven.

    3) For B2C companies with tens of thousands or millions of customers, how can they deploy HCM to “Do things that don’t scale” – without mass customization and probably in a very near future, AI – and sustain operational and financial feasibility? Can you cite ONE example and demonstrate how they work to support your argument?

    I’d appreciate your feedback.

  4. Potential customers may or may not be aware that they have a problem that you can solve. The emphasis today is placed on attracting attention and generating interest through various channels. Creating educational content and useful resources may lead a prospective customer to your site.


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