How Individual Personalities Can Build Your B2B Brand
You’ve heard it a million times over the last 10 years or so. We’ve said it. You’ve probably repeated it. Countless speakers have tried to sell you on the idea.
“Content is king.”
And yes, it’s still true. Maybe more than ever.
Recently, the measure of the value of content has started to evolve. It’s becoming more personal. Not just in the sense that it’s more targeted. In some ways, it’s about the people actually creating or publishing the content. That’s why content marketing and thought leadership are often synonymous for businesses today.
Put another way, your people are your brand – and that creates tremendous opportunities in business-to-business marketing.
Why? In B2B, purchases tend to be more considered, and often more expensive. Sales cycles are longer, which makes the whole process much more dependent on strong relationships.
And what do relationships depend on? People, of course.
That’s right. Your software, your product, your service – they’re all potentially outshone by your people and the image they’re putting out in the world through the content they create and the relationships they spark.
With that it mind, it’s important to get your best people in front of customers and prospects early and often. It might be videos or tradeshows, blog posts or TV appearances – or anything in between.
Find your leaders and thinkers.
There are energetic, charismatic leaders throughout your organization. Look from the top down, and find those – even in unexpected places – who could connect with customers and prospects through thought leadership.
Of course not all leaders are going to be like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Or even like our own Mike Spakowski. And you don’t have to always think of traditional leaders like CEOs or marketing directors (sorry, guys).
Instead, focus on putting customer-centric personalities out there. Align the right people with the right audiences to write blog posts and white papers. Create, where you can, speaking opportunities and tradeshow opportunities. Get your people out there, because people buy from people.
Here’s proof it works: we know for a fact that clients come to us here at Atomicdust because of the content we create. They mention specific posts, and they like to talk to us personally about what we’re creating – not just client work, but our video and blog content. We’ve even had clients request specific teams based on what we’ve written right here in this space.
Of course you have to have some guardrails (that’s what Brand and Social Media Guidelines are for), but as your thought leaders start sharing their thoughts, let them be them. Let their personalities shine. Tell an authentic story, and you’ll see authentic results. Really.
Being “human” isn’t new to the B2B world, of course. For years, service-oriented companies have rightfully claimed, “Our people make the difference.” It’s a smart end-run around the battle of price and bullet points that, after so long, rings just as hollow.
The newer, personality-driven content-based approach finally gives you the chance to prove that your people really do set you apart from the competition.
Several years ago, we helped our client Buckingham Strategic Wealth seize this chance to shine. The firm’s founders and principals were incredibly visible. They wrote articles and books. They were respected as thought leaders in the industry, and often called on for television appearances and speaking engagements.
We helped Buckingham build core messaging around their leaders’ ideas, and we built a website through which they could share their enormous volume of content. It’s a platform that continues to grow and flourish today under their own internal leadership, even as they continue to add new audiences and new messages to the mix.
Is being a “real human” enough? Well, it’s certainly a good start. But like the good folks at Buckingham will tell you, it’s just the start. The next step is to make sure you’re offering content that actually helps people in their jobs or in their lives.
It’s something else you’ve heard before as part of the content creation discussion – inform, don’t sell. As you strive to build your people-centric brand, it’s more important than ever.
The value in this approach rests with your customers and prospects, of course, but it’s also much deeper than that. As members of your team get more and more comfortable sharing their expertise with the world, you’ll see greater embrace of your brand principles. Which can lead to some pretty incredible business results.
Our work with Anders, a St. Louis-based CPA and advisory firm, is a great example. We worked with them about six years ago on a comprehensive rebranding and website project. Since then, they’ve become a content publishing powerhouse. People at all levels of their firm create content for the website. It’s valuable content, too – covering topics that are highly relevant to the long list of industries they serve and services they offer.
At the same time, these content creators have also become internal brand ambassadors. It’s always a work in progress for fast-growing firms, of course. But Anders has done a tremendous job building its internal brand around sharing knowledge and expertise.
And their work has paid off. Since the brand launched, Anders has experienced tremendous growth – largely thanks to the connections its principals and associates have been able to make with prospects and clients.
You’ve chosen your thought leaders. You’ve given them to power to connect with your customers. And now, they’re providing real value to your most important audience. The next step might be the most important.
Inspire them to take action.
It doesn’t mean shouting “Buy now!” at every opportunity. It’s also more nuanced than having the right calls to action on appropriate web pages or articles and whitepapers. In a way, it’s simply making sure your useful, valuable content is always attached to your brand (and yes, your people). It’s an association that will inspire trust, and, when it’s time, purchasing decisions.
Is that to say you shouldn’t “ask” for the sale, or to move your audience to the next step? No, not at all.
This was a key component of our multi-step campaign for Elsevier ClinicalKey. It’s a “clinical insight engine,” primarily for physicians, that allows them to search for the reference content they need to make smart decisions.
We worked with ClinicalKey to create a survey of their current and prospective customers to identify topics they’d find valuable. Based on these answers, we uncovered four key topics that would become the ultimate foundation of the campaign.
As one of the world’s leading publishers of medical content, Elsevier has a deep bench of thought leaders, so it was a natural extension of their core advantage to put these people front-and-center in their campaign. We worked with their subject matter experts to create white papers, interviews and even animated videos to share both in email and across social channels.
Customer and prospect engagement with the ClinicalKey brand soared during the campaign, which is certainly nice. But most importantly, the marketing team noticed an increase in qualified leads. That’s a win.
Why the success? Targeted, authentic, on-brand messages. Content created by and for real people. And a step-by-step strategy that inspires action and commitment along the way.