Marketing Minute: It’s all about the people - February 2023
By Paul Friederichsen
Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride in 2023. Inflation and the rising cost of living remain in the headlines. Market uncertainty will be the norm. Residential demand is slow, and demand for new commercial projects is tapering off, although the backlog remains strong. Marketers everywhere are having to do more with less. Meanwhile, management ROI expectations are getting higher, not lower. Before you grab for a parachute, consider who you are marketing to-individuals.
As we discussed in the December Marketing Minute, “Marketing in a recession will never be easy, largely because it often involves going against instincts and standard operating norms.” One of those changes is to think like a salesperson, not a marketer. A good salesperson never forgets that it’s all about relationship building. It’s all about the needs of the individual. Good marketers, on the other hand, tend to think more broadly in terms of brand strategy, consumer trends, predictive analytics, effective reach, etc.
In times like these, marketers should adopt a “relationship building” mentality of their own. Savvy marketers know that it’s not about the traditional thinking of B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer) models. In today’s environment, it’s all about B2P (business-to-people).
This distinction becomes critically important in a tough economy. For example, in consumer marketing, typical marketers will understand that residential consumers will choose to defer that new flooring purchase because of economic uncertainty. However, “business-to-people” marketers will understand that Sally will choose to listen to some friendly, knowledgeable advice on getting a new floor and may be persuaded to purchase if only the message could reach her. In business marketing, B2P marketers will know that retailers will like that new waterproof, scratch-resistant flooring but may defer ordering the display. So those employing a B2P approach will emphasize the business-building potential for the retailer with ordering the new display now.
See the difference? B2P marketing strategy makes the appeal personal.
B2P marketing is built on the foundation that all purchase decisions are based on emotion and justified or rationalized by reason. For example, consumers often buy out of a sense of meaning, comfort, desire, approval, trust or self-esteem. Consumers will then justify their purchase because it’s the right color, it’s waterproof, it’s affordable, it’s easy to clean, or it’s available. You need both, but you lead with emotion, regardless of consumer or business.
REACHING CONSUMERS AS INDIVIDUALS
Just as we recalled Procter & Gamble reaching its target customer in the 1930s via radio soap operas, today’s brands can do the same via tailored messaging-not with soap operas, of course, but with testimonials.
Since the beginning of advertising, word of mouth has been recognized as the most effective means of persuasion, but it’s not very efficient or measurable. Historically, classic testimonial advertising rose in popularity in the 1950s and ‘60s, but then became passé and untrustworthy (doctors endorsing the satisfying taste of smoking Chesterfields?). Now we see a re-emergence online.
Since its inception in the early 2000s, social media has provided advertisers a means of efficiently and directly reaching customers in a “social setting,” where the objective is often to seek information, investigate and make purchases. As every marketer has learned over the past 20 years, the success of gaining customers works the same way as making friends-don’t try to sell them anything. Help them; don’t push them. Earn their trust, either personally or through communities, and eventually you will earn their business. This is known as mastering engaging content.
Anja Petrovski, marketing and public relations director of Volkswagen, knows this well: “Volkswagen is famously ‘the people’s car,’ so putting our customers first drives our marketing strategy, even more so on social media. Social media for us is a two-way street. Yes, it’s an important channel in terms of advertising, but it has to be more than just advertising. It’s also a channel where our customers can engage with us as a brand-whether this includes making it easy to book a test drive through chat functionalities, highlighting existing customers through UGC [user-generated content], or showcasing the potential lifestyle customers can unlock when they are behind the wheel of a Volkswagen.”
REACHING CONSUMERS THROUGH INFLUENCERS
Don Rountree of Rountree Group is an expert and huge proponent of online influencer marketing and uses it in the home décor space as part of an integrated plan. “It’s a way to improve brand awareness, increase traffic and drive messages,” he says. His firm employs major influencers with thousands upon thousands of regional or national followers on Instagram or Facebook, and even micro-influencers who may only have a few thousand followers in a given market.
“Obviously, everyone knows advertising is paid advertising” says Roundtree. “And it’s a great form of brand awareness and communication. But it lacks a sense of third-party credibility or validity. Influencer marketing provides that personal touch, that connection point that says, ‘Yes, I recognize that, I can see that, and I want to have that in my home.’”
The magic of influencer campaigns is the combination of a well-followed and trusted online authority giving a favorable assessment of a personal experience and its placement on the customer’s private social media feed. Influencer marketing is an excellent example of B2P tactics and is as close to “word of mouth” over the backyard fence as a marketer can get.
MORE WAYS TO PRACTICE B2P
People respond to people. So, sharing personal experiences and stories in the spirit of being “human” and not a marketer is a way to make the brand appealing and engaging. There are countless ways to achieve that, but here are just a few inspiration starters.
• Passing along a customer’s story of satisfaction with your product or service
• Showcasing a customer’s recommendation for your store or product selection
• Juxtaposing a product photo with an online post about a customer’s satisfaction
• Using a “momfluencer” to talk about how easily her new floor stands up to messy kids and pets
• Using LinkedIn to allow employees to brag about your business or how proud they are of your brand
• Posting a video testimonial from the owner or founder about how the brand made a difference in their life
• Having an employee talk about their pride in making the product or serving the customer
“People trust people more than companies” observes Daniel Murray, head of media and founder of Sales Impact Academy. “Expertise is key to building trust with your audience.”
In a down economy, marketers need to win over all the people they can get.
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