There’s never a time when one business literally speaks to another. It’s not even useful to imagine how silly that would sound. It’s much more useful to imagine what it would sound like if one human spoke to another. Because that’s what should be happening. It’s either humans engaging other humans, or it’s not engaging at all.
It’s always H2H; it’s never B2B.
Using that logic, there’s no such thing as B2C, either. Something about the word consumer at least implies a real human and keeps you from going too far off the rails. But take care: if you’re like most humans, “consumer” is probably pretty far down the list of ways you’d describe yourself.
Why is all of this important to keep in mind? Because good branding and marketing depend on understanding audience, on empathizing, on connecting. Anything that creates distance or artifice between you and your customer increases the risk you’ll speak in platitudes, mimic competitor imagery, parrot industry speak and buzzwords, or be plain boring. And let’s be honest—a large percentage of B2B branding and marketing ends up right there.
Are there differences in how you might communicate with humans in their professional roles? Definitely. You’ll be looking for more practical proof points sooner; you may be more methodical given the scale of the purchase; and, you may have to build consensus within a larger group.
But the best B2B branding always communicates —through look, feel, and message— in more human ways that begin with emotional impressions. When you do that, you might find:
- a late-stage venture capital firm promising they’ll be roadies for entrepreneurial rockstars
- a multi-billion dollar uniform supply company helping small business owners do personalized shopping
- an engineering firm helping you create a dramatic building and a better environment
The humans at these business are showing and telling humans at other businesses, using design, imagery, and words in ways that almost look, dare we say it, B2C (because they’re so H2H).
Perhaps the most insightful cliche in the history of B2B branding is the old saying, “No one ever got fired for choosing IBM.” It reveals the drivers behind decisions may sometimes appear practical, but behind them are very human, emotional considerations.
It’s as if to say, “Thanks for the extensive list of superior features you offer, but I’m gonna go ahead and hire the firm that my boss can’t possibly yell at me for hiring.”
Empathy is the best strategic springboard. It starts by remembering that behind every B or C is always an H waiting for your attention.