5 strategies for giving marketing a human touch
I'm sure you've heard someone recently lament the decline of human interaction in this digital age. While it's true that more of our lives are bound up in communication technology, we tend to focus our fears on the technology and forget the way they enhance communication. The human desire to make a personal connection is one marketers need to pay attention to, because it's the human touch that elevates our marketing from making a sales pitch to creating a distinguished customer experience.
We're so inundated with information and surrounded by technology that we tend to ignore marketing communications — unless we know there's a person behind the message. That's why the human touch in marketing is so important: It's the difference between being heard or being invisible.
The quality of a human moment is not about whether it's face-to-face, but about whether that moment is highly meaningful, specific, and planned. For instance, group chat and text messaging have enhanced my relationships with my four siblings, who all live in different cities. Calling each of them takes time, but we can communicate daily using text and group chat, staying in touch as people and making one another a part of our daily lives.
It is absolutely possible for customers to interact with your company through digital media and still know that they are interacting with a human being on the other end of that technology — as long as you humanize your marketing.
Marketing with a human touch
A humanized marketing approach is one with a personalized message, one that makes the consumer feel it was "just for me." The content has to be valuable and purposeful in its timing — something the consumer feels was needed and arrived at a time when the consumer needed the message, not when the marketer wanted to send it. It should be meaningful, with a special magic that creates emotional engagement along with the message.
A human touch infuses experiences and products with special significance and increases people's perception of their value. For example, psychologist Kurt Gray found that a massage chair is more enjoyable when a human controls the mechanism rather than a computer.
When marketing is truly humanized, both the consumer and the company will find value in the communication. This can often be measured with standard marketing ROI metrics like increased revenue, retention, customer satisfaction scores, and other indicators. For example, 80% of respondents in a recent Epsilon poll indicate they are likelier to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. This is borne out by McKinsey & Co.'s research showing that personalization can increase revenue by 5% to 15%, and ActiveTrail's finding that 52% of customers would take their search elsewhere if an email is not personalized.
5 ways to humanize your marketing
Giving your marketing plan a human touch doesn't mean upending the way you do business. Instead, take a few important steps to ensure that you connect with your consumers on a personal level.
1. Revisit the sender.
Send communications from a real person who is invested in the consumer relationship. When an actual human sends an email, appears personally in a video, or adds a personal note, the tone of the communication magically changes to be very human.
2. Don't advertise — engage.
Consumers have learned to tune out advertising, so do your best to make your marketing not look like an ad. MRM//McCann observed that 64% of consumers feel brands have lost touch with the human experience. The more you make your marketing a customer experience instead of advertising, the more engagement you'll get from consumers.
3. Change up your marketing mix.
How much time and money do you spend on unpersonalized, unspecific content and advertising, compared with the resources you expend to engage with prospects and customers one to one? Reaching people is no longer enough. Most audiences are too savvy to pay much attention to mass advertising, let alone take action from it. Personalization may be the key to getting their attention. One survey found that 82% of marketers reported an increase in open rates through email personalization.
4. Make customer experience a marketing goal.
If the goal of your marketing is to create meaning, even from the customer acquisition stage, you are likely humanizing your marketing without even realizing it. Not that generating typical marketing results like sales increases, new product launches, and return on investment aren't vital, but when marketing prioritizes customer experience, you approach consumers from their point of view.
5. Allocate budget to enrich the service experience.
It may seem odd for marketers to worry about customer service, but it can — and should — be a holistic part of your marketing efforts. Infusing empathy into the service experience creates even more human moments. For example, if a customer service associate can send consumers a greeting card after an interaction, make sure the associate can pick a card and customize it to the conversation. When there's a need to apologize, congratulate, or just say "thank you" for being a customer, then there's an opportunity for a marketing touchpoint that creates a long-lasting, meaningful customer experience.
The human moments that create a durable bond between a company and consumers are highly meaningful, specific, and emotionally intelligent. When we use communications and technology in ways that show the human side of our brands, that’s when we truly connect with consumers.