“Is my marketing keeping it real? Or is it too real?”
“Am I being transparent enough? Or too transparent?”
“Do I need more personality in my marketing or less?”
I find these question wondering around my head in various forms a few times a day without ever landing on a solid answer. I’m going to bet it wonders around your head as well. Here’s my attempt at an answer…
With the rise of social media and its gradual acceptance as a valid tool for business communication, we marketers have found the clear lines dividing work and personal life growing steadily dimmer. Personality has always been a facet of marketing, but in a world where people are more connected than ever, we find personality more palatable. So palatable that personality has become an industry: we have lifestyle bloggers, social media gurus, teenage youtube stars and more. We have less patience with pretense and have honed a hunger for honesty.
But on the other hand professionalism hasn’t gone completely out the window. Especially for b2b businesses. Successful b2b marketing hits a sweet spot between being professional and human.
There is no pat answer to this tension of professionalism, keeping it real and being human. It just depends on the situation.
But I’d like to give you 4 things to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide whether to be more transparent or cut back a little bit:
1) In b2b, you’re better safe than sorry.
In the end, letting personality gush out of every part of your marketing is risky, and if not done tastefully can alienate current and potential customers. If you’re wondering whether something is too real to post on twitter or in a blog, it’s better to err on the safe side.
2) Personality is the icing; professionalism is the cake.
Let’s face it, there are other people out there that can get the job done as well as you can. If people only made buying decisions solely on affordability and professionalism, no one would ever get anything done. Studies show that emotions play a large part in decision making. Having personality is a great way to differentiate yourself from other people who otherwise are as good an option as you are.
I was listening to The Hubcast podcast with Marcus Sheridan and George B. Thomas (which is awesome, if you’re a HubSpot customer you should definitely check it out), and they gave a shout out to the agency Half a Bubble Out. Half a Bubble Out has a page on their website called “Values, Beliefs and Quirks.” Go give it a look. After reading this page, Half a Bubble Out isn’t just another marketing agency, they are some cool people that seem like they would shoot you straight. While some of the info on this page seems unnecessary, it helps me get to know the people behind the agency. Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.
If you are open about your values and personality, you are going to have better chances of attracting people who appreciate those values and jive well with your personality.
While personality can be a critical differentiator, it won’t get you into the game. Professionalism is what you build a b2b business on. Personality is the icing on the cake.
3) Does it increase trust between you and your target audience?
On Buffer’s pricing page, they show you where your money goes when you pay for Buffer:
This is pretty dang awesome. Here, Buffer helps educate their buyers and makes them feel like Buffer is letting them into their “inner circle”. Buffer is keeping it real in a way that definitely increases trust.
If your not sure that it will increase trust between you and your audience, you should probably hold off.
4) Only share your mistakes when it helps your target audience.
You should always be learning from your mistakes.
A great way to build trust with your audience is to answer their problems and help them avoid mistakes. One way you can do that is by sharing what you learned from your mistakes.
But if you’re going to do this, you have to make sure your mistake is one that other people are making, and that you really have an answer. Not sure if other people are having the same problem? Do a google search or check it out on BuzzSumo. If you can answer yes to both of these, your audience will probably appreciate your humility and helpfulness. Broadcasting an answer to a problem or mistake that everyone’s already figured out, or broadcasting a bad answer is a waste of everybody’s time, and it will make you look lame.
In the end, there is no perfect solution to this tension. Developing a sixth sense for how to use transparency to keep it real develop your personality in a positive way is crucial. B2B marketing leans professional, which makes transparency more risky, but also more rewarding.