Be human… it’s good for business

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There are certain truths we all know, but keep forgetting. Like the fact that companies are made of people. People with loved ones, who laugh at jokes and have their good and bad days. BRND WGN’s Head of Business Development, Martin Dimbleby, tells us how brands need to make more of an effort to connect with their audiences on a human level.

It’s easy to think of a business as a soulless entity which exists to make money. But, broken down, a business is a group of people working together. And people have an innate urge to connect.

Jargon like business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) puts up an invisible barrier between those working for brands and the people they want to connect with.

Since joining BRND WGN, back in 2009, Martin has often come face-to-face with this barrier. “Whenever I meet clients, one of the first questions I ask is: ‘What’s your business?’. Their replies are often ‘B2B’ or ‘B2C’. I’ve also noticed that a lot of companies are built like that. They’re segmented, internally, into their customer and business branches. But really, you’re always dealing with people. And until things change drastically with AI, we will still be dealing with people,” he says.

Quoting renowned social business strategist Bryan Kramer, Martin adds, it’s about human-to-human (H2H). It’s about showcasing your strengths, but also being honest about your weaknesses. This level of transparency is key to forming strong-rooted relationships.

Building trust

Over the years, Martin has been involved in delivering several detailed proposals to CFOs and CMOs. “I’ve been in situations when, even though they have a document with all the information they need to make the best informed decision, they push the document aside and ask: ‘Who do you think we should work with?’ In other words, it’s often a gut decision.”

Martin goes on to talk about how humbling it has been to see clients’ growing trust in his team’s judgement. “Trust is what it’s all about. It’s not about being liked. You still need to prove you know what you’re talking about. The point here is that, if someone else has that same proof, clients will go with the person they connect with. The person they trust. That relationship trumps everything,” he says.

Living up to your word

This kind of trusting relationship is nurtured over time - much like a friendship. And the only way to retain and strengthen it, is to live up to your word.

Advertising used to be about clever taglines. In the past a company could simply say it was ‘young, cool and honest’. But now, unless that company is  truly young and cool and honest, it will get found out (especially with the rise of social media).

“During branding projects many clients come armed with a list of great-sounding words they want their brand to be associated with - fun, honest, genuine. We always tell them that, unless they‘re willing to walk the walk they talk, they should not make promises they can’t live up to. People will see through it. They’ll lose trust. They’ll lose business,” he says.

Connecting like a friend

Now more than ever, businesses and brands need to be relatable and human. It’s not a choice. Customers are demanding it.

All of the terms companies are building their brands on are traits you would want in a friend. They no longer talk about ‘highest quality’. They talk about ‘dependability’ and ‘honesty’.

This, adds Martin, appeals to the millennial generation, who don’t want to work with big soulless companies. The factory mentality has been replaced with creativity and learning from mistakes. Now, it’s ok to make a mistake. Because it’s human.

Martin gives the example of someone walking into a meeting 10 minutes late. That person can choose to say: ‘Sorry, traffic was terrible’ or ‘Sorry, I really underestimated the traffic’. Everyone has underestimated traffic at some point in their life. Which is why the second option is instantly more relatable because it’s honest.

“Bottom line. You can be smart and offer the best services in the industry. But if you’re not speaking to your target audience in a way that makes them feel comfortable, understood, appreciated - and all of those things that make human beings human, you’re never going to beat somebody who connects with their customers in an authentic way. On an honest level,” he says.