Why tech marketing needs the human touch

A simple shortcut to trust is likeability, and traditional approaches to B2B tech marketing are anything but likeable.

Adam Cleaver
Founding Partner, Collective

As Johnny Rotten famously said, ‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’.

When it comes to the worlds of technology and marketing, it seems yes. We’re getting that feeling a bit too often.

A recent MIT article details how our trust in technology is being eroded by, among other things, data security issues. And, as Richard Shotton pointed out in his recent Wayfinding article, trust in advertising is at an all-time low.

Which begs the question, how do you market software/technology to a business audience when both the message and the medium will be viewed with scepticism?

The answer lies in understanding the human condition a little more and (whisper it) appealing to rationality a little less. Johnny would certainly approve.

Let’s take a step back. Trust is built on promises kept. Doing what you say you’d do. And when promises are broken, however small, we feel ‘cheated’ by our misplaced trust. This is an automated human response that no amount of clever marketing can prevent.

Businesses may rationally believe that an apology and a ‘we’ll do better next time’ will suffice, but those broken promises and ‘cheated’ feelings remain, whether we’re aware of them or not. The cumulative and often subconscious effect of the tech industry’s ongoing transgressions affects our decision making and choices.

It’s the emotional equivalent of a friend who keeps letting us down in small ways. We gradually see less and less of them, due to an almost subconscious decision to part company.

As the MIT article suggests, the tech sector undoubtably needs to get better at putting human wants and needs at the heart of their decision-making processes. They can’t keep getting it wrong.

Similarly, our approach to tech marketing often places the rational above the emotional which in a climate of mistrust, can actually make matters worse.

Traditional B2B approaches tend to focus on quick-hitting features and benefits for our ‘time poor’ business audience. Rational, yes. But as a result, much B2B marketing looks and sounds the same. Our friend (acquaintance in this case) isn’t just irritating, they’re boring.

As Richard Shotton says, a simple shortcut to trust is likeability, and traditional approaches to B2B tech marketing are anything but likeable.

With this brings huge opportunity to those brands smart enough to realise that the best way to stand out in a sea of sameness is to zig while everyone else zags. To dare to be human and emotive. To talk to the person not the job title. To connect.

Why B2B SaaS marketing needs a lot more humanity

Not only do ads like Droga5’s spots for Setapp, ServiceNow’s ongoing campaigns and Collective’s Panaya work entertain, they land rational benefits in an emotional and compelling way.

And that is the point, remembering that even our ‘time poor’ business audience are emotional creatures, and that emotional responses are perfectly possible and very powerful when selling complex technology.

Just as feelings of mistrust stay with us, so do positive emotional responses. Making them a great way to combat the negativity we have towards the tech sector.

When it comes to B2B tech marketing, it’s more rational to be emotional than we think.

Thanks, Johnny.

Good night.

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“How do you market software/technology to a business audience when both the message and the medium will be viewed with scepticism?”

Adam is a Founding Partner of Collective, with longer than he cares to remember working in the merry world of digital marketing and advertising. In a previous life he tried to make it as a House Music legend. He failed.