The Only Marketing Goal You’ll Ever Need.

I get asked all the time:

“What’s the most important marketing goal for my company? Besides the objectives we strive for – getting more email click-throughs, more website traffic, more engagement on social media — is there an overarching goal that can tie all of those things together?”

And I always advise this: Be more human.

That’s it. Why is it important to be more human?

Because people connect with people, not just things. When you’re focused on your own internal marketing metrics, you can sometimes forget that there are flesh and blood people on the other side of your marketing. You need to give your marketing real, human qualities. And everything you produce should feel like it’s coming from a real person. The more human you make your organization, the easier it will be for people to connect with it. And the more you empathize with your audience, the more they will be attracted to you.

Here are 5 imperatives you need to do this year to “be more human.”

Know the “true” you.

Define your organization with an authentic, ownable position.

People are automatically drawn to others who have a strong sense of self: they know who they are and where they’re going. The same thing goes for organizations.

With organizations, as with individuals, knowing yourself is about defining your purpose and understanding what drives your mission. If you’ve been around for a while, you might have an idea of what this is, but you need to go deeper. You should ask yourself: Why do you do what you do?

What drives you to get up in the morning? What do you better than anyone else? What impact do you want to make in the world? What do you stand for?

These questions get to the core of your story. While you may run different marketing campaigns to the different audiences you want to reach, the central message must be authentic and true to you. This is your brand essence. It permeates everything you do. It is the embodiment of the values, mission, vision and the change your organization seeks to make in the world. It is the reason that your organization exists and drives how you represent yourself to the world.

This is critical: Do not rely on your own assumptions or statements from the past. It is important to get a broad perspective on your evolving organization. The key to uncovering your true brand essence is to talk to the people who know you best and are the most committed to your mission. Host stakeholder interviews, focus groups and working sessions to get people talking about what they really think about your organization, your direction and impact. These insights are critical to forming the foundation of your brand strategy and marketing campaigns.

Be curious to know your audience better.

Create an intentional two-way dialog to engage your constituents.

When people want to get to know someone better, they start by asking questions. It’s the same with conversations between people and organizations.

So, how well do you know your audience? Do you know what makes them tick? Do you know what they’re passionate about—what their hopes and dreams are? Do you know what keeps them up at night—or what keeps them looking ahead?

A survey is one of the best ways to find out. Conduct customer surveys to get a sense from your broader audience of how you address their needs and how you can provide more value to them. Blind surveys and member satisfaction surveys are a great way to find out what your audience is interested in and what motivates them. Including demographic questions will help you understand the needs of various audience segments so your marketing will be more relevant – more human!

Consider conducting a comprehensive survey at least yearly to take the pulse of your constituents. Marketing that’s based on historic or inaccurate impressions will not ring true and people will reject them. If you want to come across as “human,” your communications need to be grounded on real insights about your audience.

Tell more focused stories. More human.

Listen to passionate customers and engage the less passionate.

When you tell a good story, people listen. It’s inherently human. People want to know what drives you, what you’re passionate about—and they want to connect with that passion. Give them the opportunity to experience your organization on a personal level. Even with uber rational audiences, the passion of your story is what they remember…and act upon.

But if you want to tell a compelling story, you need to know what your audience is looking for. Is your audience looking for a solution or for information? Are they coming to you for entertainment, education—or both? Use the findings that you uncover from your listening sessions and surveys to create persuasive marketing communications and campaigns.

And remember: What makes a great story great isn’t only what you say, it’s also how you say it. Mind the tone, voice and messaging you use throughout your communications. When people see your content, it should feature your brand identity and be immediately recognizable as yours. It should “touch” on a human-level to your audience’s needs and expectations. It should be consistent and frequent across all media. And most of all, it should sound “human.” The COUCH Method is a useful tool to help guide your content strategy.

Transform your story into an ongoing dialogue.

One-to-one segmenting, listening and dialoging creates relevance.

When two people have a conversation, they instinctively respond to the other person. They tailor their message in a way that connects with the other person. They see how they are responding and change their communication style in the moment.

Your organization should reflect this dynamic, too. You should think of communications with your audience as one-on-one conversations. They should “feel” like there’s an exchange of information—with more give and less take. Ask your contacts follow-up questions, pay attention to what they engage with—and most of all, send them relevant content. Talk “with” them; don’t talk “at” them. It shows that you care and are interested in your audience. Trust is measurable when there’s a dialogue.

In today’s landscape, one of the best ways to connect with your audience is through digital. A future-focused website is your front door— your opportunity to make a great first and lasting impression to the world. Make sure that your website is welcoming and user-friendly, and shows visitors everything you have to offer both now in the future. On social media, people expect to have engaging conversations and gain an insiders’ view into your culture. Make sure your social media accounts provide lots of engaging and informative content. With more giving and less selling. Email marketing continues to be a lifeline, and you can customize your message for each of your audience members, depending on how they’ve engaged with your organization or website. Staying with audiences through retargeting and CRM automation is another great way to share info they’re already interested in.

Having conversations is a powerful tool to help you forge and strengthen connections. You owe it to your organization to make the most of these engagements.

Make an impact on the world.

Brands that take a stand and stand for something real—win hearts & minds.

In short, if you can be more human, everything else falls into place. It’s easier to create more meaningful relationships with your audience. It’s easier to interest them in your products and services. It’s easier to draw people to support your cause and inspire them to take action.

With the help of an enthusiastic and engaged community of supporters, you can literally move mountains. You’re positioned to make an impact on the world.

But first, you’ve got to be human.

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Elizabeth McKenna, CAE

Principal & Managing Partner


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