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We're All Human: How H2H Marketing Can Transform Your Brand

Marketing has stood the test of time, evolving and expanding its reach from posters and pamphlets to all things digital. Despite this, one thing has stayed true regarding marketing - it’s loud.

It’s no secret that good B2B marketing is selling something, but consumers are tired of being sold to

Enter human to human marketing - a more subtle way to sell built on shared values.

In this article, we explore:

  • What H2H marketing* is and where it came from.
  • Why aligning with the user experience is important.
  • Five steps to implement the H2H marketing approach.

With added insights from LinkedIn influencers! 

Scroll 👇 to start.

Cognism Marketing Podcast

What is H2H marketing?

H2H marketing stands for Human to Human and means connecting with customers on a personal level. It’s an innovative approach to marketing that helps brands rise above the competition and align with their customer’s needs.

Marketers are often too focused on selling their brand and not on the people who support their brand.

This leads to a disconnect that impacts your incoming revenue.

To fix this, you need to focus on putting your customers first and creating an experience that matters to them.

This doesn’t mean throwing out your book of industry jargon. It means discovering what they care about and making an effort to care about it too. It means displaying appealing human qualities like loyalty and authenticity.

It’s recognising that you’re selling to actual humans and conveying this in the way you speak and the topics you choose to speak about.

Mark Kilens, VP of Content and Community at Drift, says:

"It’s not about brand building anymore. It’s about becoming an icon in your industry, just like Nike.

It’s about being authentic and genuine, which is why Drift’s principles are to put the customer at the centre of everything we do.”

Where did the term H2H marketing come from? 

Bryan Kramer coined the H2H™️ marketing approach. He wrote about the topic in January 2014 and later published a book called, ‘There is no B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human H2H.’

Prof. Philip Kotler, Prof. Waldemar Pfoertsch, and Prof. Uwe Sponholz later expanded on the concept in their book, 'H2H Marketing: the Genesis of Human-to-Human Marketing.’

Why is human to human marketing important?

H2H marketing merges the benefits of human interaction with personalised marketing principles to build long-term relationships and customer loyalty.

By incorporating human elements into your B2B marketing, you can establish long-term trust with customers by appealing to their emotions which is a crucial factor in their decision-making process.

Speak to potential customers like real humans, simplify language and create a sense of mutual respect and shared values to make emotional connections with your brand for a higher customer lifetime value. 

Four ways to do human marketing right

As B2B communication strategies like using user-generated content to create marketing materials advance, it’s become more difficult for brands to speak on a human level in business.

The problem is these technological advances mean your customers expect more from your brand. They want value and to feel valued - all of which can’t be satisfied using automated experiences. 

A human approach is the solution to this challenge. Here’s what H2H marketing expert Bryan Kramer has to say about speaking on a human level: 

Let’s look at five H2H strategies to create valuable interactions and power your marketing efforts:

1. Tell a story with content marketing

"Content is essential to building your brand. Drift loves looking at the principles of human psychology and behaviour when implementing content.

That means using real people. Not stock images. Not animations. Not graphics. Just real people like you and me.” - Mark Kilens

What you say and how you portray it to your buyers will significantly impact your brand.

In H2H marketing, we need to ask more questions before pressing post.

And it starts with language.

H2H language should be clear and conversational. You're speaking to a real person; treating them like one instead of just another sales number will be appreciated by them.

That said, we still want to get buyers moving through the marketing funnel; H2H makes it a smoother journey.

Why so?

Because your customers are being presented information in a way that’s not only easy to understand (no matter how complicated your product is) but makes them feel valued by your company too.

Here are a few guidelines for implementing an H2H approach in your content marketing:

Tell a story

Creating content that tells a story and brings out emotions in your audience can improve your B2B sales by 55% long-term.

Storytelling builds an emotional connection with your customers. It’s a great way to convey how your product or service can make someone’s life easier without being pushy.

After all, people remember how you make them feel, not how fantastic you think your company is.

Include meaningful links

If you’re concerned your customer won’t have enough information through a story, you can always provide a link to a more detailed blog post, guide or webinar.

Make use of infographics and videos

Infographics can help explain technical terms in a fun, digestible way. By utilising the Venngage infographic maker, you can create visually appealing and informative graphics that simplify complex concepts and engage your audience.

Videos are another excellent method of building a connection with your audience. Use both as part of your content strategy.

Be mindful

Stay informed of current affairs and movements your consumers are invested in on social media, and actively show your support. This showcases your brand’s value system and allows people to see that there are actual people making decisions behind the scenes.

Honesty is the best policy

No one wants to invest in a company inundated with bad reviews, but at the same time, fake reviews are easy to spot and even worse for your reputation as an organisation.

Your prospects want authenticity, so be honest! Use case studies and real customer stories to show how you’ve solved problems just like theirs.

Take a step back from selling

You don’t always have to push for a sale. Sharing content that speaks to your customers, offers them value, or brightens their day will go a long way to building brand loyalty.

For example, we spotted an opportunity to create videos based on our content but aimed at one of our largest demographics on social media - millennials!

To connect with this audience, we specifically cater our content to be fun, fresh, and engaging and bring across complex subjects in an easy-to-digest way, with a human face 😊 - Cognism’s Video Marketing Executive, the charismatic Emily Liu.

With this human to human approach, we’ve seen more followers and engagement on YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Here’s an example episode:


2. Get personal with your campaign marketing

Human to human campaign marketing needs to be outcome obsessed, and no, not for you, for your client!

Before planning your next B2B marketing campaign, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are your customers, and what do they need?
  • How do you add value and fulfil their needs?
  • What is your buyer journey, and does it make sense with the points above?

Then, take action on the insights you’ve discovered by building an emotive campaign that can solve any challenges your customers have while adding value to their company in other ways.

Doing this will take some time and a lot of thought, but at the end of the day, you’ll have made your customers understand what a great investment your product or service is.

The results, on your end, will be well worth it.

Joshua B. Lee, Founder and CEO of StandOut Authority, has this to say about running a successful H2H marketing campaign:

"Social media is one of the most cost-effective and efficient tools marketers can use - especially if a team is short-staffed. Use a scheduling platform, like Hootsuite, Buffer and Agorapulse and pre-schedule posts to stay on top of the game."

“The biggest and most important piece most miss is that once you schedule posts (PAY ATTENTION AS THIS IS THE CRITICAL PART), someone must manually monitor and interact with followers and key influencers to make the campaign gain momentum.”

As Joshua states above, once your campaign is up and running, it’s important to have someone respond to messages, comments and questions - and they need to ensure they do it with an H2H mindset.

Many marketers make the mistake of assuming that their customers only engage with them for information, and that’s not the case. Ensure your responses are approachable by staying on brand, remaining pleasant and casual.

At Cognism, we take a personal approach to our campaigns by connecting with our customers through memes and current trends they might find relatable, like dating.

Seems a bit of a wild subject for a closed-lost opps campaign, doesn’t it?

An example of H2H marketing by Cognism.

Why did it work?

Liam Bartholomew, Cognism’s VP of Marketing, explains:

“Because it’s human. It’s a reminder that the person sitting on the other side of the computer receiving the email is a human too."

"And it’s much better to try to relate to them on that level and with humour than it is being the 1000th email that week turning up in their inbox, blankly saying ‘We miss you!'”

Outside of work, dating is a big part of people’s lives - that’s how you get personal with your advertising. Look for themes everyone can relate to, like dating or issues they might face today.

You could even simply take popular trends and mould them to fit your message, like Wordle:

"This has worked well because it’s an everyday experience that makes our brand more human while defying the conventional expectations associated with a B2B company.” - Liam

Don’t be afraid to get personal; dig a little deeper into your H2H marketing strategies. Follow trends, and look at what memes are shared. Then incorporate your brand voice into these elements for a great customer experience.

3. Build trust with performance marketing

H2H performance marketing comes down to developing a trustworthy brand that can be easily discovered and communicated with.

Mark Kilens advises:

“Your SEO and organic marketing need to be strong growth drivers long-term. This means thinking about customer journeys from the people coming in from organic search at different stages of the funnel."

"What keywords will work in this respect, and how will your website perform against this strategy?”

At Cognism, we’ve been experimenting by using humour to make a connection through our ads.

Performance Marketer Augustinas Tarabilda explains:

“When I write copy for ads, I try to write it in a way that would be interesting for me to read. I experiment with using humour quite a bit, making the copy so much more engaging."

"I also tend not to shy away from making it obvious that this is an ad and that there is an action I’ll be expecting the audience to take."

"This makes it so much more relatable and human since I’m not trying to hide my true intentions under made-up ‘professionalism’.”

With this in mind, you need to consider several factors regarding your H2H demand generation strategies. These include:

  • Building an honesty-first outlook - don’t promote anything you can’t deliver.
  • Use humour as a hook to draw the prospect in.
  • Communicate what action you want your prospect to take.
  • Seriously considering your customer journey and their experience when interacting with your adverts.

Not only is humour a great way to build relationships, but it also shows that you’re aware of trends and current events outside your organisation. Utilising pop culture is another great tactic.

Just take a look at our spin on finding the best data for sales not featuring Liam Neeson:

Augustinas adds:

“I also believe using real testimonials makes it so much more human. Especially if you have some that are written in an open and honest way. Of course, this is more relevant for BOF ads.”

Here’s an H2H marketing example of an ad where Cognism used a real testimonial:

Adverts like these create interest and a conversation around your brand. Be quick to respond to queries and outbound leads, and be as engaging as possible. Ask questions to gain deeper insights into what your audience is looking for. Lastly, Augustinas advises:

“If you’re unsure whether using a more humorous or otherwise different copy would work, it’s always a good idea to A/B test the new copy with the regular variant. See whether it’s increasing your CTRs or at least getting some more positive engagement.”

4. Offer support with product marketing

For the longest time, buyers have had to wade through the pressures of choosing products with little help from the product marketing side.

They’ve had to find, research and reach out to companies to make a purchase. With H2H marketing, the seller communicates the benefits of their products to the consumer - and it makes a huge difference!

But how can product marketers do this effectively?

Through intent data and analytics - when you know your customer’s challenges and needs, it’s easy to market your product as the perfect solution.

These insights can also create more visibility for customer mapping, allowing you to be there for your client when they need you at every stage of the buyer journey.

Remember to keep your messaging casual - especially if you have a bot for chat interactions. With the technology at our disposal today, bots don’t need to be obvious automation. Give them a name, a photo and a fun personality, and you’re doing human to human marketing right.

Jon Williams, owner of Healthy Email Copy by Jon adds:

“Ask yourself: what does “stand out” mean to you? And how do you do this if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else?"

“I find being genuine, not automated, is the way to go. You might think it’s too risky, but in this “high-tech" world, we’ve got to work smarter, not harder and become more high-touch."

"So think through your messaging and make sure you come across as a brand that cares.”

Make a deeper connection with Cognism 

Cognism aims to connect our audience with the best of the best in the marketing industry, which is why we’re making a human-to-human connection through our podcasts’ The Loop Live and Revenue Champions.

Take a listen to our interview with Mark Kilens on Spotify or Apple.

Click 👇 for your preference.


*H2H is the registered international trademark of H2H Companies LLC

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