Marketing to Humans: 5 Ways to Be More Personal in Your Digital Marketing

7 min

We might be B2B or B2C, small business or enterprise, local or global, startup or mature. But there’s one thing all of our businesses have in common: 

Our target audience is human.

And as humans, our audiences have a few natural biases and built-in pre-dispositions. One of the big ones is that we need to feel connected to each other. We relate to each other. We are social animals. 

Most marketers know this. 

Yet we still keep missing the simple opportunities to make our brands human. 

As a digital strategist, I work with hundreds of companies. Every day, I’m on calls with marketers, answering questions about how they should present their brands online. 

  • Little brands often ask me how they can look big.
  • Big brands often ask me how they can look smaller.
  • All brands should really just try to look more human, more personal.

Ironic, isn’t it? And it’s simple. The fastest way for any brand to better connect with their customers, their visitors, their future prospects is to show their people. 

This post is a list of research and techniques that any company can be more personal in their marketing.

1. Be more human in your social content

Our brands share content on a daily basis. These posts are often created quickly, but every post is a set of little decisions about the text and the images.

Those decisions affect how personal – and therefore how social – that social media post is. 

The image has a powerful effect on the click through rate (CTR) of the post. Data from the LinkedIn marketing team suggests that social posts with quotes have higher CTR than posts with statistics.

Image showing CTR results for quotes vs statistics.

A 30% increase in clicks makes a big difference in the amount of traffic the post drives to your website, especially over the span of hundreds of social posts across years of a social media marketing program. 

The LinkedIn team also tested social posts with pictures of objects compared to pictures of people. The data shows a huge impact, suggesting that social posts with people pictures have higher CTR and conversion rates than posts without people pictures.

Person vs Object CTR test results.

In this case, there was a 2x to 4x impact on results. With results like that, a brand with far lower frequency could have a far greater traffic impact.

Related: How to write short stories on social media for better clicks

2. Be more human in your email marketing

This is one of the quickest and more reliable wins in email marketing. It costs nothing and takes almost no time, and the results are often dramatic. In one example, we’ve seen this simple change double the open rates of the email program.

The idea is simple. The sender name is highly visible in the inbox, and along with the subject line and preheader text, it’s really the only information the recipient uses to decide whether or not to open the email. 

Change the sender name from something impersonal (a company name) to something personal (the name of a human being) and you’ll have a better chance to connect and get opened.

Psychologically, it’s just harder to delete an email from a person than from a brand. 

When you combine a personal sender name, with a compelling subject line and some meaningful preheader text, the results are dramatic, especially in the mobile inbox. Take a look:

Three big factors that drive open rates - sender name, subject line, preheader text.
Image source: Orbit Media

More on this topic from the GetResponse Blog:

1. Email marketing for beginners

2. Email design guide

3. Email marketing best practices

3. Be more human on your service pages

Social and email are important, but the farther you go down the funnel, the higher the stakes will rise.

Visitors on sales pages (pages that promote your products and services) have transactional intent, while visitors on your articles have information intent. It’s on these pages that being human, personal and approachable is even more important.

Yet sales pages all over the web don’t even try to make a personal connection. They show no people, no personality and no humanity whatsoever.

Check your sales pages. Any people there? Or does it look abandoned. Maybe there are people but they’re stock photos, like mannequins in a retail store. 

People pictures (and we’re talking about real people, not models from stock photos) go on the checklist of things that should appear on every B2B service page.

Anatomy of a B2B service page.

They are powerful for several reasons:

  • Visual prominence: Pictures of faces are magnetic, and keep the visitors attention on the page.
  • Differentiation: You are the only company with your people. Showing your team is part of showing your difference.
  • Credibility: A site without people could have been made by a fake business. And when they appear in a testimonial, it makes the words of that endorsement feel more authentic. 

Take a minute to go glance through your service pages before coming back to reading the rest of this article.

Ask yourself: Is there anything on this page that is unique to our business, that only we can show or say? Pictures of your team gives you an immediate, affirmative answer.

Related: How to create a services page

4. Be more human in your calls to action

A great salesperson asks the prospect for the deal. 

A great sales page asks the visitor for the lead.

In the moment of truth, once the questions have been answered and the evidence presented, the best sales pages present a call to action. 

But not all CTAs are created equal. Some are more human than others. 

Take a look at the calls to action on your site. Are there any images nearby? 

Putting the face of someone on your team near that the call to action instantly changes the psychology for the visitor. First, it pulls in attention. Then it implicitly answers the question: who might I connect with if I click this button?

We’ve seen an increase of 40% in click through rates on pages that have faces near CTAs. I am not surprised.

How to make your CTA buttons more personal through copy and images.

Again, look at your CTAs. Do you see a simple “contact us” without any context? Is it specific to your brand or generic to every company on the internet? Does it sound conversational? 

Look at the verbs in these CTAs. Notice how they reduce the psychological commitment of the visitor. 

  • Chat with an expert about…
  • Schedule a time to talk to a founder…
  • Ask us your toughest question about…
  • Discuss your possible project with a strategist…

5. Be more human on your ‘About Us’ page

We have access to hundreds of Google Analytics accounts. Digging into this data, day in and day out, patterns emerge. Here’s one of the big ones:

About Us pages are always one of the top pages on websites.

Check this for yourself. Note: If you have a mature content marketing program, you should first use an advanced filter to exclude pages from your blog.

The reason is obvious. People want to feel a connection with other people. Visitors want to know who you are. They want to see who is behind the company. They want to know who started this business. Who are the characters in this story?

Which of these two pictures do you connect with?

Source: Orbit Media

Yet many About Us pages have a mission statement, a bit of marketing copy and little else. 

The best About Us pages tell the origin story, show the people and tell the visitor about the beliefs of the people involved. They help the visitor feel a connection to that brand. 

Related: How to Create an About Us Page That Makes People Care

Why don’t more brands come out from behind the curtain? 

There are various reasons. Here are some of the more common excuses:

  • Internal politics (who should we include?)
  • No one wants to step forward (I don’t like the way I look) 
  • Concerns about photo quality (our pictures aren’t high quality enough) 
  • Fear of having their team poached (what if competitors call on our people?)

But none of these concerns outweigh the benefits of adding humanity. It’s not really more difficult to be human. We all do it everyday. It’s not difficult or expensive to put the most human parts of your brand – your people – into your digital marketing. And until you’ve done this, you are simply a difficult brand for your audience to feel a connection to.

Andy Crestodina
Andy Crestodina
Andy Crestodina is a co-founder and the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, an award-winning 40-person web design company in Chicago. As a top-rated speaker at national conferences and as a writer for many of the biggest blogs, Andy has dedicated himself to the teaching of marketing. Over the past 20 years, Andy has provided web strategy and advice to more than a thousand businesses. Andy has written hundreds of articles on content marketing topics for dozens of blogs and media websites. Favorite topics include content strategy, search engine optimization, social media and analytics. He is also the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. @crestodina