The most important thing I learned about content marketing when I covered Hubspot’s State of Inbound report late last year boils down to a simple idea: Don’t piss off your customers. There are a lot of things people love about the information and ideas you share. But the one thing they really hate is being treated like a marketing target.

In other words, customers don’t want to interact with a robot that’s constantly selling products to them. They want to connect to another human being, someone who gets them and has their best interest in mind. Instead of B2B or B2C, the gold standard should be H2H (human to human). And if you want your business to be successful, you have to get out of that traditional marketing mindset. Get real with people.

Customers are smarter than ever. The only way you’re going to capture and keep their attention is by convincing them that they’re the number one priority—not their wallets.

Building an H2H Business with Content Marketing

Here’s some food for thought from a recent DemandGen survey about how you can establish an H2H approach with your content marketing:

  • Customers need quality content to help them make decisions. 51 percent of buyers rely on content to fuel purchasing decisions now more than at any time in the past.
  • They want content to come from the vendors they work with (or will work with). 95 percent of buyers consider vendors to be trustworthy sources of information.
  • But (again) ads are not going to work in most cases – you need to actually write. They’re most likely to use and share whitepapers (82 percent), webinars (78 percent), case studies (73 percent), ebooks (67 percent), blog posts (66 percent), infographics (66 percent), and analyst reports (62 percent).

Think about what it takes to make a new friend or acquaintance during a networking event. You wouldn’t go up to a person and show him a picture that offers a glimpse of who you are. Relationships start with conversations, and breaking the content marketing rules rather than acting like an automaton is a great way to make a positive first impression. Not sure how to write strategic, brilliant content? It’s partly about being courageous and figuring out what you stand for as a company.

How to Make Your Company More Human

Here are some ways you can demonstrate your commitment to being an H2H company: 

Great Design: Images evoke emotions. Since people – even people at B2B companies – make purchases based on emotions, it’s important your brand dresses up for the part as well. From vibrant images to a clean and attractive website design, it all matters. So even if your product/service is incredible and your content is close to perfection, it’s not going to gain any attention if it looks bad.

Killer Customer Service: You’ve heard this one before, but unless it’s ingrained in your company culture, you need to step up your game. Eighty-nine percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. While you need great content and an impressive website to sustain the long-distance relationship between your company and a consumer, your one-on-one interactions need to be even better. 

User Generated Content: People are more likely to buy a product after reading a review from another customer. Having feedback and testimonials from customers on your site creates a 74 percent increase in sales conversions. It’s worth putting some effort behind.  If you’re concerned about negative feedback, don’t be. While many will shy away from complaints, try using them to improve your services instead. Not only will it make your product stronger, but it’s a great way to repair any broken consumer relationships as well.

At the end of the day, consumers appreciate getting to know the people behind a company—even if robots are pretty cool.