More Than a Sales Tactic: The Rise of H2H

 In Culture

B2B and B2C thinking which dominated strategy in the business/marketing world for decades is getting a run for its money. The challenger? H2H, or “human-to-human.”

Of course, the “C” in B2C was always meant to stand for a person or consumer, and B2B deals were negotiated between individual people. But as technology helps social and cultural trends to become revolutions, the “C” mentality is losing traction. Those consumers increasingly insist on being treated as complex individuals more that as segments of a large, broadly-labelled group.

And even within “B” itself, forward-thinking companies are placing greater emphasis on the individual workers, on “who people are” instead of only on what work they do for the business.

H2H is everywhere

H2H will most frequently refer to marketing practices, but it is important to consider it within an entire business culture. Promoting H2H strategy business-wide will, somewhat ironically, simplify decision-making. How? By bringing every interaction down to the same common denominator: one person to another. H2H should become the way of thinking in every decision or transaction, including the corporation-to-corporation deal-making, employer-to-employee interactions, colleague-to-colleague collaboration, and business-to-customer relationships. All of these different dynamics can be viewed through the lens of H2H.

Even in M2M (machine-to-machine) transactions, people are only one step behind the machines, programming and analysing. So even there, the true nature of the exchange is H2H.

H2H through data technology

One reason for the rise in H2H strategy is “Because we can.”

Under the big data revolution, every data point comes from and can be traced back to the individual it came from. For example, brick-and-mortal music stores of yesterday marketed broadly by setting up displays of bestselling albums by the front door. Today, online purchasing and listening data makes it possible to create specialized recommendations in each customer account.

Sophisticated CRM programs grow more savvy each day, using individual customer data to personalize every exchange. This marketing segment of business can proudly claim the title of Early Adaptor to H2H. By using CRM to personalize the consumer experience, businesses are able to streamline lengthy processes and build brand loyalty.

Social media’s push toward H2H

Social media have increased a consumer’s access to specific people he may not have had personal access to before, such as a corporation’s CEO. A consumer may now choose to aim a comment directly at the owner of a business and will not be satisfied if some other representative of that same business responds. In such a case, the consumer is pursuing a specific H2H interaction. Wise businesses respond.

A consistent, recent example of this might be how Tesla’s Elon Musk is known for replying directly to customers through Twitter. When consumers have reached out to him for help, information, offer suggestions, or simply to vent, he does not knock the item down the line to one of his employees. Rather, he responds to that person as a person. This has helped craft his persona – deserved or not – as a businessman who cares, earning him a furiously devoted consumer base.

How the H2H element of social media works for businesses

While the example above shows how a smart CEO can embrace H2H in social media, there are also ways that social media, as an H2H marketplace, can go to work for business. For example, “Click to Share” is everywhere, letting consumers to work for businesses, increasing a company’s visibility through sharing links or product pages with friends.

And marketing campaigns that go viral on social media are not an accident of marketing luck: they come from businesses that consider, “What reaches beyond the consumer level, at an emotional, human level?” For example, Patagonia’s legendary “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign came out of a company culture which rejected typical marketing jargon and embraced the challenge to think like humans, not just like a business.

H2H makes the workplace better

“ ‘Human’ is baked into company values and purpose; it’s not the icing.” Just as an H2H Marketing strategy won’t work unless the entire company is committed to H2H consumer service, a company’s outer face can’t be successfully H2H-focused unless that is the internal culture as well.

For the same reasons that consumers respond to H2H strategies which respect them as complex people, workers also are most dedicated to organizations where they feel appreciated as individuals. This doesn’t even have to cost anything.

It could be as simple as shifting monthly recognition for “Salesman of the Month” to a different employee spotlight each month, as an opportunity to know more about that person than his or her company function. Mentoring-up programs help workers develop compassion for each other’s daily challenges. Flexible time (such as remote working) is a very “H2H” approach to business, respecting individual worker’s needs and preferences.

H2H isn’t new

Mary Kay Cosmetics’ door-to-door consultants are extreme H2H at work, and that company has thrived on this strategy for over fifty years. Consider another classic example of H2H at Henry Ford. Ford paid his workers more than other auto manufacturers for two H2H reasons: first, he knew that production lines were tedious work and the higher salary would reduce turnover; and second, he calculated that workers with higher salaries could afford to buy his cars. This brilliant strategy produced happier work culture and bigger sales.

H2H revolution here to stay

This toothpaste won’t go back in the tube, as they say. Once it was only the wealthy who merited special sales-staff assistance; now any midlevel clothing boutique worker will offer, “Can I save a dressing room for you?” or “Try this shirt—it looks great on you.”

And cconsumers are also more sophisticated now, ready to mock and reject the traditional marketing jargon. Businesses which continue relying on a “let us tell you what you need” model sound out‑of‑touch next to businesses which offer a conversation to their consumers. Lastly, the rise of social media has magnified the power of an individual. We are now a person-centric culture at least as much as an organizationally-driven one.

It is clear that H2H strategy is defining business in the twenty-first century, with other businesses, with workers, and with consumers. A business that wants to survive will evolve with the others, or risk getting left behind.

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