Showing Shared Values to a Marketing Audience
Marketing is forever altered by COVID-19. B2B marketers will no longer be able to make the mistake of simply stating shared values to the audience. In fact, we’re seeing this mistake everywhere in both B2B and B2C marketing, and the brands who can’t make the pivot are the ones who will not survive to the end of social distancing. The expectation that the reader or viewer will do the work of agreeing and filling in the meaning for themselves is no longer valid, if it ever was.
WE VALUE PROVIDING EXCELLENT SERVICE DURING THIS TIME screams the headline of your website. But what does that mean to the person coming to your website?
To them EXCELLENT SERVICE is just one more buzzword they see all over the Internet. DURING THIS TRYING TIME is the subject line or first sentence of every email they have received. And providing a definition of what that really means for them might be a challenge for your audience. But that is the work you are asking them to do.
And by requiring them to bring their own definition of SERVICE or EXCELLENCE to the table, you’re actually creating an opportunity for them to form expectations that ultimately go unmet, meaning if you earn a client, you lose one just as fast.
THIS IS HOW BAD THINGS HAPPEN
Okay, enough with the caps lock. Let’s talk more about conveying shared values with your marketing audience, and why a different approach than just talking about yourself and what you value is essential to establish shared context in marketing.
Common B2B Marketing Audience Shared Values
If you don’t know what values you share with your audience, it’s as easy as starting with what you know about them based on your geography and industry sector, plus other elements of the marketing personas you’ve created. This list of basic shared values in American culture is a safe place to start for most of our readers:
- Control over the environment and processes that affect our roles
- Change that results in upward mobility and better outcomes
- Efficient progress toward goals and mission
- Individual empowerment and independence
- Practical self-help opportunities
- Transparency and honesty with a humble approach
The hard part about marketing during COVID-19 is every single one of these values is under pressure. Your customers don’t have control, don’t have mobility, aren’t empowered, and while they may be trying to practice self-help opportunities, they may or may not be succeeding. And even once the deepest crisis point of the pandemic eventually passes, the memory of these struggles will endure. This means you won’t be able to speak to these values in the way you used to, even when things open back up and people aren’t dying by the hundreds.
As I said in the intro, simply telling your audience you want to help them with these things and are aware of them isn’t enough. We don’t really believe most of the things we are told these days, at least not at first hearing. So why should your audience believe you when you say that you understand their pain? The answer is based on the stories you tell them about yourself.
How to Talk About Shared Values in B2B Marketing
During our processes of working with clients to help them with B2B marketing, we hear a lot of anecdotes about why businesses have the values they do. When you say you value EXCELLENT SERVICE it’s because you’ve spent years or decades learning the ropes of serving your clients, and you really do know what they need. And chances are, there is at least one anecdote you share with prospects, clients, and at networking events to describe how you came to value EXCELLENT SERVICE. Maybe there are dozens!
If those stories haven’t made their way in some form to your content marketing, you’re missing out on telling the full story of your values to your audience. Brands may feel safer hiding behind the curtain, like the Wizard of Oz, speaking to their audiences like the terrified Dorothy and her friends, the desperate crew in search of a solution.
If all you ever do is look great and powerful, never showing your vulnerability and emotion to audiences, you’re going to end up with a failed business. This is because no one wants to approach someone strong and powerful for help, because they feel like an inconvenience, or that they will be judged.
Ultimately, the way to show shared values to your audiences in content marketing is to share your stories, and to speak to their stories in a way they can connect with. Don’t just say “we are in this together” and then tack on your new coupon or offer. Describe what we are in, how we are in it together, and help the reader see themselves living a life where they are partnered with your brand…and they feel closer to their values because of it.
If you want some writing strategies to put this thought into action and need practical advice about how to write content that is value-forward, download our Campfire Content whitepaper. This contains practical insight about emotional vs professional language, how to understand your reader’s perspective, and other essential steps to make sure your marketing is happening in the right shared context with audiences.