It is not without a good bit of irony that the cold hard world of technology has completely morphed marketing and sales from being Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) into Person to Person, or Peer to Peer (P2P). Instead of replacing humans and ruling the world, technology has instead connected humans in ways perhaps no one could have predicted.

Technology – and the swift infiltration of social media in particular – has enabled people from all walks of life to meet, converse and share information and ideas. It is breaking down geographic and cultural barriers, and allowing us to interact on a much deeper and more meaningful level.

Think about it. As I engage in an online discussion about marketing, for instance, I don’t know where the person I am interacting with is, what they look like, the color of their skin, their religious or political affiliation. All I know is if they share my viewpoints, know what they’re talking about and are worthwhile to add as one of my connections. If I value what they have to say, I will choose to stay connected. If not, I will be moving on.

The way consumers interact with those they choose to spend money with is much the same. If they value what is being offered, if they find spending time there worthwhile, they will choose to connect and stay connected. Hell, they may even tell their friends to do the same.

As a marketer who is all about the never-ending game of figuring out what makes humans tick (and more importantly, what makes them buy) the concept of P2P marketing is intriguing.  It’s not a new concept – the chatter has been around in the industry for years – but the meteoric rise and buzz about social media marketing is bringing it to the forefront.

There was a time not long ago (it may have been last week) where marketing and advertising teams pondered how one business should speak to another business – B2B. You stepped outside of your human skin and took on the persona of ‘the company’ on either side. “How do we – Accounting Software Company X – speak with our target market – Mid-Size Manufacturer Y?” We spoke in the third person, and used terms like ‘the industry leader’ and ‘enterprise-wide’. And we wondered why these messages – so expertly well thought-out and crafted – fell flat.

B2C was a little better, but not much. We spoke to humans and really tried to care about and address their issues, but again, we approached it from a Business to Consumer perspective. “How do we – Household Cleaner Company A – speak to our target – Homeowner B?” The influx of human conversation, painfully honest feedback, and spontaneous word of mouth marketing brought on by the internet and social media marketing is changing all of that. Now we are FINALLY realizing that business is done by people. At the end of the day, every purchase, every decision is not made by ‘the business’, it’s made by a person who just happens to represent ‘the business’. Simple logic tells us that our message, therefore, must be to a person, by a person.

So how does the ‘the business’ become ‘the people behind the business’? 

The transformation starts from within. Subtle changes in the way a company communicates both internally and externally can make a big difference. Take third person speak, for example. Let’s say we have a firm specializing in manufacturing marketing called PlanNine Marketing. And let’s say we’re writing our ‘who is’ statement.

We could say… PlanNine Marketing Offers Manufacturing Marketing Services to Move Businesses Forward Or we could say… Trust the Team at PlanNine Marketing to Help Move Your Manufacturing Business Forward

The shift from referring in the third person as ‘the company’ helping ‘the business’, to emphasizing ‘the team’ behind the company helping ‘the business owner’ is subtle, but powerful.

We soft and squishy humans want and need to know that we will be cared for. It’s instinctual. Try as we might to toughen that exterior, our basic instinct drives us to those that will look after us, protect us, care for us. Can ‘the business’ shake or even hold my hand and ensure me that I’ve made the right choice? No. It doesn’t have hands. But the team inside the business does. They have lots of hands for shaking and holding, and that makes me happy.

What else can be done?

Because all business is done by people, consider having some trusted members of your team become involved in public communications with customers. Blogs and social media outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, allow for virtual face-to-face interaction, with the added bonus of instant word-of-mouth marketing. Making connections takes a little up-front work, but once that is done, the base is established for having meaningful interactions with customers and prospects.

Webinars are other ways companies are using their in-house talent to connect with customers and prospects. Setting up and marketing a webinar, for example, is a miniscule investment. Develop a hot topic in your field of expertise, promote it through e-mail, the internet and social media marketing, and you not only have the chance to draw in new customers, but for your existing ones, you are reassuring them that you are, in fact, the leaders in your field.

Through all of this technology, let’s not also forget REAL face to face interaction. Meet and greet events, trade shows and conferences, in-house seminars and even social events are a great way to truly connect with clients and prospects. Although the time and monetary investment is no doubt greater, sometimes there just is no replacing the soft and squishy handshake.

What are you doing to reach clients and prospects? We’d love to hear how you’re putting P2P marketing to the test, and the results you’re seeing. Connect with us on Facebook and share your thoughts at www.facebook.com/digidaze.