Confession: Sprout’s Brand Creative and Social teams have a big ol’ crush on Zendesk. And I don’t just mean when we see their work it makes us feel warm and fuzzy. I mean when we see their work, it makes us want to be better marketers and creatives.
So when we decided to spotlight Zendesk, I knew my fellow creatives would have great insights to share about what makes their work so dang good. When I asked them to describe the Zendesk brand in a few words, their responses were: “delightful,” “charming,” “quirky,” “playful,” “warm,” “thoughtful”, “light-hearted” and “human.” Which, when you think about it, is kind of incredible considering they’re a B2B SaaS brand.
And I say that not to knock the industry, but to recognize the very real struggle for computer and software brands to create compelling content, and connect to their audiences on a deeper, more emotional level. Especially if your product, service or industry is more dry or technical.
So how does Zendesk do it? How do they create B2B SaaS content that feels “warm?” And what can your brand learn from the “Champions of” keeping it human?
Find the insight
Zendesk is a service-first CRM company that builds software designed to improve customer relationships. They are helpers, they serve helpers—helping people is in their DNA. So they know firsthand that being helpful can be hard work (I spy an insight).
What if they found hard-working helpers around the world and gave them a platform to share their stories? And what if they told those stories through powerful short films and beautiful photography? That’s exactly what they did with their “Helpers” series. That content lives on a microsite, but also serves as valuable social content for the brand, often shared in bite-sized pieces across their networks.
Make it yours
Start by finding a universal human insight that’s relevant to your brand, service or product—a nugget of truth or wisdom that feels so relatable it’s almost too simple. Then brainstorm your content around that insight. The Always “Like a girl” campaign and Snickers’ “You’re not you when you’re hungry” were both born out of great human insights.
Of course, you could always come up with the insight on your own. But mining (or validating) them through your audience’s social conversations will give you more confidence that your message will resonate with the right people.
Start with your values
As a company whose purpose is to help businesses improve customer relationships, Zendesk knows that 2020 had a significant negative effect on support managers and service agents. They wondered how they could further support these overworked, and at times underappreciated, workers. Knowing that their company values gratitude and appreciation, they brainstormed and built The Thank You Machine.
The Thank You Machine allows folks to send a virtual thank you card to any person of their choosing, for any reason. It’s simple, fun and playful. And most importantly—it puts their values into action.
Make it yours
Consider what your company values. In addition to the product or service you offer, how else can you communicate or reinforce that value to your audience? Efforts like these over time will eventually make your name synonymous with these values, which in turn will help build your brand.
Pull back the curtain
There’s a brand, and then there’s the people behind the brand—the folks that help create it. Zendesk shares a lot of content that takes those people out from behind the scenes and puts them center stage with a microphone (or a keyboard). In other words, they showcase humans.
Their podcast content does this with folks outside of their organization, often interviewing fellow industry leaders to share their personal experiences and insights regarding their own brands.
An internal example is the Zendesk Creative team blog and social account. These are obviously a big hit with my team because it gives us a chance to hear from the creatives behind all of this industry-leading content. One, this is excellent team and employer branding. Two, seeing all these faces and hearing all these perspectives makes me feel even more connected to their brand—which is exactly what you want your audience to feel.
Make it yours
I’m betting that even if your product or service isn’t wildly or broadly interesting, the people you work with are—both internally and in your industry. Create content that puts the spotlight on people and the stories they have to share. This can include blog articles written by your team, a “meet the team” series, designated social accounts or podcasts for different teams, social takeovers, etc.
Talk the talk
Even when you’re not showcasing a person, you still need to sound like one. Zendesk is so, so good at this. In big ways, and in small ways, Zendesk prioritizes sounding “real’ in all their communication.
Because as this Zendesk writer puts it, “the way a brand conveys their message is what gets people to buy their products.” When you communicate like a real person, it helps your audience connect with you on an emotional level. Which makes it easier for them to listen to you, trust you and ultimately buy what you’re selling—whether that’s your product or service, your mission or even just your opinion.
Make it yours
If your brand doesn’t already have an established brand voice, start there. Consider the 3-4 adjectives or attributes you’d like your brand to sound like. Zendesk’s are “charming,” “distilled,” “humblident,” and “real.” (You’ll have to read their Creative team blog for more info about that third one). You should also consider who your audience is, how you want them to feel and how you wish to be perceived.
As for sounding more human, emojis can go a long way (if they align with your brand voice). After all, that is how a majority of us communicate these days. You can also include familiar phrases (like drumroll please, from the example above) and other popular idioms. And try to avoid the use of big words and jargon. Write like you talk. If it helps, read your messages out loud. You’d be surprised how much that helps.