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Embracing Emotion in B2B Marketing: How Humanizing Your Story Can Give You a Competitive Advantage

Kerry Guard • Wednesday, February 1, 2023 • 43 minutes to listen

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Christian DeGobbi

Christian DeGobbi is the Marketing & Brand Consultant for Fintech Start-up at Princeton Informatics, LLC.



Hello, I'm Kerry Guard and welcome to Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

I’ve had so many people join the show to discuss content. I have a few more folks later this year even who joined me to discuss storytelling and what content means to them how we can do it better and well. Content is the heart of our brand however it shows up whether copy, video, or images. Content content content. And while everyone seems to have a different approach, there’s a clear trend and that is to start with your customer. And ctually sitting down and LISTENING to what the customer needs and why they need it BEFORE you put any pen to paper.

Christian DeGobbi, joins me to reiterate this. Content and message are created in a vacuum as he likes to point out and he’s beyond frustrated that sellers and marketers are still leading with their product and features. It’s not transparent nor is it empathetic in his opinion. And I couldn’t agree more! It's not either of those things. It's very self-centered. And I hate to break it to y'all. But actually, the product that you're selling isn't really about you. It's about your customer and what your customer needs. And so if you could really understand that at its core, then the selling won't feel like selling.

Christian loves and appreciates the practices of marketing & brand development. He enjoys staying at the forefront of the latest trends, best practices, and case studies via various methods -- an absolute MUST to be a successful marketer and brand professional today. His experience and passion for designing and leading digital marketing and brand strategies on a company and practice level that resonate in today's noise across paid/earned/owned touch points have led to increased customer engagement, awareness, sales qualified leads & record revenue.

Oh and he’s open to work so if need customer-centric marketing, you might want to join that connect button. The link is in the show notes.

Here’s my conversation with Christian.


Kerry Guard: Hello, Christian, thank you for joining me on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.

Christian DeGobbi: It’s very nice to be here. Kerry, thank you for asking me to join.

Kerry Guard: Yes, love having you. We're excited to get into today's conversation. Before we get there, Christian, tell us your story. What do you do? And how did you get there?

Christian DeGobbi: I've been in marketing for 20-plus years. I started my career at Ogilvy and Mather, which is a global advertising agency in New York City, working on media planning for big brands like Hershey's and IBM, and GT at the time. And then about five years in the New York City advertising business, I moved over to client-side marketing in 2002. I've been in B2B client-side marketing, and for a bunch of different companies. And it's something that I enjoy and as marketing is progressed and the world has changed. I love the challenges and successes that come along with B2B marketing.

Kerry Guard: How did you make the journey from the client from the agency side to the client side? That's not necessarily an easy thing to do. Or was it? Maybe it was.

Christian DeGobbi: That's a great question. Everything kind of falls under the same umbrella. I thought it was a natural segue from working in media planning for Ogilvy and Mather to B2B client-side marketing. I thought was a relative jump where I could take my advertising agency experience and apply it toward B2B client-side marketing.

Kerry Guard: In what way? Was it still media planning that was completely different? What was sort of the new role that you played on the client side?

Christian DeGobbi: Jumping to the client side in 2002, I thought was a transition definitely a little bit of a learning curve. But I took what I learned from being in media planning on the advertising agency side and being responsible for a B2B marketing company, and planning their promotions and how they were going to market their company. Way back when we didn't have a lot of the technologies that we have today, like social media, and sophisticated websites, different technologies, and video wasn't big, but it was a natural jump to go from advertising agencies to B2B client-side marketing, and being responsible for promoting that B2B company, whether it be on a company level or service line level or product level. But I thought it was a natural jump,

Kerry Guard: And did it pan out for you? It sounds to me like you're still there. So in terms of your expectations of it being a bit slower, easier to manage, and being able to take those skills of media planning to the client side, did it feel like a natural transition?

Christian DeGobbi: It did. It felt very comfortable and very similar. My first job and B2B client side marketing was for a small to a midsize accounting firm. And I was their first marketing hire, and they were looking to position their brand out in the marketplace, build brand awareness using back in 2002, the mediums that were available to us at the time, so it felt very natural to go from the advertising agency world to marketing a company to their audience. It felt very natural in that way.

Kerry Guard: With the agency world, I felt the same way. It was a lot of clients. It was a lot of moving parts. It was a lot to manage. It felt like I was all over the place. I definitely didn't feel it's a lot easier to think about one client and what that client needs, especially from a media planning standpoint. You've got to branch out to where it wasn't just media planning, you got to think more broadly and realistically for the accounting firm.

Christian DeGobbi: I would agree with that. I wanted to say that I thought the advertising agency world prepared me very well for the B2B client-side marketing world because after being in that advertising agency world, with so much press pressure for long hours, the hierarchy of the team structure was different in the advertising agency world, but I just felt less pressure when I moved to the B2B client-side world, just because it was less cutthroat, just less pressure being making that transition to the B2B client side world.

Kerry Guard: I could see how that would work out, especially in New York City. Long hours. I normally worked from 8:30 to 8:30.

Christian DeGobbi: When you work for big brands in the advertising agency world, there are perks for a lot of people that want your advertising dollars for back then like magazines and outdoor and radio. Were in newspapers, and were big back in the day. So there were a lot of perks in the advertising agency world as far as tickets and happy hours and stuff like that. It was just a different world back then.

Kerry Guard: It was nice to have for sure. But I remember at one point, my entire team was going to start to Solei and I was like, “I've just been with you guys all day.” And that sounds fun but I just really need to go so I did the novelty of it all. I made Nike shoes at one point I went. I don't know if you did this in New York. There was a place on the river that did track a trapeze school.

Christian DeGobbi: We got to do now, not familiar.

Kerry Guard: That was fun. It's a lot of fun outings. But by the end of it, I just want to go home.

Christian DeGobbi: I just felt like I was in a pressure cooker. As you said, you're working 12 to 14-hour days, and at the time, I was going to get my MBA and felt pressure on top of that. So, again, it prepared me very well for the B2B world. I was able to take a lot of the same principles of research in knowing your client to the B2B world. And there was a learning curve for about a year. There was an adjustment, of course, but it prepared me very well.

Kerry Guard: I can definitely see that. So where are you now, Christian? What are you doing now? And in what B2B industry are you?

Christian DeGobbi: I'm in the tech industry today, which is a great industry to be in. It's very fast-paced. The tech industry and the tech services that we offer today, as far as cybersecurity, legacy, modernization, and leveraging your data, regardless of the economy today, regardless of how things are going in the world, the tech services that we provide today are just going to become more and more important as we move forward. So to be in the tech industry and to market tech products, they're never going to go away. So to be in a high-demand field, again, especially cybersecurity is very exciting. It's very fast-paced. There are a lot of competitors that are out there, that are competing for your business, and knowing how to differentiate your IT services, your tech services, and making an impression and breaking through that noise to your target market today, is very important. There's a certain way to go about that. It's a very fun, challenging time to be in marketing today, regardless of the industry, but especially in tech, where all of these tech services that I mentioned are going to be in high demand. It's crucial that you provide a great customer experience today, know how to brand your company, and know how to deliver your messaging to your target markets today to break through that noise. Because you're not only competing within your industry, we're bombarded with so many messages, and being on our mobile app. It's hard to break through the noise today to make an impact on your target market.

Kerry Guard: Cybersecurity is getting more and more crowded every day.

Christian DeGobbi: Absolutely. If you're not working for a company that provides only cybersecurity services as I did at ThreatConnect. If you're working for a tech company today like I am, you have a cybersecurity offering today, and there are a lot of cybersecurity offerings today, whether it be consulting on a platform level, or distinguishing your cybersecurity services and protection is paramount today. And that's where a lot of tech companies are at today.

It's very hard to go through a week without reading about some cybersecurity attack against whether it be a government entity or, or a company. And this all goes back to trust and your target trusting that company that they're doing business with, whether it be B2B or retail, with your data, with your credit card information with your personal information. So cybersecurity and trust, go hand in hand today, which kind of gets back to in general, that's what marketing is trying to provide. If they do it well, build that trust with your target market so that you can trust us with your data.

Kerry Guard: This is leading really nicely into our conversation. But before we get there, Christian, tell me what's one challenge you're currently facing. Let's look at something that's keeping you up at night.

Christian DeGobbi: I would say in B2B marketing. And again, it's gotten better over the years. We still have a long way to go, but incorporating emotion into your B2B marketing. I always like to think that if an alien came down to earth, what is human-based B2B marketing today? If they asked me if an alien came down, I would tell them that it's not product-driven, which a lot of B2B companies, at least through my experience and networking with colleagues, and subscribing, chawl, and marketing newsletters that I subscribe to, is not leading with your products. There's a time and a place for that.

We have sales enablement material, which is very important to have when you're meeting that when sales are meeting with clients. Meeting with clients is to have that nice sales enablement material, but not leading with your products on your website through your social media. Again, huge fan of videos telling a story, so humanizing B2B marketing today and knowing how to story tell including emotion, and humor into B2B marketing today is so important, because if you Googled humor and B2B marketing or human-based marketing five years ago, I would venture to guess like you'd get close to zero responses, but it's becoming more and more prominent.

B2B marketers are becoming more and more aware that to include emotion, humor to include storytelling and to B2B marketing today, and the companies that don't get that who still want to lead with their product videos, product blog posts, and social media posts are based around their product. I just don't think they get it. And the companies that do get it are going to have a big competitive advantage over the companies that don't.

Kerry Guard: This leads perfectly into our conversation, which is about the three elements to better B2B marketing, and you mentioned all three. Well, too heavily in what you just said in terms of your current challenge. Tell me more though, in terms of why is this so important. I get what human-to-human marketing is and to not leave with your product? I’m not sure we've hit on the why yet. Why is that so important?

Christian DeGobbi: It's very important, because even in B2B marketing, people, make big decisions. And that's been the barrier of B2B marketers, not understanding this, they think just because there are solutions may cost hundreds of 1000s of dollars or millions of dollars, that you have to be talking about your products or features and benefits. It's important because even in B2B marketing, at the end of the day, we are marketing toward human beings who have emotions, and personality when they're looking at a bunch of different, say, ERP solutions for their company, even those decisions are, they want to look good internally, they want to make the right decision, they want to look good to the company to their boss, and emotions play into that they are thinking about making that right solution to make their job and the company's job easier. If you don't plug into or consider the role, emotions play in their decision and making that right decision. It’s a big mistake, because the messaging of your product features and benefits will go by us being human beings we know that we do make decisions based on emotion, and we have to consider that to pull at the heartstrings and include emotion. Marketers should be including that emotion in their marketing because talking about products and services will only get you so far.

Kerry Guard: What emotions do you think you talk a lot about emotion when it comes to being human and storytelling for B2B marketing? What emotions are you specifically referring to?

Christian DeGobbi: I'm talking about emotions that hit your heart and your soul where you are making an emotional connection with the brand as far as helping them. For example, community service. If your company does community service and you are helping, for example, a community service event where you're helping, like building houses, habitat for humanity, and the time that your employees take out of their workday to do community service, and how you're helping them live a better life, or you're giving them a new home, or you're helping children read, is very powerful to make a human connection.

Kerry Guard: What are some of the stories you've told in your career, for some of the brands, can you give us an example of something you specifically did that showed the emotion you're talking about?

Christian DeGobbi: As far as emotion goes, when I was at a former company a couple of years ago, we told the story. The company has been in business for several years, and when I joined, we were very product driven, we were very all about highlighting and our products and our social media posts or websites, all the content, all the blog posts that we put out, were all better products. It all led back to our products. So after digesting all this and reading all this to become more human-driven to, to include emotion into our marketing, we started telling stories, and creating videos on our social media posts about how our company started, and what a struggle it was to make the company start and in how we gain those first few clients. So after speaking to the founders of the company, what they had to go through them meeting with their clients and what that client conversation those first client conversations were about the disappointments that they encountered while starting to build their business and their perseverance to keep on going. Their first hires, and it was more a lot of the behind-the-scenes things about how they built their business.

We wrote about that in our blog posts, and we created powerful videos of our CEOs and co-founders talking about their dream to provide at the time. It was small business insurance, how to provide affordable, accessible, transparent small business insurance to their clients, and what it did for those small business owners giving them peace of mind. I recall interviewing a couple of our first clients and, just what that did for them when this company came along, how cordial they were, and how they bent over backward for them to access and purchase insurance for their small business. And that was emotional-based marketing, at its finest because we were not talking about our products, but we were talking about our founders, how the business got off the ground on and with our first clients, and how happy they were to have security, that their business was going to be okay in case of a cyber-attack or a natural disaster or an owner passing away. It went beyond the products and spoke about the comfort that we gave them. And the comfort that was core to our company in providing that comfort back to our clients. It was a very emotional-based campaign via social, via video, and blog posts. It was a very powerful campaign.

Kerry Guard: It tells the why of the company when you go back to the founder's story.

Christian DeGobbi: Yes, our mission. It was that peace of mind that we gave them in the present and the appreciation that our clients felt for us and what we did for them when we spoke nothing about her products, it was all about the end result and the comfort that we gave them. And that was very powerful. We put those videos, that it was a three-part series of social media or website, email campaigns. It was all about creating that emotional connection. The why is that if you're just talking about your products and services, it's very stagnant. It's very dry. It's unemotional. And as we know, even B2B decision-makers make decisions logically and emotionally.

Kerry Guard: That's interesting logically and emotionally. Depending on your audience when you're talking about cyber-specific clay, you are talking to a more straightforward audience. They want the facts, and they want the detail they want. Layering in those facts in a way that tells that story can be powerful. And I love what you're talking about from an insurance company standpoint, especially for small businesses. It is very easy to pull that string through and tell that story and be human about it. And I like what you're saying too. I feel like in cybersecurity, especially, it's very easy to sort of fall back on the emotion of fear.

Christian DeGobbi: Exactly. There are so many cybersecurity providers out there, whether it's a company that does only cybersecurity platforms, or a tech company I'm working at now, which has a lot of different tech services, one of them being cybersecurity. There are so many choices out there and the companies that will be successful and resonate in touch with the heart of their target markets, are the ones that are going to incorporate their client's voices about what it did for them, and create that emotional connection. The natural instinct with cybersecurity is to play off their fear. If you don't do this, you're gonna get attacked. If you don't have these platforms, your clients say there's going to be compromised. And that's all true. If you want to fold that into your messaging a little bit, you mentioned it, here and there on your website, and social media videos, and that's fine. There's an attrition level with clients where they become even numb to that.

People today on the B2B decision maker side and the B2B and the B2C decision maker side, they're wise, more wise today than ever. They're savvy, they get it, and they know when they are hearing marketing messaging to make them buy. You have to go beyond that and create that emotional meaning for them, or if they get cybersecurity or if they're doing cybersecurity. And they hear from the SMEs of the company if they're hearing from happy clients, about their working relationship with your company and the services you provided them on an emotional level, and you hear them talking to your writing about that, and not talking about fear. But the results that work in a relationship go a lot farther than playing off people's fear. There's a line or an attrition level where if everybody's talking about fear, again, your level setting again because everybody's talking about fear. So what are you going to do to be different? What's your messaging, going to be like to be different that's where you want to connect on an emotional level and not talk about fear, but talk about how you saved the company millions of dollars or working relationship with your company and how easy they were to work with, how your employees feel safer, how you drew cybersecurity prevent that attack that you may have saved on, possibly jobs from the company losing a lot of money. But I love your point about overdoing it with fear in cybersecurity marketing.

Kerry Guard: It's a line. You need to back it up to. It's all well and good to tell these stories and to try and be human. But you can't just fake it, essentially, in terms of what you're saying about how savvy these new buyers are. So how do you create that transparency? How do you back it up?

Christian DeGobbi: That's a great question. I always think about marketers, especially B2B marketers based on my experience working with them. Many B2B marketing decisions today are made in a vacuum, where they don't talk to any of their clients. They don't talk to any of their prospects, literally talking to them or surveying them, not bombarding them with surveys but strategically placed surveys that incorporate their voice. So internally, B2B marketers want to be talking to their salespeople. They want to be talking to the product people because they're talking to clients and prospects. It's important to incorporate that feedback internally. But if you're not bringing in that loud client voice talking to them, and bringing in their voice, I don't know how you can do marketing like that because you are marketing in a vacuum, marketing based on assumption, probably marketing based on what your competitors are doing. So bringing in that client's voice and bringing in what their pain points are, what they're looking for, what content topics, do they want to read about, what formats that they want them in, talk to them pn a call just about your web, their experience with your website. It's not easy to find content, what content is on there, and what's their experience with your website. There are a lot of puzzle pieces to understanding your clients and prospects. The biggest puzzle piece is speaking to them, serving them and getting it from them, and not making those marketing decisions in a vacuum. And I think that's one area where I think B2B marketers have a long way to go because I just don't see a lot of it today.

Kerry Guard: I love that, and I totally agree. The other thing that you said was really interesting. You said it a little bit earlier. But what I loved, as you mentioned, subject matter experts. Are you talking about second-matter experts in terms of inside your company? Or is that outside your company? Where are you bringing in that level of transparency as well?

Christian DeGobbi: That's a great question. I would say the quick answer is both. Internally, talking to your SMEs, product experts, business development, sales, people bringing in that, so internal SMEs, but getting back to what we were talking before about was in as far as building trust, and just B2B brand trusted, and that this assignment today is very low. People just don't trust brands today because as you said, they're not transparent. They just don't trust B2B brands today, and a lot has to deal with that not reaching out to them, not being transparent, and leading with products. So to your point, though, a great way to build trust, since B2B brand advertising and every touchpoint, they see either paid, earned, or owned are untrustworthy. They don't have good rap B2B brands today. But to your point, external influencers, a person, and even micro-influencers are a great way to build trust with your brand, and externally with your clients and prospects. They're unbiased. They are will provide an external point of view on your company and your services and your solutions. It's very important to win.

We've been hearing about influencer marketing for a few years now. That's a great way to your point to build that trust and to build that transparency. Based on the fact that B2B advertising and marketing doesn't have a lot of trust is to incorporate and reach out to influencers in your field to provide that unbiased view or review of your products and solutions. That's a great point, Kerry.

Kerry Guard: All of this is well and good in terms of telling a story and being human and not making decisions in a vacuum. But if you can't back it up with the right context coming not just from your company, but from others. I love what you said in terms of subject matter experts, being even outside your company to validate what you're saying is huge. And I don't know that anybody's doing a lot of that.

Christian DeGobbi: I definitely see a lot more of it in the B2B, the B2C space. There are so many review sites and 1000s of comments, hundreds of comments on a particular product that they bought from a B2C company. But you're right, you don't see a lot of B2B companies leveraging influencers on their website within their content on social media to get that validation of your company from an unbiased point of view. So very important. I agree.

Kerry Guard: The last thing I want to talk about because you brought it up, Christian was around the content itself and creating it. Coming up with a sense of, essentially a campaign idea, whether that's telling your story and why or showcasing customer themes that can be talking to a bunch of customers, and some customers are saying similar things. You could create a whole campaign around that. It's not just then producing one piece of content and being done. You talked about a three-part series. Whatever that story is, it can live beyond just a single entity. How do you bring those to life?

Christian DeGobbi: Specifically, from a content perspective?

Kerry Guard: You're talking about storytelling and being human and that creates content. But what does that mean, in terms of how it lives?

Christian DeGobbi: I truly believe in content. Good content is a foundation for building a brand, whether that be awareness or influencing perception. It's certainly very important for lead generation. We've spoken so much about building trust and transparency today. The foundation is content. You want a diverse content library. It's smart to have a blog today. It's smart to have an external e-newsletter, whether that be on a monthly or quarterly basis to stay top of mind that is opt-in from all the people that sign up to get it about all the news that's going on with your company. Content is foundational to building brand awareness, and influencing the perception of your brand, certainly important for a lead generation campaign. Outside of that, you have your public relations, if you know. It's very important to be seen out in the press to stay top of mind that way for people to read articles, with your smees quoted but content. It's foundational to building a brand awareness, brand perception, lead generation, and support to have a diverse library of content. So written content, visual content, like infographics, and the most important content of all, and a lot of studies show this even B2B decision-makers, just because of our lack of attention span today.

In the short time that we have today is video. Creating storytelling videos about your company, transparent videos that are not product driven, are so important today. If you're not leveraging video today to tell your story, a client story, we mentioned the story about like telling stories about how your company started, again, not product-driven are very important today, to building a brand and lead generation knowing the content topics that your clients and prospects want to hear about. And what's the best way to do that is to ask them, what content topics are most interested in, or what content topics are addressing their pain points. So again, include that client feedback and make your clients to prospect side clause. Employees bringing them in startup voice and customer program, where you have 10 to 12 clients across the MPs spectrum, we're they're giving you feedback as far as what they want, what kind of content, and what format they want to digest. And just closing with not being afraid to use humor in your B2B messaging and content.

Studies show that content and advertisements that include laughter are more memorable than ones that don't and again, not forgetting the bat that we are marketing to human beings.

Kerry Guard: I couldn't have put it better myself a question. I'm going to leave our conversation there. Because we're all human and we need more laughter in the world. So why not make fun of ourselves a little bit and show that even when things are hard and scary? There's always a bright side.

Christian DeGobbi: Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head and posing perfectly especially in today's world of humor and lightheartedness goes a long way much needed today.

Kerry Guard: Thank you so much Christian for joining me. Before we close out, I do have my people's first question. If you could travel anywhere in the world without long travel lines and vaccination passes and booster shots for all the things, where would you go and why?

Christian DeGobbi: I've always wanted to go just from talking to people and seeing on TV and magazines and the food, the culture, and people. It's awesome to travel to experience all those things. And one place I'd want to go probably first that I haven't is Ireland. Just the history again, for all those reasons, the food, the culture, and the countryside. That probably be my first place.

Kerry Guard: Break out those Irish dancing shoes, you're going to need them. Christian, it was so lovely, thank you so much for joining me.

Christian DeGobbi: Thank you so much Kerry for the opportunity. Thank you so much for asking me to be a guest to have a lot of fun. Thank you very much and stay very well.


That was my conversation with Christian to Gabi. If you are passionate about customer-centric marketing as Christian, be sure to connect. As I mentioned, he is open to work.

If you're listening Christian, thank you for joining me and for sharing your passion for thoughtful, transparent, empathetic marketing. What a great reminder, so grateful.

Thank you for listening! If you found this episode helpful please like, subscribe and share!

This episode is brought to you by MKG Marketing the digital marketing agency that helps complex tech companies like cybersecurity, grow their businesses and fuel their mission through SEO, digital ads, and analytics.

Hosted by Kerry Guard, CEO co-founder MKG Marketing. Music Mix and mastering done by Austin Ellis.

If you'd like to be a guest please visit to apply.

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