What can B2B marketers learn from family history research?
Family history research offers a surprising number of valuable lessons for marketers looking to hone existing skills and build new ones.
For starters, genealogy research can teach us about:
- Knowing Your Marketing Roots
- Sharpening Your Research Skills
- Building Enduring Passion
- Citing, Celebrating & Honoring Your Marketing Sources
- Learning & Networking With Fellow Professionals at Industry Events
- Adhering To Guidelines & Goalposts
- Publishing & Preserving For Posterity
- Sparking Interest For Future Marketers
- Breaking Through With Hyper-Personal Relevance
- Peering Inside Your B2B Marketing DNA
Aside from childhood school family history projects, I first stared researching my roots in earnest in 1994, and a decade later for several years I worked as a professional genealogist.
It’s still a passion, and a pursuit that has for millions of people of all ages around the world become not only one of the fastest-growing pastimes — spurred on by popular shows such as Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., Who Do You Think You Are and others — but a multi-billion dollar industry.“Learning to sing one's own songs, to trust the particular cadences of own's voices, is also the goal of any writer.” — Henry Louis Gates Jr. @HenryLouisGates Click To Tweet
Let’s open your own B2B marketing book of life, with 10 tips genealogy offers marketers.
1 — Know Your Marketing Roots
Family history gives researchers newfound understanding, insight, and appreciation for the very real people who form our own personal ancestry.
Marketers too can gain a great deal by learning more about marketing through the lens of the people who played instrumental roles in marketing.
Genealogy reminds us to take the time to learn about the origins of our particular marketing specialty.
Are you involved in B2B influencer marketing? Learn about the professionals who first innovated B2B marketing by applying the strongest aspects of influencer marketing — people like our own TopRank Marketing CEO and co-founder Lee Odden.
At its root the underlying truths of influencer marketing aren’t new at all, as I took to its ultimate conclusion in “10 Tips From Influencer Marketing’s Hidden 1,000-Year History,” with insights to help inspire your marketing from the likes of Hildegard von Bingen through Phineas Taylor “P.T.” Barnum and David Ogilvy.
Invest some time learning about people such as Edward Louis Bernays, the father of public relations, or even the early pioneers of the Internet and the web, who had such a profound effect on how marketers — and pretty much everybody else these days — perform work. Last year when the Internet turned 50, I wrote a celebration in “Classic Marketing Insights to Celebrate the Internet’s 50th Birthday,” and took a look as some of the key pioneering figures.“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” — Winston Churchill Click To Tweet
Take-Away: The more you know your marketing roots the better your own marketing will be.
2 — Sharpen Your Research Skills
At the heart of genealogy sits sharp research skills, to such an extent that many genealogists have to force themselves to occasionally stop researching in order to dedicate time to publishing the results of all that work.
Marketing generally doesn’t involve nearly as great a percentage of time researching as genealogy, yet the benefits of strong research are undeniable, and are often what sets apart run of the mill promotional efforts from those that lead the industry and win awards.
We’ve explored original research in various forms, and you’ll find helpful information in the following articles from our archives:
- How to Optimize Original B2B Research Content For Credibility and Impact
- What You Can Learn from Competitive Research to Improve B2B Content Marketing Performance
- Always-On Influence: Why B2B Needs Brand Research
- 10 Smart Question Research Tools for B2B Marketers
Take-Away: Research is vital in marketing, so try incorporating more time to research in your marketing efforts, and to improving your research skills — because the smarter you are when it comes to research, the more efficient the process becomes.
3 — Build Enduring Passion Into Your B2B Marketing
Are you being the best marketer you can be? Are you creating the kind of marketing your descendants will be proud of in 200 years, or at least be able to understand and feel some sense of compassion for?
One key ingredient of successful and genuine marketing is the passion of the person creating it. Share your unique voice to tell compelling stories in your marketing efforts, and when possible humanize your work using anecdotes and history from your own journey.
One curious similarity between B2B marketing and family history is the lengthy duration both usually entail — with the B2B buyer journey being significantly longer than in B2C efforts, as our own Nick Nelson explores in “How to Educate, Engage, & Persuade Buyers Over Lengthy Sales Cycles.”
To help inspire your marketing passion and spark new digital storytelling flames, here are several articles we’ve written on these key topics:
- Your Guide to Effective Storytelling in B2B Content Marketing
- Break Free B2B Series: Zari Venhaus on How to Scoot Your Way to Martech Transformation Through Storytelling
- Becoming a Better Marketer by Embracing Your Passions Outside the Office
- Once Upon a Time: Storytelling in Today’s B2B Content Marketing Landscape
Take-Away: Let your marketing efforts make your descendants — and your ancestors — proud, by including enough of yourself and your own story to bring out the passion in your work.
4 — Cite, Celebrate & Honor Your Marketing Sources
In both marketing and genealogy, quality research involves citing your sources. In genealogy those citations are almost always included in the final report or accompanying source material, while in marketing direct citations are more often included only when quoting people or sharing study data.
In genealogy the goal of source citation is to allow anyone who uses yours to locate the original record you saw — not only in the immediate future but also as long into the future as possible.
Professional genealogists can take source citation to extremes, and I sometimes have to chuckle when I come across a page in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly that has more space dedicated to source citations than report narrative.
Even if your research won’t be including citations in a final publication, strong research technique dictates that for your own records and those of your business, your notes should always include the citations you or others could use to find your sources again.
The same research practices that make good genealogical research translate directly into top-notch marketing research.
Take-Away: Use citations to both personally and professionally document all material you’ve used in coming up with new original work.
5 — Learn & Network With Fellow Professionals at Industry Events
I remember the first genealogy conference I attended — the 2003 Federation of Genealogical Societies (FSG) event — which took place before the web-based family history boom became a multi-billion dollar industry.
Back then I recall being by far one of the youngest attendees. Thankfully today the family history boom has infused genealogy with a massive influx of younger people with a passion for learning more, and before the pandemic hit large conferences such as RootsTech drew over 25,000 in-person attendees along with over 100,000 remote participants.
Today’s genealogy conference audiences tend to look a lot more like those of marketing events, and not just the sea of gray hair I saw back at my first family history conference.
B2B marketers can reap the same benefits as genealogists do by attending conferences — now nearly all conducted virtually due to the pandemic — to help you with:
- Keeping Up-To-Date on the Latest Research
- Learning From the Best in the Business
- Networking From Fellow Professionals
- Sharing Knowledge with Peers
You can take a took a look at some of the top virtual marketing conferences through the end of 2021 in “17+ Top Virtual Marketing Conferences for Summer 2020 & Beyond,” and be sure to catch Lee Odden presenting on October 13 at Content Marketing World, on October 15 delivering a Pubcon Virtual keynote, and on November 5 at MarketingProfs B2B Forum.
Marketers can also benefit from joining professional organizations just as genealogists do.
Take-Away: Utilize marketing conferences and professional organizations to become exposed to new methods, ideas, and inspiration.
6 — Adhere To Guidelines & Goalposts
In some ways genealogists have it easier than marketers, as the guidelines and goalposts for the family history game don’t change frequently the way they so often do in marketing, where nearly constant change is ubiquitous.
Family historians do need to keep abreast of newly-discovered historical records or existing physical records than have just become available to search online, and also have to deal with how to cite information contained in all of the new formats people use to communicate today, from TikTok to Reddit and beyond.
There are, however, fundamental truths in marketing, and smart marketers owe it to themselves to learn the underlying principles of advertising.
It’s important to adhere to the use of industry standards such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the U.S., the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the E.U., and regulations including the Federal Trade Commission’s “Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers.”
Adhering to your company’s style and usage guide, as well as those of client organizations, is another similarity between marketing and genealogy.
Take-Away: Know the laws in your area of marketing practice and adhere to the style and usage guidelines of the businesses you work with.
7 — Publish & Preserve For Posterity
Don’t allow your life’s work in marketing to fade away as social media platforms and apps come and go as the sands of time shift — which in social media time can happen in dangerously little time.
Through the use of proper backup plans, digital asset management systems, publishing on a variety of media platforms owned by multiple companies, and submitting to digital archiving efforts such as those of The Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine, your marketing efforts don’t have to be relegated to the digital dustbin of Internet history.
Take-Away: Preserving your marketing efforts makes future campaigns stronger, as you can easily consult and learn from your smartly-archived previous work.
8 — Spark Interest For Future Marketers
As we’ve explored, one of the advantages to looking back is the newfound insight we gain for successfully making the most of the future, and we can do a great service to future generations by sharing our insight with aspiring young marketers.
If we can spark an interest by mentoring a younger colleague, client or associate — or even a family member — we’ll contribute to a future of marketing that is more robust with your own personal knowledge passed along to the next generation.
Two people ignited my love of genealogy back in 1994 — my grand-aunt Solveig and an older in-law, Ed. Solveig was the older sister of my grandmother Lilly, who is alive and well and living on her own in her own house at 103, and Solveig gave me a family history book written by a cousin in Norway in the 1950s.
Ed shared with me his fascinating hand-drawn genealogy charts, and between the two of them I was inspired to set out entering all the information I could find — including everyone in that book — into my 1994-era genealogy database program.
Take-Away: Inspire and mentor young marketing talent by imparting your own passion.
9 — Break Through With Hyper-Personal Relevance
One of the ah-ha moments in genealogy comes when a researcher suddenly realizes that their very own family history is vitally intertwined with a history that they hitherto only knew as something utterly distant and probably considered quite boring. When a family history researcher discovers a Civil War or Revolutionary Way ancestor, or one who overcame great obstacles of any type, history comes alive in a new and much more personal way.
In marketing, unlocking a similar key comes by breaking through messaging that goes from boring-to-boring B2B to hyper-relevant personal digital storytelling with heaps of passion and purpose.
We’ve made efforts to do that in our video interview series including Break Free B2B Marketing, and our new Inside Influence series — each episode featuring a leading B2B marketer who is making a difference.
Make that vital connection that brings far-off dusty history or marketing alive with hyper-personal relevance, by learning as much as possible about your audience, and making efforts to connect personally with those who express interest in your campaigns.
Take-Away: Create ah-ha marketing moments that make hyper-personalized connection through passionate storytelling and break free of boring B2B marketing.
10 — Peer Inside Your B2B Marketing DNA
Is there a marketing equivalent of DNA?
DNA has helped expand interest in family history and its ability to help solve many types of genealogy questions, from “Who was my real father?” to “Where did my ancestors like 2,000 years ago?”
While marketing doesn’t have scientific DNA, some similarities can be drawn between DNA and the early efforts into neuromarketing and other attempts to improve marketing through a greater understanding of how the brain works.
Now fairly well-established, neuromarketing faces additional challenges as brands and marketers ask whether it’s worth shifting ad spend to, and the Harvard Business Review took a look at how consumer neuroscience is meeting those challenges head on.
Take-Away: Keep tabs on neuromarketing and similar efforts to hone in on some of the universal truths that make for successful marketing.
Create Amazing Marketing To Make Your Ancestors Proud
We hope that our look at the lessons B2B marketers can learn from family history research has provided you with at least a few helpful tips to implement in your own amazing marketing efforts.
One powerful way to combine many of these top marketing elements is by leveraging B2B influencer marketing, as we outline in our all new 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, featuring insights from hundreds of marketers surveyed as well as expert analysis by the TopRank Marketing team and contributions from top B2B influencer marketing professionals from SAP, LinkedIn, Adobe, Traackr, IBM, Dell, Cherwell Software, monday.com and more.
Contact us today and find out why TopRank Marketing is the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in Forrester’s “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America” report, and discover how we can help create award-winning marketing for you.