Originally posted on Linkedin

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but every time I receive an email starting with “Dear [FullName]”, it sends chills down my spine. A real human being would never say that, unless he’s a lawyer. This is an example of one of the Uncanny Valley traps, in which personalization fails because marketers fail to give it a human touch.

The same thing applies to company names. In this blog post, we will discuss about the way friendly names can help you avoid the uncanny valley and how this small change can impact your B2B account based marketing.

What are Friendly Names?

Here is the simplest definition: a friendly name is the modification of an official name to make it more human-friendly.

Why do you need to make company names more human-friendly? Imagine you were an executive at Wal-Mart, and you receive an email that name drops your company “Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.”. Would you feel like this email was personalized to you?

A friendly name of a company can be any of the following:

  • A short version of the full legal name: Cisco instead of Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • An abbreviation that the company widely uses themselves: BofA instead of Bank of America Corporation
  • The text used in the company’s trademark: HP instead of Hewlett-Packard Company

Most of our clients rely on tools like Rainking or Data.com to maintain a clean database. The problem is they often provide the legal company names; even if your leads intentionally registered their friendly company names, your data would still be updated to legal names using these services.

When you use this data to personalize your audience’s email or website experience, they will see names familiar but cold to them. For example, Kodak becomes Eastman Kodak Company, Hootsuite becomes Hootsuite Media Inc. - are these different companies in a group? That’s not to mention a bunch of legal suffixes like Inc., Ltd., LLC., Corporation, etc. that remind people more of lawsuits than someone they can happily do business with.

HubSpot points out bad data and bad reasons as some of the causes that create premature personalization. Legal names are good data, yet a little too good to be human-like. And using those names in marketing shows that you personalize merely for the sake of personalizing, not because doing that improves customer satisfaction.

How to Adopt Friendly Account Names in One Hour

Use these steps to add this personalization tactic to your arsenal in one hour.

Step 1: add a field to your accounts called “Friendly Company Name.”

Step 2 (not necessary if you already used data cleaning services): Filtering names that belong to the same company. There can be numerous alternatives and typos for a company name when different leads submit information. For example: Beachhead, Beachhead Marketing, Beachhead Marketing Inc., etc.

Step 3: Review your list of account names, and fill in the friendly names when you immediately know them. Wal-mart Stores Inc., Royal Dutch Shell, Volkswagen Group, these companies are familiar to us and have immediately obvious friendly names.

Step 4: For unfamiliar companies, checking their official websites and social media profiles to determine appropriate names.

Alternative to step 3-4: Using Excel formulas to remove unnecessary legal suffixes.

Step 5: Review to see if the shortcut formulas made up wrong names. For example:

  • “Lincoln Electric” becomes “Loln Electric” (“inc” was removed)
  • “Inc.” (the magazine) becomes a blank (“inc.” was removed)
  • “Zions Bancorporation” becomes “Zions Ban” (“corporation” was removed)

One of our customers completed steps 1-4 for thousands of records in about 45 minutes, and then reviewed in about 20 minutes for weird exceptions. In about one hour, they made their database more human friendly and enabled a better application of website personalization campaigns.

Why Should Marketing Be High Touch?

Most of us would agree that account based marketing helps align sales and marketing by matching both sides to the same objective: pursue target accounts rather than leads. But as marketers we also must remember that ultimate goal of sales: to close deals through 1-1 conversations, using high touch tactics in the last mile.

Marketing automation is an incredible tool, but its only as effective as the data and content you provide for it. If your data is a mess and your content is shabby, just sending out an email blast to 30k people every week for a webinar will not provide the results you want.

Instead, you should consider the data hygiene, personalization, and targeted content as the upfront investment required to succeed. Done right, marketing should be able to magnify the effectiveness of the sales team by 5-10x, but only if you supplement the automation with the right data and content to provide a similar high touch.

Do this, and you can truly improve the efforts of your salespeople at scale.

Friendlier Account Based Marketing