Empathy is more than a buzzword. It’s not a box to be checked, or an added finishing touch for content. If B2B marketers want to successfully engage human audiences and break free from the deluge of irrelevant messages swirling around today’s customers, empathy needs to be at the center of all strategic initiatives from start to finish.
What Does Empathy Mean in B2B Marketing?
Empathy is defined simply as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. But I’m not sure that characterization fully does it justice in the context of modern marketing.
I rather like the way Zen Media CEO Shama Hyder described empathy in the better creative teamwork guide we helped our clients at monday.com put together:
“Empathy is critical. It’s much more than just having an understanding of what someone else’s challenges might be. Part of it is that you have to give up being a control freak. As leaders, we should really look at the big picture and ask ourselves, is this necessary? Or is this just politicking, or someone trying to make it seem like it has to be done this way because it’s the way they prefer?”
Shama was speaking from the perspective of a business leader trying to get on the same page as their team, but it applies just as well to marketing endeavors. The critical first step in developing empathy is disconnecting from our own ingrained perceptions and assumptions. Only then can we truly understand and support the audiences we want to reach.
Too often, empathy in marketing tends to be a bit narrow and self-centered (which is contradictory to the very concept itself). We often seek to understand only the challenges and pain points that drive interest in what we’re selling. Looking beyond this scope is necessary to build strong relationships founded on trust, especially now.
“What you are creating, marketing 工作职能邮件数据库 and ultimately selling is but one piece of your customer’s life as a human on Earth. One very small piece,” said Mary Beech, principal at MRB Brand Consulting and former CMO of Kate Spade, in an AMA article on empathy in marketing. “And if we aren’t keeping in mind their full journey, including their emotional, mental, social and physical needs — as well as the challenges and joys they are facing — we cannot do our jobs well.”
As Brian Solis wrote at Forbes recently, the need for empathetic customer experiences is greater than ever in the age of COVID-19 disruption. People have so much going on in their lives, and are facing so many unprecedented difficulties, that a myopic brand-centric focus is all the more untenable. “Traditional marketing will no longer have the same effect moving forward,” he argues. “If anything, it will negatively affect customer relationships rather than enhance them.”
Agreed. So, let’s find a better way.
Engaging with True Empathy in the New Era of Marketing
Imagine if it was possible to sit down and have an in-depth conversation with each one of your customers and potential customers. You’d gain first-hand insight into their worldviews, their challenges, their hopes and dreams.
Sadly, it’s not possible. You don’t have the time, nor do your customers. (Although I do recommend making a habit of engaging in direct, candid conversations with them when possible.) To make empathy scalable, marketers need to take advantage of all the tools at their disposal. This largely requires using data to connect the dots.
“It’s critical for marketers to have a real-time 360 view and understanding of a customer’s full journey, at every stage, from discovery to engagement to retention and loyalty to advocacy,” Solis wrote at Forbes.
Here are some suggestions for obtaining such a view:
Use empathy-mapping. This practice, explained in a helpful primer from Nielsen Norman Group, involves creating a visualization of attitudes and behaviors to guide decision-making. Empathy-mapping originated in the world of UX design, but given how much user experience and customer experience now overlap, it’s becoming a powerful tool for marketers.