Marketers need a surprising, yet powerful, tool: empathy. Empathy in content opens new avenues to customer engagement and sales. This era of digital transformation requires a complete rethinking of how marketers deliver our messaging in content. Self-promotion no longer endears us to customers.
As companies increasingly rely on digital marketing tactics to publish content and engage with customers, many struggle to be heard in a loud, crowded digital space. At the same time, customers want more personalized content that speaks directly to what they want and need.
Here’s why empathy is gaining more attention in marketing, and how to evaluate your current strategy.
Empathy and Digital Transformation
Companies were digitally transforming their processes and business before the pandemic, but COVID-19’s arrival challenged companies to transform faster. One report estimates that the pandemic accelerated companies’ digital transformation by an average of six years.
Companies must now figure out how their marketing strategies will stick out in a quickly expanding digital field. Forrester’s predictions for business in 2021 discuss how customer service is transforming to include emotionally sensitive customer support in the flexible ways consumers need and a continued reliance on digital channels such as online shopping and online financial services.
What does this have to do with marketing? Customers will expect a similar experience across the business, including when they interact with marketing content. If customers don’t see themselves reflected in content and if marketers can’t provide a high-quality, tailored, empathetic digital experience, we may alienate customers to the point that they take their business elsewhere.
Your customers want to be heard, seen and understood. The challenge to marketers is to do this effectively in a way that’s tailored and personalized to customers.
The CEO of Marketing Insider Group, Michael Brenner, recently spoke at the B2B Sales & Marketing Exchange about how empathy will be the key to B2B’s future. Many organizations frequently talk about themselves in their content and don’t focus as much time or effort talking to and about customers. Rather than talking to customers, Brenner says, companies end up talking to themselves.
This approach doesn’t work in increasingly digital marketing spaces. The key to formulating an empathetic approach to marketing with better ROI, he says, is empathy. This requires rethinking the content you publish and the experiences you provide customers.
Consider these key areas as you begin evaluating empathy in your digital marketing and digital content strategies.
- Put and keep customers at the center. This is where empathy plays the biggest role, and it aligns well with content creation best practices. Ensure your messaging aligns with your customers’ needs, wants, pain points and goals throughout the buyer’s journey. Use the language they use. Deliver your content in formats that your customers like to consume. Share content in the spaces they use to learn new information and make buying decisions. As you keep your customer at the center what you do, Brenner says, you’ll be able to reach and engage audiences you’ve never reached or engaged with before.
- Use your digital experiences to anticipate customer wants and needs. As you continue to expand and test your tactics and content, you can improve how you deliver experiences that anticipate what your customers want. This may include:
- Creating an improved digital experience that’s easy to navigate and intuitive, particularly on mobile devices
- Including digital events as an avenue to engage and retain customers
- Incorporating chatbots to ensure customers can always get the information they need, even when humans aren’t around to help
- Publishing interactive content to deliver information in new ways and bring customers back to you as a trusted source of information
- Have a strategy to stand up to bad ideas. Brenner says that behind every bad marketing idea is an executive who asked for it and a marketer who said yes. When ideas are proposed, it’s important to have a standard to measure them against. This standard should include four pillars:
- Reach: Will this idea include the language, keywords and phrases our customers want and use, or does it use language that focuses on us and makes us feel good?
- Engage: Will this idea allow us to create content on the topics our customers want, or does it focus more on creating content to satisfy us?
- Convert: Will this idea support our strategy to convert customers to eventual sales, or does it talk about ourselves without acknowledging what our customers want?
- Retain: Will this idea help us retain our customers with fresh information, or is it a way to talk about ourselves without giving them what they need?
When marketers learn to incorporate empathy in content, we find new ways to stand out and build stronger relationships with customers.
Empathy in content starts by knowing your customers. Watch Data-Driven Content Strategy: How to Turn Survey Data into a Treasure Trove of Insights to learn more about how to research your personas.
As a Content Strategist at Content4Demand, Toni Boger partners with clients to build successful content strategies that empower their digital marketing objectives at all stages, from ideation and creation through execution and promotion. She has a decade of experience in B2B content strategy and development across several industries. Outside of helping clients take their content to the next level, you’ll find Toni learning how to paint, reading a good book, taking aerial arts classes at circus school and watching classic films.