How marketers can improve their empathy levels, and why it’s important to do so

Out of touch, detached and lacking in any special emotional skills – The Drum’s recent story on the lack of empathy of those working in advertising and marketing doesn’t paint the most flattering portrait of the industry.

emotions b2b marketing

The research mentioned in the story found that people working in advertising and marketing have no special aptitude for understanding others. It also revealed that the industry has different ethical and cultural preferences to large swathes of the population, indicating there is a profound disconnect with the people it seeks to influence.

Why does this matter? Our own research has repeatedly shown that making emotional connections is becoming more and more important – even when it comes to the traditionally staid world of business-to-business marketing.

So here are five things we’ve used to develop marketers’ empathy skills and which will help advertisers to get in touch with their customers.

Acknowledge the importance of an emotional connection

B2C marketing has long embraced the concept of building brand identity through emotionally evocative content but B2B has always tended towards a more rational and ‘business-like’ approach. And yet our recent research showed that B2B purchasers are almost 50% more likely to buy a product or service when they see personal value.

Understand the science behind emotions and decision-making

To understand the way in which emotions influence decision-making, we need to map what emotions there are and how they influence one another. One of the best frameworks for doing so is Robert Plutchik’s 1980 Wheel of Emotion. Plutchik defines eight primary, bipolar emotions: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. Find out more about the framework and the how to use it in B2B research in our paper The Emotions That Drive Business Decision Making.

Research audiences to build empathy

The key for B2B marketers developing empathy is to truly understand the needs of customers and the ways to meet them. And yes, we’re a market research firm and surely we’re going to say the best way to do this is through market research, but it’s actually true – one of the problems that the Drum’s empathy study revealed is that marketers think they have special insights. Although, the reality shows that is not the case at all. Research takes the guesswork out, it’s as simple as that.

Further Reading
Check out the full results of our recent ‘State of B2B 2019’ Survey

Turn research into recognisable profiles

Extending on from the previous point, buyer persona research can provide invaluable insights into customers which can spark a ‘big idea’. That’s why we make sure researchers speak to actual buyers about actual buying decisions, so you’re not in the position of second-guessing.

Buyer personas turn a target audience into a recognisable human being and can act as a guide for determining what channels to communicate through, the type of content that will resonate most, and even the times the audience will be most receptive to the content.

Maximise human insights with the best in marketing technology

Focusing on empathy and emotion doesn’t mean ditching rationality or foregoing the benefits of automation. It’s about getting a balance and ensuring everyone in the marketing team, from creative and strategy people to media planners has the best possible information so they can make the best possible decisions.

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