Marketers in all aspects of marketing will benefit from this discussion: product marketing, communications, public relations, demand generation, events marketing, digital and social marketing, and more.
Join us for this powerhouse panel discussion moderated by Tom Riddle, our Director of Market Research. In this webinar, you will learn about:
• Why today’s marketing approach is eroding customer trust
• How B2C uses empathy in Marketing
• Why B2B companies must also make this shift
• How to evolve from value propositions and feature/benefit messaging
• How to improve your marketing efficacy and customer loyalty with empathy
• Building empathy into your direct marketing pieces, like emails and social
Moderator: Tom Riddle, Director of Market Research at Virtual Intelligence Briefing
• Mariana Prado Cogan, SVP Marketing @ PTC
• Marissa Latshaw, Founder @ Latshaw Empathy-Based Marketing
• Justin Hane, Director, Brand & Communications @ Softchoice
Mariana Prado Cogan
Senior Vice President @PTC
Latshaw Content & Marketing
Director, Brand & Communications @Softchoice
Power of Empathetic Marketing
Tom: Hi, everybody. This is Tom Riddle. I’m the director of research at Virtual Intelligence Briefing. Thank you for joining us today for another installment of the VIB Success Series, “Power of Empathetic Marketing.”
And so, I’d like to introduce our panelists today.
Mariana Cogan is the senior vice president of digital experience and engagement marketing at PTC. Mariana started at PTC as director of marketing operations, has been promoted multiple times to her current position. She works as a digital transformation leader, leveraging martech to increase marketing performance, driving brand connection and prospects, with a purchasing intent to solutions through multi-channel marketing. She’s a committed advocate to diversity and inclusion, and founded the Hispanic ERG, resulting in building the best teams in bringing a different lens to the C-suite. An interesting note, Mariana started her career as a television journalist in Japan.
Marissa Latshaw is the founder and president of Latshaw Marketing and Content. Marissa is an experienced marketer and creator of empathetic positioning process. She’s passionate about helping marketed leaders advocate empathy, and to develop brands, products, and messages that inspire action. Her inclusive approach to qualitative and quantitative audience research and strategic positioning has created lasting results to organizations from small to large.
Justin Häne is the director of brand and communications at Softchoice. Justin leads a high-performing grant and corporate communications function for Softchoice, one of North America’s leading technology solutions and services organizations. In his role at Softchoice, Justin has accountability for brand strategy, external and employee communications, design and French translation. Prior to Softchoice, Justin was AVP of communications at Manulife and started his career as a journalist. So with that, let’s jump right into our first question. Marissa, what does empathy mean to you?
What does empathy mean to you
Marissa: Hi, Tom. Thanks so much. I’m really happy to be here. So there are many definitions for empathy out there, and the social scientists will disagree, actually, with one another. So I’ve read a lot of these definitions, and the one, you know, that kind of pulls it all together for me is empathy is our ability to feel, understand, and respond to the feelings of others.
And what it really means to me is that it’s something that’s innate to all of us, and it’s like a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger it gets. And when I look at our organizations, I see tremendous capacity for collective empathy. And our job as marketers and leaders is really to harness that empathy and activate it.
Tom: Thanks for that. And Justin, how about you? I think you had interesting thoughts about what empathy is, and also what empathy is not.
Justin: Thanks, Tom. I’m happy to be here with everybody. Yeah. I mean, in our discussion yesterday, I defined empathy as sort of the understanding of a person or a people, and that understanding then in action. Which is probably an oversimplification of what Marissa just said. I actually found it easier to say what empathy is not, because I think a lot of organizations get it wrong.
Empathy is not a cold email trying to sell me something hoping to. Or wishing me well in this difficult time or in these uncertain times. Basically pushing a narrative on me and hoping I will bite. I really think empathy, so much of it involves understanding the person on the other side of the screen. Or the other side of the table, or the audience that you’re communicating with.
Tom: Great. Thanks for that. And Mariana, how about you? What are your thoughts on empathy? What does that mean to you at a personal level and at a business level as well?
Mariana: So, first of all, very excited to be here. This is a great topic. So for me in plain English is that ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes so that you can understand their challenges from their perspective. A little bit to what, you know, Marissa and Justin, you know, were saying. It really sees things from the other side of the conversation. I know today we’re gonna be mainly talking about empathy in, you know, in marketing, branding, business strategy. But I think it’s important to take this opportunity to say that empathy should be part of our day-to-day life.
Really building out society where we can create a diverse and accepting space. Where there’s no room for hate or anything that…or these things that we’ve been seeing recently. And it really understands that side. As you mentioned, you know, I’m born in Mexico, then I lived for a very long time in Japan. I’ve been working with, you know, different organizations, different stakeholders. And it’s really just to say, you know, not everything has to be from my point of view. Really, let me get on your shoes and understand or see the world the way that you see it.
The importance of empathy in b2b marketing
Tom: Great, thank you for that, Mariana. That was helpful. Why is it important in B2B marketing and empathy, and why do most B2B buyers buy on features and functions? We all know that empathy is a cornerstone of consumer marketing. So what are your thoughts on that, Marissa?
Marissa: To build on what Mariana said, it is true that we’re really looking to bring this sort of outside voice in. That’s so essential to how we kind of approach empathy as a marketer. So value propositions and feature benefits, right, they’ve been a part of marketing forever. But they kind of represent an inside-out thinking, where they’re projecting the brand or the product onto the individual, as opposed to really opening up and shifting your mind to be one of more curiosity. Where you’re really seeking to understand the goals and the values of the people that you serve. Not just as it relates to your brand or product, but as it truly relates to their lives and where your product might fit into that.
I think that mindset shift is so important as we live in the world we’re living in today, where there’s an empathy deficit. I mean, that’s been measured, and empathy is down 48%. And, you know, that’s something that I think all of us feel on some level or another. I think our organizations are in a great position to really harness and activate empathy so we can really amplify it out to the world that needs it so badly.
When did empathy in b2b marketing become important?
Tom: And Justin, what are your thoughts about empathy in B2B marketing? What was sort of the inflection point in your mind of when that started to become important, and how would you define that today?
Justin: You know, there’s a good body of evidence indicating that the B2B buyer is actually more emotionally attached to brand than the B2C buyer, so it’s very interesting that there is this gap between B2C brands and B2B brands with respect to how well they do empathy and connect with people. But if you can step back and think about it, it actually makes perfect sense. If you’re a B2C buyer and you buy the wrong cereal or the wrong pair of shoes, well, you know, you might have a bad breakfast, or you might have to go out and buy a new pair of shoes.
If you’re a B2B buyer, there is so much more at stake when it comes to your purchase. It’s not just the success or lack of success for your organization, but it is the success of your career as well as your reputation and credibility with your peers. And so, it behooves B2B organizations, especially, to seek opportunities to create those emotional connections. And then the question is, how do you create an emotional connection and bring it right back to empathy?
Tom: Mariana, what are your thoughts about why empathy is important in B2B marketing? And if you look at the span of your career, when do you think that started to become kind of a hot button or an area of emphasis?
Mariana: It is a very interesting question because, at the end of the day, when we say that we are in the B2B space, we sell to humans. So it’s really much more of that B2H, B2P, people are defining in different ways. Yes, we have a company that is gonna sign the agreement, but there is a human being. And that human, for the most part, is gonna spend all day long, on and off, in amazon.com, you know, netflix.com. So there is an expectation on how do you really experience the brand? How do you get to experience the, you know, the product? To what Justin was saying, I don’t know if digital-first, the new normal is making it harder to sell. I think it’s becoming harder to buy.
As Justin said, in the B2B space, there’s much more at stake, but at the same time, you know, it’s becoming harder to build that trust component because, you know, you are on Zoom. You’re not really, you know, having a drink together, getting to know each other. So how do you build that trust? So, definitely in the last, you know, couple of years, and now even more with, you know, after COVID and the new normal, how do you build trust? Buyers are overloaded with information. I mean, it is hard. You’re gonna be making a decision where you could be reading forever and ever on the same topic. Who do you trust again?
And the third component I’d like to talk about is that we wanna really make sure that we’re helping that consumer, that B2B, that human, to sleep better even with decisions that they have to make. So to your question, it’s just much more emphasized in the last couple of years because of COVID, another digital-first. You cannot have a brand in the B2B space that is not thinking about that human connection. About really helping our customers through their challenges, through what they’re looking to accomplish.
Designing and executing a rebranding initiative with a focus on empathy
Tom: Justin, you had an interesting experience at Softchoice. Shortly after you joined, you had the initiative, you designed and executed on a complete rebranding of the company. And I thought it was interesting when we talked about the importance of empathy in that process. Could you take us sort of from left to right here, spend, you know, five, six, seven minutes, talking about that whole process, from when you joined the research you did, how you communicated and got buy-in with the executives, and what were the results?
Justin: Absolutely. So, Softchoice, we are an organization that is 31 years young, and we operate across North America. So we’re a technology company and we equip organizations to be agile and innovative, and for their people to be engaged, creative, and happier at work. And so, this means a couple of things. One, it’s moving organizations to the cloud, helping them build the workplace of tomorrow, and enabling to make smarter decisions about their technology portfolio.
And when we do all of these things, we create success faster for our customers, and in circumstances otherwise not possible. So, that’s where the organization is right now. And it’s a pretty bold ambition that we have. When I joined Softchoice a couple of years ago, we had disparate components of a brand, like a logo and a purpose statement and values. But none of those things were grounded in any kind of a strategic foundation.
And the result of that was inconsistent and, frankly, low quality execute. So we made a case to our ELT, the case for change, based in large part on some of the things that we just discussed around the importance of brand in B2B and, in particular, for sales-led organizations. And so, we undertook this brand transformation project, and like any good project of this sort, it began with research.
So we did a whole bunch of primary research. We reviewed secondary research, stakeholder interviews, and we got a lot of really good information on, you know, where the company excelled, where we were credible, and where we were not. And it was very important for us to build this brand from the inside out. So we were not rebranding, renaming, repositioning in an attempt to make the organization something that it’s not. But rather to articulate the very best version of the organization to the world.
And so, here’s what we found in our research. Something that really stuck out for people, whether it was our customers, our partners, or even our own workforce, was the culture at Softchoice and our people. And that people are a huge, huge differentiator. The challenge, of course, with that is that you can’t go around if you’re a people company and say you’re a people company.
That’s like a comedian getting on stage and saying that they’re funny, they’re probably just not. What we found in our research as well was that, especially at the technology industry, so many organizations build their brands on functional value propositions. Things like efficiency, productivity, and otherwise. These are really good value propositions for products, but not something that you want to build a brand around. And in our case, we felt that we had to tap into something deeper that is true about us as people and as an organization.
And for us, it was really this, people want to achieve success. They wanna do it in a way that their customers and employees can rally around and be inspired by, and then they wanna do it all over again. There is no, like, diminishing marginal returns when it comes to success. It’s sort of like a flywheel. Once it gets going, you want to keep on doing that.
That was really the genesis for our brand positioning. Around successfully realized and our strategic messaging around the success of our customer’s organization, the success of the people in those organizations, so that they are recognized as a catalyst for change, that they’re valued for the growth of their vocation, and then the success of our people. So that’s what the brand is about. And then the big challenge is, okay, now, how do you bring this to life internally, and how do you bring it to the market, which is the work that we’re undertaking now.
Is researching and developing marketing persons enough?
Tom: Marissa, a question that’s interested me for a while, marketers have been researching and developing marketing personas for years. Is that enough? Was that empathetic marketing, or how has that changed?
Marissa: Yeah, I love that question, Tom, because as you said, personas is definitely a part and has been a part of marketing, and I think they represent, like I said with the value proposition question too, I think they represent a bit of inside-out thinking where…and it can be static too, right? So we create these personas based on, you know, like kind of a finite set of data and information. And then that becomes the marketer’s, kind of, playbook, if you will, for how to communicate with that persona.
And I think we’re in times now where we need to be more fluid and that persona can’t be something that is static. So to evolve from these really requires a mindset shift, and a real focus on, you know, as I mentioned before, on curiosity and not really coming at it with a specific agenda in mind, but really looking to bring those outside voices in.
The best way I can answer that is to talk about a particular example where I was brought into a SaaS startup. They were developing a product that is designed to help cultural institutions book learning experiences like field trips and things. So they had this scheduling and booking platform, and so much has changed in that market in the past year even, to how they’re even defining these programs. The company, by the way, is called Explorable Places in case anyone is interested.
So they have a really powerful platform that was addressing these cultural institutions, but it was so important that we brought those outside voices in to understand what’s going on with them right now, and in the B2B organizations that I’ve worked within, I find that the sales and the customer service people tend to have more of those ongoing relationships with the customers. Marketers tend to have more of a persona that they’re referring to and may not have that sort of ongoing relationship.
And I think that’s really vital in the world we’re in right now, that marketers are representing the customers in real-time and not looking backwards, you know, which data is often…you know, you get real-time data, but it’s often sort of looking backward. It’s not getting into the heart and mind of the individuals where they are right now, and things are changing so fast that I think it’s important that we do that. So in this case of Explorable Places, that’s exactly what we did. And we developed our positioning to speak to where their buyer is today, which is very different from where it was a year ago. We applied that to a business outcome. There were some great questions here about, like, the financial implications of empathy. Like, you know, can it really be measured?
And empathy even in, you know, interpersonal, but also between organizations and individuals can be pointed at outcomes. And I think that’s just…we’ll talk more about that probably a little bit later, but there’s nothing wrong with actually setting an outcome that you’re seeking, a financial outcome in the case for Explorable Places. They needed to bring on more of these cultural institutions, but they needed to speak to them where they are today, so we designed that positioning and all the sales materials with kind of very immediate information in mind, not a static persona.
Using a quantitative and qualitative approach to empathy in marketing
Tom: It’s interesting because empathy sometimes seems like this kind of soft kind of emotional, squishy topic. But it’s interesting because you have a pretty scientific framework. A combination of a quantitative and qualitative approach to assessing an organization’s empathy. And, I guess, to my way of thinking, helping them install an empathetic culture. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Marissa: Yeah, absolutely. So the seeds for this idea came to me, you know, early on in my career where I was, you know, analyzing a lot of data as a marketer and not really feeling a connection to the people, and I was in a big, you know, corporate environment and not really feeling a connection to the people that we were serving. So those early seeds were planted and I went out on my own in 2015 and started this consulting group because I really felt like we needed to see more empathy in marketing. And that required that mindset shift that I’ve mentioned because I think it’s the best way to inspire action.
So the empathetic positioning process that I’ve developed is based on three Cs. It’s based on curiosity, and clarity, and connection. So curiosity in that phase of it opens up a dialogue. It challenges the assumptions, it’s asking questions at the right time to the right people that helps you understand their goals, needs, and values.
And, actually, I should even back up a little bit too to say that a big part of this process is focused on self-empathy, so really understanding the goals, needs, and values within the organization, which I sometimes find there can be some mismatch, you know, or some discrepancies even between the individuals. So we focus inward and then we focus outward in this very curious way.
The second part, the second C is clarity, and clarity really starts to emerge when the internal team sort of starts to gel around this kind of empathetic mindset, and that overlaps with what they’re learning about the people that they serve. And the clarity is really the overlap between the two. In fact, part of the process is something I call the Goal Overlap Study, where we’re aligning these two, kind of, parts, the internal and the external, so that you can start to see where…what they care about aligns with the product, service, or brand, and the messaging. And all of that really comes right out of that.
And then the last C is connection. It really brings it all together. It’s what drives the creativity. It drives the strategy, it drives the messaging, and all the connection points that need to happen in order to achieve that outcome, the outcome that I was mentioning earlier where you’re kind of going at this with, with sort of, you know, something in mind in terms of, you know, an outcome you’re looking for, and then learning as much as you can about the individuals that you’re serving so that you can bring all of that intelligence to the table. There’s so much more to it. I’m doing a full workshop on this on April 22nd where I can dive even deeper. I know we don’t have all the time in the world today, but hopefully, that gives you a good idea of the process.
Using technology and artificial intelligence in empathetic marketing
Tom: Mariana, it’s interesting. As part of your role, you own the martech stack. And I assume you’re constantly looking for new and innovative ways to use the latest technologies. One of the things that I found really interesting [was] your first encounters with a chatbot company, Drift. Interesting there in terms of empathy, but also using their AI technology in terms of having empathetic conversations with individuals. I thought that was very interesting on those two levels. Can you tell us a little bit about that? How that conversation with Drift evolved, and your use of AI in chatbots?
Mariana: Yes. It’s been a digital transformation of PTC. We started, like many other digital experiences, with having a form. We would have people reading about the product, then filling the form, sending it through the system, we pass it on to sales, we call you back. That was almost like arriving to a restaurant and say, “I’m really, really hungry.” “Okay, let me take your details. We will call you. Don’t call us.”
So it was the first step to really say, “Okay, we got the people that are arriving to the web, digital-first now, they know what they want, or they have something. We really needed to address it in the channel that they were talking to us” so that’s how we started working with Drift, so that we could have that connection then and there when the visitors needed it. That was something like a step one. Step two, through some more technologies, we’re now it was to see where this person is coming from, what type of company, in what industry, so we can start serving content that is personalized.
So, again, putting on the shoes of the person who’s visiting us. This person, this visitor, must probably go to their boss or somebody to say, “Hey, we really need to look into remote workforce. Can you please get us something ASAP?” So by trying to really understand where they were coming from, we managed to start being then, then and there, exactly when they needed us. Step two, guiding the conversation. And then step three, as you mention now with AI, I can actually even read, like, the emotion. We have people that have very quickly, “Hey, I really need to get something immediately. I know it’s Friday, but I really wanna show something literally, you know, Monday to my boss.”
[inaudible 00:28:10.494] to understand that emotion of saying, “Hey, this is a priority. I need it like now, and this is what I’m looking for.” So then that way, we start really having the empathy. I mean, we get you. Why would we wait until Tuesday when we can actually call you because it’s more convenient for me to make a call? You know, that’s when PTC’s done, you know, the investment to really, really get into a business strategy that is really digital-first, that gets you to that win-win scenario that the customer wins, and then, of course, we win.
The role of diversity and inclusion
Tom: A follow-on question, Mariana, from the audience. How does diversity and inclusion play a role since customers have vastly different emotional drivers?
Mariana: That is a great question. And it’s taken us, you know, some time. As I always say, diverse companies are more innovative and more innovative companies are more diverse. The data is there. You know, we started again. I tend to believe that it’s crawl, walk, run. So we started even on the website with our images, making sure that we have diverse components.
We really started getting into mind mapping for developing our content so that we could really take into account all the different challenges that different visitors are having again in the B2B space and we sell to maybe 10 different people in order to close a deal with some buyer group. So we wanna make sure that we connect, you know, with everybody. When we work that way we can deliver, you know, more results. We started to have more involvement from that, you know, graphics and images. We were showing that we wanted to connect, so that way, right now we have a, you know, a website that is very diverse from different perspectives.
Tom: Awesome. Marissa, a question here from the audience about storytelling. Has storytelling changed or evolved now with the emphasis and understanding of the importance of empathy?
Marissa: I love that question. Yes. I mean, I think that storytelling has often been about telling the story of the company, it could be telling the stories of the… I remember when social media really first came into being, right, and we were telling the stories of the people in the workplace, at your office, and you were telling those to kind of put a human face on the organization. But I think stories have really evolved now to be putting the people you serve, and I’m gonna say that in many cases, it’s your customer, but you’re putting them at the center of the story. And that requires a deeper emotional intelligence around who it is that you are actually serving and what they care about beyond what your product offers.
How to measure empathy
Tom: Somebody from the audience was asking, how do you measure empathy? And what is the story behind the fact that it’s down 48%? How does somebody come about a number like that?
Marissa: Yeah, well, there have been different studies that were done. That particular one was over college students over a 30-year period. It came out of University of Michigan, but it was a amalgamation of a lot of different studies that have been done. And they were just, you know, posing different situations in how people reacted to them. And one of the dimensions of the study had to do with empathic concern for another. So they would ask questions around…you know, they give a situation and, you know, like, kind of rate how well you understood the feelings of the person in that situation, so there’s a lot more to it, you know, than that, but hopefully, that gives you a little bit of an idea. But as far as…the other part of your question had to do with measurement, right?
Yeah. So the measurement piece kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier about there being a business outcome. And there’s nothing wrong, we’re all businesses and we need to, you know, we need to function or we need profits. I think a word that I like to, like, clue in on is earning. And we earn profits, right? But when we think about, like, earning trust, doesn’t earn kind of take on a little bit of a different meaning, I think if we think about earning profit in the same way that we think about earning trust, then we are recognizing that this is a long-term relationship. You don’t earn someone’s trust overnight in the same way you don’t earn your profits overnight, even though, you know, I know we’re all under pressure to hit our quarterly goals and to hit our monthly goals.
But I think when we think about the relationships and the long-term aspect of developing them with our customers, that’s how we ultimately get to the earning the profit piece, and just one more thing I wanna say about that, which is having that outcome, the desired outcome, just like you would with any kind of marketing plan, you always have your goal and your objectives right up front, you know, I do the same thing in the process that I’ve developed. We establish what is the success measurement for this project. And we measure that at the end of the…you know, once it’s launched. And I just recently did a project where a luxury aircraft company, one of the biggest global manufacturers of luxury aircraft, wanted to increase market share. That’s what they came to me with.
They didn’t specifically come to me and say, “We want to be more empathetic” they came to me with a very, you know, solid, measurable business goal, and we applied the empathetic marketing positioning process to their business challenge, and within, you know, under a year, they were able to launch their new product globally, which was really important because there was sort of a differing sets of…the product was originally working well in Europe, but not so well in North America.
So anyway, the good news is that we started with empathy and they’re starting to see that movement towards their market share goal. They said that the product has been really well received in the North American market, which was exactly what they were aiming for. So there really are ways to measure the outcomes of empathy. And then, of course, like I mentioned earlier, there’s ways to actually measure empathy in a more social scientific kind of way.
How community relations managers can use empathetic marketing
Tom: Justin, here’s a good question for you from the audience. Phillip M. is asking, “Can you provide some examples on how we as community relations managers can use empathetic marketing? Can you provide some strategies that we, as community relations managers, can use to connect better?”
Justin: That’s a great question, and it goes back to one of the core principles of empathy for me, which is understanding your audience, understanding what they care about. I mean, if you don’t, it’s really difficult to approach the challenge of doing these things effectively. I guess, I mean, community relations is a pretty broad term, and it’s actually a little bit difficult for me to answer the question without the context, like, if you’re in community relations, working for a, like, a hydro utility, for example, it’s quite a bit different than if you were working in another field.
So my answer is quite general. So when I’m thinking about understanding what your audience cares about, and sometimes even thinking about those wants and need on, like, looking at Maslow’s hierarchy, for example, what are those wants and needs on their hierarchy, and is your organization actually equipped to meet these needs, right? And I think that’s very important. Like, how can your organization actually influence or affect change? And are you using that in a way that is sort of in sync with what the need in the community is? That’s how I start thinking about the challenge. Marissa, I saw you nodding.
Marissa: Yeah, no, that is the challenge, is really kind of that inversion piece, like really understanding kind of where they’re coming from and how you can apply that systematically, right? There’s an intention that marketers need to take because, while I think empathy might come really natural to us, like interpersonally, I can ask you how was your weekend, and I can engage in that conversation and really listen with, you know, with all of my mind and heart.
But then I think to actually do it as an organization requires a level of intention and commitment that goes beyond just saying this is something we wanna do. It’s something that we wanna do, and we wanna design it the way we would anything we wanna do in our organization, which is create a system to support it and then put the resources around it to make sure that we’re thinking empathetically.
I just had an example that came to mind that I wanted to share. I’m sure many of you saw the tweet about Burger King and women belong in the kitchen, right? That is a real example of the opposite of empathy, right? And it really demonstrated that, like, I’m assuming you’re all familiar with that, so quickly summarize. Burger King had a tweet that said women belong in the kitchen. It was part of a bigger campaign to announce a scholarship program to bring more women into the culinary arts field. So that’s a great noble, you know, thing that they were doing. But it fell down on an empathetic front because we live in a 140-character culture, and the tweet separated the message from the context of the campaign.
I mean, I personally don’t even think they should have chosen that concept for the campaign given how open the wounds are today in gender equity issues, I think there are plenty of other creative ways they could have announced that scholarship program, but given what it is I think that just showed empathy breakdown at a conceptual level and at an execution level, and that’s where kind of bringing empathy more into the culture of your organization really matters because even, you know, the person who’s hitting the button on that tweet, they need to be thinking empathetically, too.
How to get buy-in from business leaders
Tom: Mariana, a question. In our metric-driven environment, if you were to start at a new organization that maybe was a little more traditional in terms of their marketing and outreach and sales process, how would you get buy-in to go empathetic from other business leaders? Because, you know, it seems kind of like a touchy-feely concept, and most companies are driven metrically today.
Mariana: That is a great question. [inaudible 00:41:28] that I started to talk about, you know, empathy and emotional connection at PTC, it took people a little bit… We are B2B hardcore technology. You know, PTC, so far, has one of the most famous, you know, sales forces in the industry. So this was big. So what I tend to do is pretty much three things. Number one, you have to be empathetic yourself. You have to develop that what is…you are, you know, you little by little start developing that brand in the organization. You gotta get on the ship of your stakeholders, and then eventually, data is gonna come to play. Let’s not forget about that portion. So what I did, and I recall quite well the first presentation that I did around this topic, we had our AVP of sales.
And, of course, when I started talking about, you know, emotional connection on a website, people are, I guess, a little bit more used to features and functions. Are you going to tell people about all these wonderful things that the product do? And so, what I did was like, “Okay, guys, give me a second. Close your eyes. Imagine you arrived to do a presentation using a lot of PowerPoints, maybe 10, and then 20 Excels, and then you put a paper bag, and you want people to buy, would you be able to sell that way?” And they’re like, “No, of course. No, we would never do that.” “Well, then why would you want to do that on the website” but it was, like, getting on their shoes so that they could get on my shoes, and that was kind of how we started.
So the sales side immediately was like, “Of course, now that we’re not going to be meeting so much in person, there has to be an emotional connection” you’ve gotta be able to build trust.
You’ve got to be able to talk about the challenges that people are having, to maybe what Marisa was saying at some point with the storytelling, the mind mapping, you’re gonna have only a few seconds to connect, and you cannot waste it with, “Well, let me show you a list of 20 PowerPoints, 3 Excels,” that if you happen to be doing my job and working at PTC, you will understand all this. But that’s not what we’re into.
So it was initially a lot of, really, that empathy conversation that you start developing. That said, we got, you know, support. We started to drive much more of that storytelling. We invested in much more of those, you know, graphics, UX/UI that truly does that emotional connection. I, by now, have results. There are outcomes that can be measured because you’re really thinking about the customer first. When we work in this way, I can deliver about 100% more in web conversions.
I can deliver eight times more conversation-ready leads. So by now, you can start using the outcomes to get food or support, and then do many more things. But initially, it is about being empathetic yourself, about really building that brand so that people know, I mean, you were asking me before about diversity, I run a very diverse team, it’s a little bit easier not to have the conversation about diversity because people in the company have seen you supporting diversity. So if we are empathetic, so that we understand our stakeholders, whether it’s sales, our business partners, our buyers, and then you start showing your results, that’s when you can make the magic happen for everybody.
Creative ways of gathering research and insights on your audience
Tom: That’s great. I love what you said about make that magic happen for everybody. That’s awesome. A question here, again, from the audience, are there certain creative ways of gathering research and insights on your audience? This individual says their biggest challenge in empathetic marketing is being able to understand the communities and their challenges. Anybody care to take that question?
Mariana: Yes, I can. I can comment. And it’s interesting that I had made a note here as I’m looking at the chat and the questions. Really, a lot of it boils down to that, knowing your audience. Not making assumptions. Because what I see many times happening in marketing is that we make assumptions about what the buyer challenges are, about what do you see that they would like to see in the product.
Many times marketing tends to stay too far away from the customer. We kind of leave that to the sales side or we leave it to the persona researchers. But we’re over here. So first of all, really knowing your audience. Sit in a sales call, sit in a customer success call, really understand it, then assess that yet. There’s a lot of technology. We do a lot of testing from AB testing. There’s a great platform, [inaudible 00:47:05] .com. There’s many ways to then go and see if your hypothesis works or not. But I almost feel like as a step one, it’s really get to know your audience. Think about the emotions that they have to be having for them to connect with, you know, with you. Those would be my two comments there.
Incorporating empathetic marketing into the voice of customers’ interviews
Tom: That’s great. And maybe a follow-up question here, Marianna. A individual is asking about how do you recommend incorporating empathetic marketing into the voice of customers’ interviews? Does that have a place?
Mariana: Absolutely. And, again, it’s part of that shift. It is really not only thinking about what feature, what function you wanna be seeing, but it’s more like, what were you looking to accomplish by now when we’re doing the mind mapping for any digital campaign, we really get into asking, what are those emotions? Where is it that that persona is gonna be getting their information? Who are their influencers? You know, I work very closely with the technical persona, the developer. You know, persona, and their emotion is that when they make a technical decision, if the technology doesn’t connect fast and well enough, they are gonna be the ones getting a phone call in the middle of the night with like, “Hey, these things are not working.”
So we truly support them through, you know, a community. Really understand, really go close to that audience so that you can get a voice of the customer that does not only come from the person that is gonna sign, but really, the people for whom you’re solving a channel.
How to be more empathetic on social media
Tom: Thank you for that, Mariana. That was great. Another good one from the audience, any suggestions about how we can be more empathetic on social media? Where you’re interacting with B2B customers, partners, etc.? It can be hard to tailor content to four different target or buyer personas. So any thoughts about communicating empathy on social media?
Marissa: Yeah. Sure. I’m happy to take that one. You know, I won’t lie. It is a challenge, right? Because social media, as we talked about with the Burger King example, everyone is seeing that. And, you know, I think that when you do a true goal overlap, when you look at the internal goals of the organization and the stakeholders, and you look across all personas, where those commonalities are, you know, we are all human, so we have a lot of things in common, I think, when you think about your social media from the standpoint of what are the pieces that will resonate the most? And really being true to the values that you represent and that represent the people you serve. I think your social media will be more authentic because you are being more universal and finding those places overlap.
That being said, I recognize that there are times where more targeting comes into play. Social media is not necessarily the place to do that level of targeting. Social media is the place, at least as I see it, to bring awareness around what you stand for. How it aligns with what the people you serve stand for and what they care about. Then, bring them into your world, and at that point, you can create more tailored messaging to ignite the actions that you’re hoping that they take with you. But again, it’s earning trust. It’s earning that over time.
Balancing empathy in email marketing
Tom: Great. Thank you for that, Marissa. Here’s another interesting question. It’s actually kind of basic in a way, which is, what makes it so interesting. Somebody is asking about general recommendations on the volume of email communications that’s appropriate to send to people. So they don’t feel like they’re getting spammed, and to make sure that you’re being empathetic in that process. Mariana, any changes you’re seeing in terms of that, just the volume of communications with prospects and such? Has that been changing at all to come across more empathetic?
Mariana: I think there’s been huge changes in the email space, in the marketing automation space. Again, know your audience. It’s not about what we want to tell when we want to tell. It’s really more about thinking about the audience first. So one of the changes that we have implemented is that by now everything gets to be part of that mind mapping that allows me to see, we’re really, really modernizing our preference center, like the way that we capture, what is it that this specific individual is interested in, and we only send messaging emails that are gonna be interested to this person. We nurture people in a way that we’re establishing that personalized relationship. Email is a very personal component. It’s sort of like sending a person a letter to somebody. So we are taking…you know, we’re doing a lot in that space.
We’re starting to implement a lot of AI also, so that you can send it at the right time. When is it the moment that you will get the email and you will open it, because we wanna make sure we’re sending something that you should open because we’re going to help our customers to do their jobs.
We shouldn’t be sending things that, well, if they open it or not, it’s the same. I’ll get my MQLs and I’m getting my click-through rates and my open rates. No, it’s not about that. It’s about delivering that content that the customer, in this case, through an email, is gonna be looking forward to get. We’ve done a lot of beta analysis in this space. When we sent the right messaging to the right persona, we actually need to be sending them even more. Which is normally almost like, oh, we should be sending less emails.
Yeah. You should be sending less emails when it’s not the right content to the right person. But when it is the right content to the right person, they are actually looking forward to getting more. I know, it’s a little bit of a different thing, but we went through a lot of, you know, AI-based research that shows that. But, again, map the persona, the interest, what is it that they’re looking to do? Don’t try to trick people just with changing a little bit of the subject line, but it’s really the same thing. Do your job, and then you will see a result.
Navigating a new normal
Tom: That’s great. So that’s very interesting. It’s almost counterintuitive to think that in certain cases sending more is better, you know, under the right circumstances. So that’s really interesting. So we’re winding down on time here. I’d like to encourage everybody to chat what they thought was the most interesting, inspiring, or useful about today’s webinar. And let’s take one last question if we could. So how do you address the new normal in these uncertain times without sounding like a broken record? We’ve been about this a year and wanna stay focused on helping members without sounding…constantly pushing a negative of what’s going on. Any thoughts on that?
Justin: Sure. I can take that one, Tom. I mean, there’s a couple of things to look at. So I’ll actually just start from a copywriter’s perspective. And I’ll go back to one of my core principles of empathy in marketing and in writing. Which is, not to waste people’s time. So, I spoke earlier, and it was a little bit tongue in cheek. I spoke about these uncertain times. Quite often, we add these turns of phrase to our message because we think that it will provide context and make us look empathetic, and so, the best that I like to do is I take the word because, and put that for, that turn of phrase, and see whether your message squares. Because of COVID-19, I wanna sell you this widget.
Well, yes or no? I mean, we’re all in the world of COVID, like, pre-COVID, did we preface our messages with other things going on in the world, right? You know, because we’ve now hit 29,000 yesterday, I have this offer about something that’s completely unrelated. Like, COVID is the world, political uncertainty is the world, social issues are the world, our customers live in that world. Like, they’re right there with us, so we don’t really have to talk about it. Instead, let’s talk about what’s important to those people. And that goes back to the point that Mariana made earlier, and that I spoke about, understanding your audience. Frankly, you’re not gonna get any further, and it’s not going to communicate your empathy if you tell people things that they already know.
Tom: Great. Thank you for that. And so, in closing, I want to, again, thank our panelists. This has been, for me, extremely informative. I’m sure from the level of questions and chat we’ve got from our audience as well. I wanted to let everybody know we’ve got some upcoming VIB Success Series webinars. On May 22nd, “AI Infused Marketing,” and on June 24th, “Real Conversations with Chatbots.” So I appreciate everybody’s time today. Thank you very much, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again.