Oftentimes when the word “empathy” gets used in a business setting, it can seem like a fuzzy, gooey idea that has no place in the world of business. This is dead wrong—especially for marketers. Understanding your buyers is the most important thing a marketer can do. Trenton Romph, the head of marketing at Clozd, sat down with Chris Walker, the CEO of Refine Labs to talk about why marketers should build buyer empathy, the benefits of doing it, why it doesn’t happen, and ways to create a buyer-empathy-building system in your company.
Having buyer empathy may sound like you are just some type of Robin Hood looking out for people. While that might be partially true, it does have an enormous business impact. Having buyer empathy means you understand your buyers and can transport yourself into their shoes to know how they think and feel. You know what causes them pain, how bad that pain is, what makes them feel awesome, what their goals are, and more. This knowledge enables you to deliver value to your buyer.
For marketers specifically, there are many benefits that you’ll see when you build true empathy for your buyers. Chris and Trenton talked about a few of those benefits here:
Chris Walker has seen buyer empathy help him drive marketing strategy. Even more specifically, it has helped him dial in specific tactics with advertising and messaging. Because his team is constantly talking to their customers, they’re able to refine their messaging and refine their website every six or so months. He talks about how they don’t have a need for A/B testing because they are so in tune with their audience, they’re able to rapidly adjust their messaging as needed.
Buyer empathy, or deeply understanding your buyer, also creates huge benefits for your marketing content. A case could be made that the best B2B content creator right now is Chris Walker, so take notes when he describes how buyer empathy has made his content so poignant and effective!
Very few companies are really good at building buyer empathy and then actually using it to drive strategy. Most marketers do not spend enough time talking with buyers to speak to them better than the competition. As soon as you do, you instantly have a competitive advantage.
Have you ever wanted a marketing superpower? Well, this is it. Buyer empathy is the superpower to stand out from the crowd of marketing that is mediocre and ineffective. We call it a superpower because it is the one thing that gives you a leg-up. If you can understand the buyer—their needs, their problems—in the way that they experience it, you are instantly able to relate to them, market to their specific needs, and ultimately, show them your product is the solution to their problems. That’s pretty powerful.
Even with all of the benefits a marketer can see from developing buyer empathy, many of them end up deprioritizing it. Chris had a few ideas about why that happens.
One of the reasons marketers don’t spend the time to truly understand their buyers is that because of bad segmentation or an unidentified ideal customer profile, they don’t know where to begin. They don’t know who they should even be talking to in the first place. If you find yourself in this situation, great! There’s a simple solution—go out there and start talking to the people you think might be your buyers. Ask them if your solution solves their want/need. They may even point you in the right direction. Just get started.
Chris believes there is a misunderstanding inside companies about what marketing does. Many companies believe marketing is just about promotion. When they get too narrowly focused on just the promotion side, they ignore that they also need to be positioning the company so that deals are won. When marketing is centered around buyer empathy, you are not just focused on pushing the message the company wants to get across, but you also create experiences, content, and more to actually help your buyer.
It isn’t as difficult as it may seem to do the work to understand your buyers. There is information everywhere on what your buyer needs and wants and what problems they have. It also isn’t that difficult to get out there and speak with them. The problem is, when marketers do get information about their buyers that they can use to showcase empathy, the company may end up pushing its own agenda anyway.
Marketers often fall into an easy trap of focusing too hard on what the competition is doing. In a blog post about competitive research on this very topic, Clozd’s co-founder, Spencer Dent, compared this to running a race and looking behind you at the other runners, instead of focusing on the finish line.
Chris believes marketers should spend the first 90 days in a new role speaking with at least 20 customers. Marketers are not trained in interviewing people but a big part of their job is understanding their buyer. How are they supposed to do that without talking to them? Clients are usually happy to chat about their experiences, especially if they’re fans of your product. The more you can talk to them, more better you’ll get, and in return, the better empathy you’ll develop.
It isn’t feasible to send every marketer in your company out to meet with buyers so how do you foster buyer empathy among your team? Chris gave some great advice about taking the best ways to build buyer empathy within your company.
Do not be disingenuous and only reach out to your buyers with the intent of turning them into sales opportunities. While we all want sales opportunities, this shouldn’t be your intent. You should be focused on truly building relationships with people in your buyer community and understanding how you can help them, even if that help isn’t your product—it might be an introduction or resource you could point them to. Do not make getting a sale the goal of building buyer empathy.
“It’s not difficult to execute. It requires a commitment to the strategy, the right mindset that ‘I’m trying to truly build relationships with these people and be a valuable member of their community’… You’re basically being someone’s friend.” - Chris Walker
It is one thing for one marketer to set out on a journey to talk to as many of their buyers as possible. A completely different task is enfusing your entire marketing team with buyer empathy. Chris’ advice here is to build a system that makes the information available to every member of your team, especially those that can’t do customer visits.
After you’ve established that you’re part of their community, how do you act on all the great content you’re getting? Chris recommended starting a podcast, but there are a number of ways to get started. A podcast has easily identifiable benefits—you get to talk to customers on a regular basis, you develop greater relationships, you create amazing content, all while promoting your company as an industry leader. Maybe you can start a monthly lunch, or webinar series—whatever it is, build it as a continuous system.
We’ve talked now in length about buyer empathy but we want to add another takeaway from Chris and Trenton’s conversation about internal empathy. It can be just as important in your marketing career as buyer empathy.
Chris tells a story about how, when he was developing a new lead source, he would call those leads himself. That not only helped him understand how much buyer intent people had when talking to them personally, but it allowed him to really understand what his internal sales teams were going through when they were doing that on a daily basis. While you’re spending time learning to have empathy for your customers, don’t forget to use those same skills to have empathy for your internal teams. You need to understand how hard their job is, too. Without empathy for your them, a divide can be easily created, especially between sales and marketing. You’ve developed a skill set to understand your buyer, use it to understand your team.
Buyer empathy, customer empathy, and internal empathy are all major components of a successful marketer. Check out clozd.com/win-loss-analysis for more information on ways to talk to your buyers/customers and get feedback that can directly impact your business.