Why Marketers Are Bad At Empathy And What To Do About It

Brian Carroll on Dec 18, 2018 in Marketing Strategy

No one will ever say “we don’t focus on the customer.”

Here’s why (even empathetic) marketers fail at customer empathy and how to fix it.

Let me explain:

Dr. Johannes Huttula did a research with 480 experienced marketing managers.

They asked marketers to step into their customer’s shoes and predict what they would reply in a market test.

BTW – The scientists already knew what the customers would say because they captured the customer’s preferences before the test.

Surprisingly, the more empathetic the marketers felt, the worse they did on predicting customer preferences and motivations. They utterly failed.

According to Huttula, the marketers used their own biases and personal preferences (thinking it’s empathy) to predict what will appeal to customers.

I know, crazy right?

Huttula found that telling marketers about their bias helped the correct marketers course. Develop awareness about your own preferences to help you step back and apply customer empathy better.

Why customer empathy is essential

Dr. Antonio Damasio said, we not thinking machines that feel rather, we’re feeling machines that think.

Damasio discovered that we make our decisions emotionally. His research showed every decision we make grounded in emotion every single one. This is huge.

As marketers, we’re almost self-centered to a fault when we approach customers.

Today we have more ways of reaching our customers, we have more channels and more content than ever before. But, connecting with our customers (really connecting with them and building trust) has never been harder.

That’s why I believe empathy is a superpower. It’s a superpower for sellers and marketers to connect – to understand another person’s feeling and experience. If we can do that we can relate.

In sum, our personal assumptions kill empathy. And we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

What you can do to fix the customer empathy gap

Here’s what you I’ve found we can do to fix the customer empathy gap:

  • Focus on building a connection before you focus on conversion.
  • Consider your assumptions and biases before you do any more new marketing
  • Ask yourself, is what you’re communicating really grounded in customer insights?
  • Understand the core emotional motivators of your customers
  • Design messages and experiences that resonate with these core emotional drivers
  • Use agile testing to get actionable customer motivation insights
  • Transfer customer insights to different channels and scale up results

Share your thoughts. What did I miss or what else would you add?

The post Why marketers are bad at empathy and what to do about it appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

Brian Carroll
Brian Carroll
Brian Carroll knows what drives B2B buyers. As the founder of the B2B Lead Blog, a researcher and lecturer on marketing best practices, and leader in empathy marketing, he’s at the epicenter of the shifting B2B marketing landscape. Brian is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw-Hill). He is also the founder of the B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 19,533+ members. Brian recently finished a stint as Chief Evangelist at MECLABS (parent company of MarketingSherpa) and is now back to helping B2B understand and execute modern lead generation and empathetic marketing with his speakingconsulting, and training workshops.   www.b2bleadblog.com @brianjcarroll
Showing 2 comments
  • Wayne Cerullo

    How fascinating — and revealing and humbling — that even marketers who believe they are MORE empathic with their customers are LESS likely to be right about them.

    This mirrors my experience that even companies that INVENT categories are often WRONG about why their customers buy — or don’t. Our research has ALWAYS uncovered something really interesting and important about what clients didn’t know they didn’t know.

  • Brian Carroll

    Hi Wayne, I’m glad you found it helpful. It really surprised me because I was telling others to practice empathy but that wasn’t the right advice. I find that I need to remind myself of my own bias. A marketer I know has a coffee cup that has the quote “I’m not my customer” which is terrific reminder.