What is your brand’s emotional quotient (EQ)? Chief Storyteller + CEO Mark Jones examines how B2B brands can differentiate in a ‘sea of sameness’ by exercising empathy.
It’s one of the greatest unasked questions in business. Is your brand emotionally intelligent?
As leaders, business professionals and, well, humans, we take pride in understanding other people. At the simplest level, an engaging conversation requires listening carefully to understand the world from someone else’s point of view.
We call this empathy, of course. How is someone feeling? And how can we take this insight and respond in ways to build the relationship or invite someone to share our view?
The interesting thing from the perspective of B2B marketing is how well do we apply this very human perspective?
In my experience over the past decade, a persistent issue keeps holding us back. Demographics. There’s nothing wrong with understanding our customers from the perspective of age, location, gender, location, ethnicity, education and other factors.
What often happens, however, is we use demographics as a proxy for the very real thoughts, feelings, value systems and beliefs that shape our decisions.
This other world, psychographics, is where we start to get a window into the real world of our customers. The researchers at Behaviouraleconomics.com observe that we humans, in B2C and B2B environments, are far less rational decision makers than we’d like to believe:
“We live in the moment, resist change, are subject to distorted memory, and are affected by physiological and emotional states.”
The real kicker here is to realise we can’t take customer sentiment or previous buying patterns for granted – unless of course we actively foster relationships with key decision makers.
Research published by Google gives us a clue about how we can make this happen.
A global study of more than 9,000 B2B marketers, way back in 2009, revealed that only 14 percent of buyers would pay a premium for a product or service’s unique benefit. That is, you might be the market leader with the best widgets, but you could easily get beaten on price or a myriad other factors.
Sadly, the pursuit of unique market difference, coupled with inferred insights from demographics remains a default approach for many organisations.
What’s a better way?
The same study found that when a B2B buyer can identify personal value in the transaction – such as career growth, reputation growth or pride – they are 50 percent more likely to buy, and 8x more likely to pay a premium.
That might be an uncomfortable statistic for some of us who like to think we’re rational, hard-headed decision makers.
And yet, who doesn’t like working with people you actually like? Who is prepared to risk their reputation for a supplier unpopular with your colleagues?
Back in the 1980s, a popular meme among technology leaders was, “Nobody ever got fired for buying an IBM.” Sure, the PCs were technically great, but choosing IBM was also a safe career move.
Interestingly enough, these ideas still resonate today. Consider the big name IT suppliers. How do you feel about Apple, Amazon, or Microsoft? Each one deliberately cultivates a devoted following of developers, partners and customers who see the world through their unique lens.
Insights from psychographics and empathy for the customer journey are carefully wrapped into product development, customers events and marketing.
So what about you? How much time, care and attention is your brand paying to the thoughts, feelings and variable sentiments of your customers?