The Role of Empathy in Customer Marketing

Empathy is a term tossed around a lot in Marketing, largely in relationship to understanding the wants and needs of buyers and developing useful personas. Customer Marketers are in a unique role because they have both internal and external customers. There should be alignment when it comes to all things customer advocacy, but often there isn’t. This post is going to focus on internal stakeholders, the reason you exist.

At the center of any advocacy program are prequalified accounts and contacts. Knowing these advocates at a granular level is the only way to be sure a) you have the right ones in your database for your stakeholders, and b) those stakeholders can search for and find these advocates for their purposes (whether the need is for an event speaker, a video, a live sales reference, a beta site, press release, whatever).

There’s only one way to really understand your internal customers. Walk a mile in their shoes. Maybe literally, maybe not, it depends on what’s necessary to get the insight you require to do your job well. Here are a few essential questions that need to be answered:

What goals are they being measured on?

  • Marketing will have various campaigns planned to support company objectives such as lead generation, brand awareness, industry positioning, customer retention, new product launches, new markets/segments, etc.
  • Sales will need specific references to align with their marching orders. Perhaps they’ve been told to pitch to a different decision maker, focus on a growing market, counter a competitor’s messaging or product vulnerability, etc.

Regardless of the use case, it’s important to spend your limited time on identifying and recruiting the advocates that will make these colleagues successful.

Understanding Marketing’s needs

If you meet with your colleagues in Social Media or PR, review their initiatives and consider your current advocate database. Will you have what they need in 2-3 months? Are there projects they’ve mentioned that could really sizzle with the inclusion of an advocate’s success story in some form, one not initially part of the project plan? How impressive would it be to realize they were being listened to and have a team member to partner with on reaching the same end goals?

Understanding Sales’ needs

To achieve the same level of understanding when it comes to Sales, you must understand the Sales process through and through. What’s a typical sales cycle, and why? What are the buying signals? How far along in the sales cycle before references become important? What is the role and level of the typical buyer? If there’s a buying team, who’s on it? Where can the process get hung-up? What would ease the buyer’s mind and give them confidence in their decision? Answers to these questions translate to the profiles of the advocates in your database, but also the deliverables from customer marketing that are useful at different stages of the journey (videos, quotes, reviews, case studies). There’s so much to be gained from joining sales calls or sales trips (for the in-person selling that still occurs). These experiences will provide the guidance and confidence you need to get laser-focused on where you spend your time.

The magical thing about empathy is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Co-workers who may not have given the customer marketing program a thought before now understand what you do, and they also have a better understanding of why you need their help when you come asking. And they’ll get that you’re in it together.