Being an Empathic Marketer in an Automated World

empathtic marketer

By Jeffrey Slater, {grow} Community Member

Does your marketing automation need a hug?

I’ve been wondering about this and today will offer some tips to create marketing empathy in an automated world.

During my 30-plus-year marketing career, I have had the privilege to meet and work with many great marketers. Some are well-known personalities like Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) and Stephanie Gallo (from Gallo Family Vineyards). I also had the honor to work with many great marketers without celebrity profiles during my days on a variety of brands like Slim Jim’s, David’s Sunflower Seeds, Orville Redenbacher Popcorn and Cheerwine. (a popular soft-drink from North Carolina).

What the best of these marketing experts have in common was empathy. I would consider them empathic marketers.

What is an Empathic Marketer?

  • They care deeply about their customers.
  • Each has a remarkable ability to listen and ask penetrating and respectful questions that dig deeply into the psyche of their audience.
  • Each thinks of their audience not as targets but as human beings whose lives intersected with their brands.
  • And, each sees a realistic view of how their brands play a role in the real lives of their customers.

Stephanie Gallo is a case in point.

She is the granddaughter of Ernest Gallo who with his brother Julio, founded the E&J Gallo Company during prohibition. Stephanie is the VP of Marketing at Gallo and a consummate marketer and passionate about the wine industry. When she speaks to the industry, she starts from her heart talking about the lives of consumers she serves. And her approach to marketing is about how she can help her brands become a meaningful part of customer’s lives.  Stephanie’s speeches often include a plea to expand the industry for everyone to benefit to give more choice and opportunity to the industry she loves.

I heard her speak about allowing consumers to enjoy wine as they want – without feeling chastised for using ice in red wine or drinking it from a can. She markets wine without the arrogance and attitude that is still prevalent in the industry.

Beyond tactics

Emphatic marketing is an approach that goes beyond tactics because it requires understanding what wine drinkers care about at a deeper level. It requires a balance between data and heart-centered understanding of those you serve.

What also strikes me about Stephanie is that many of the wine marketing professionals all had a deep-seated connection to Stephanie. She helped them, in various ways with their careers, with advice and as a caring mentor. From my years in the wine industry, all things wine marketing lead back to Stephanie.

Stephanie’s empathy toward customers and colleagues was simply human. Helpful. Kind. Gracious.

With so much marketing automation afoot, I wonder where the empathy button is on these programmed activities?

Empathy in a digital world

When new clients come to me, we always start our discussion with a simple question, “Tell me about yourself and what brought you to where you are today.” This piece of biography helps me to listen, learn, and empathically assess the situation. It isn’t a right brain/left brain analysis, just two people trying to get to know one another.

Several of my clients need the advice of someone who has a high-level strategic perspective. But I know that if I can understand their motivation at a deeper level, it will inform how I can advise them toward success.

One client has a start-up food business and focuses on manufacturing and sales. We spent hours in conversation as I listened to my client’s approach to the market. One piece of counsel I provided was that he had spent enough time listening to his end users. Did he understand how his product fit into the life of his customer? What practical (and emotional role) did his product play in the quiet moments as they unravel? We decided to take an empathic marketing approach to the problem because without a deep understanding of the consumer’s emotional connection to the product; he didn’t understand how his brand was perceived.

Tips for Being an Empathic Marketer

  1. Immerse yourself into the community you want to serve. Don’t try and sell them. Just try and understand what is important to them and their lives. How are they motivated, what do they care deeply about and is your product offering helping them solve a problem or challenge they face. Where are you creating value?
  2. Connect with rabid fans. See if you can find a few passionate fans who are willing to evaluate your products or services objectively. Ask them to challenge everything you do so that you can be more authentic and supporting them and their needs. Listen to their criticism as if it were a gift wrapped just for you.
  3. Learn from other empathic marketers. If you admire brands who seem to serve you as a beloved member of some community, what can you learn from them? Be self-aware to recognize great marketing. Watch for small acts of helpfulness and unbounded generosity. I love to learn from Blake Mycoskie (Tom’s), Daniel Lubetzky (Kind Bars) and James Dyson (Dyson Company) who have created enterprises and brands that are heart-centered and organized to care deeply about their communities. You see them live their ethos and their marketing reflects this respect and trust.

Marketing will continue to get more data-centric.

I’d suggest that at the same time, all that marketing data needs to be enrobed, like a chocolate truffle, in an empathic marketing worldview.

jeffreyslater empathic marketerJeffrey Slater is the Chief Listening Officer at The Marketing Sage, a consultancy firm. He advises small to medium sized enterprises on marketing strategies and tactics. Get a free copy of his book Unraveling The Mysteries of Marketing here.

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