Greetings Inboxers! What a whirlwind it’s been over the last few months. We celebrated our AdServer’s 1-year anniversary, and some record-setting milestones for our business—all of which is thanks to you, our loyal customers. We’re grateful to be a part of your business, and for the opportunity to help you achieve your goals!
Speaking of gratitude, this month’s InsiderInbox guest knows just how important it is to serve the needs of the customer.
Brian Carroll is founder of the B2B Lead Blog and an evangelist for empathy-based marketing. A bestselling author, Brian has been a key thought leader, driving the transition toward people-based marketing in the B2B realm. In July, he launched markempa, a consultancy and training company that created the EMPATH Method to help companies develop a deeper understanding of customer motivation and connect with customers on an emotional level. In addition to his ongoing role at the B2B Lead Blog, he also spent time as Chief Evangelist and Executive Director, Revenue Optimization at MECLABS (parent company of MarketingSherpa).
Here, Brian shares his insight about what makes customer empathy such an important part of the B2B sales equation.
1) Why did you choose marketing, or maybe it chose you?
Probably similar to a lot of other B2B marketers, I really didn’t even know it existed. So, I guess it chose me.
As a student at the University of Minnesota, I had an opportunity to work for 3 different companies, all which had complex sales processes. I started as intern in inside sales and expanded to lead generation.
What I love about B2B is, because of the complexity and the longer sales cycle, there are so many buyers. I love the variety, and that’s what keeps me intrigued. It’s an amazing place to learn. The more things change, the more they stay the same. B2B is still about building relationships and trust.
2) What is your personal mission statement?
I would say it is to have my life centered around service, around helping others. I have all of these great relationships around me, and I work to keep the fact that THAT’S what’s most important.
I’ve actually done some mission work in Ethiopia, helping people who handle local adoption. There’s a problem there of some 100,000 children on the street in the Addis Ababa, the capital city. I went there, trying to understand what’s going on. It’s an economic issue, and a humanitarian crisis.
My interest is around helping with family preservation—all of those children have at least one parent and other relatives, but they’re unable to care for them. As a business person, I’ve been interested in looking at how I can go beyond just donating. I can help with my checkbook, sure, but investment would be so beneficial.
I think capitalism can do more to alleviate poverty than aid.
3) Tell me something about your job that inspires you to keep working there.
The feeling that I’m making an impact beyond the top line and bottom line and helping others to do the same. It’s great to feel productive, and like you’re achieving your business goals.
But for me, there’s this higher purpose. I want to know that I’m making a real difference. Marketing is a force for good. Nothing really happens unless someone sells something. But, there’s a gap right now—we have all of these channels, but it’s never been harder to connect. It’s a trust gap. People have had bad experiences, with marketers and salespeople who are more concerned about “closes” and driving demand that they’ve objectified our customers. We no longer care about whether their needs are met, but just that we’ve closed the deal. Each marketer has an opportunity to help their company focus on not just on meeting sales and revenue numbers but on how to help their customers achieve what they’re hiring us or buying our product to do. It’s a force for good, but the problem is a lot of customers don’t experience it; they’re not seeing that impact.
That’s what’s inspired all of my writing and research around empathetic marketing. I believe that the best marketing feels like helping, because that’s what it really is.
The truth is, we will achieve more of the things we want as a company by laying aside our own desires. Instead, focus on meeting the needs of our customers.
We have to get out of that company-centric thinking and into the minds of our customers. We have to get out of the building. We’re customers ourselves, so why don’t we treat our leads like we’d want to be treated…like people, not leads?
4) Offices or open work space?
Both. There are times when I’m creating, writing or in production mode that I work best in an office or with noise cancelling headphones. Although most of my work revolves around collaboration, so open spaces work well for that.
5) What is a skill that every digital marketer should have and why?
Empathy. Because whether you’re designing a landing page, an email, content piece, etc. you have to ask the most important questions: is this valuable? Will this help your customer on their journey? Every single one of us has that capacity, we just need to use it. We often get too caught up in delivering what WE want them to have, and don’t ask ourselves what THEY need. Empathy give us the intuition to be able to look at a campaign and determine if it helps the customer. You can’t automate trust. You need to see things through the lens of your customer. Otherwise you can’t determine what the real value is. I’m glad to see the market is shifting to look at the entire customer experience.
6) What is the best part about your job?
Number one: learning. I love to learn and I feel that I’ll never stop as long as I’m doing this. Number two: the personal growth that comes with it. All the influence I have earned with others is from the influence others have had on me. It helps with everything…the relationships, connections, etc.
7) If you could only use five (digital) marketing tools, what would they be? And why?
1) WordPress as a host for content.
2) Email as a way of connecting. It’s an essential tool to nurture conversations once they start.
3) Analytics, to help me understand what’s happening and get wisdom to answer the question “why?”
4) Smartphone, to manage that connection in real time.
5) Social network to see what customers are writing, talking, sharing about. Social media offers an amazing insight. It’s like this incredible living laboratory.
8) Facebook or Twitter?
Twitter, namely for the utility/sharing of content. Facebook is more around sharing only the best of ourselves, but Twitter is more real-time and centered around things people really care about.
9) What is the biggest digital marketing trend that will drive success this year? What is the biggest challenge?
Last year it was all about personalization, predictive technologies, segmentation, etc. This year will be about humanizing marketing based on that data to really connect with our customers. There’s this gap that exists–we bought these tools, but now we need to figure out how to really use them to build relationships, and some of that involves doing things that don’t scale. The challenge that marketers realize is that marketing isn’t enough. Sales dev reps or inside sales can do that, but they’re spending too much time sending canned emails. Automation is causing customers to emotionally unsubscribe. Instead of looking at your database as 10,000 people, figure out who are the five or one that this message is truly helpful for.
We must take a concierge-type approach to potential customers. Technology can’t replace our empathy or intuition, but it can augment our ability to do things that don’t scale well, to personalize messages, to make them relevant, helpful, desired, appreciated, etc. If we don’t do that, the things we think are helping are actually doing the opposite.
10) What is your go-to Karaoke song? And why?
Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville,” mostly because it’s in my vocal range, and a lot of people will sing along. That’s second only to “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. Everybody knows that song!
11) What’s the one or two things you can’t live without to get the job done?
Trello. It helps me keep on top of all the different things I’m doing. It’s really helpful for being agile in managing many different projects all at once.
Scrivener. It’s an online writing tool, and it’s essential for managing all the different things I’m writing about and researching all in one place.
Brian, thanks so much for sharing your insight bout empathy-based marketing! We agree that the secret to customer success is giving the customer exactly what they want. Until next time, Inboxers…think SPRING!