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B2B Empathy-Based Marketing, Trust, Lead Generation

B2B Content marketing

20 Min Read

J. David Green

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Podcast Transcript

Welcome back to another episode of Marketing Jukebox Podcast. Today on the show we welcome Brain Carroll for Part I of the conversation. Brian is the CEO and founder of markempa, a consultancy firm focused on helping marketers attract and convert more customers with empathy based marketing. Brian was the original thought leaders around lead nurturing and wrote the bestselling book on Amazon, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. He also runs the B2B Lead Blog, as well as leading a discussion group on LinkedIn called the B2B Lead Roundtable. Brian has been the speaker at Dream Force, the Business Marketing Association. and the AMA. In today’s episode, Brian shares what is meant by the term marketing empathy, how marketers can use empathy as their super power, and why we have to move away from lead generation toward establishing authentic customer connections. All this and more inside today’s episode!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Defining and understanding the term “marketing empathy”.
  • Why trying to be more empathetic with customers often backfires on marketers.
  • Recognizing that empathy is a marketer’s super power.
  • Understanding the shift from lead generation to customer connection.
  • How the trust gap is making it harder to establish authentic connections.
  • Recognizing that B2B transactions are made up of human beings.


“Every decision our customers make is connected to emotion.” — @brianjcarroll [0:02:50.1]

“Every human who has mirror neurons that are functioning in their brain has the capacity to empathize with others.” — @brianjcarroll [0:03:52.1]

“The fact is that it’s not about lead generation anymore. It actually is about customer connection.” — @brianjcarroll [0:07:27.1]

“The experience your customers have from other marketers actually influences their perception of your marketing.” — @brianjcarroll [0:08:43.1]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Brian Carroll — https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianjcarroll/

Brian on Twitter — https://twitter.com/brianjcarroll

markempa — https://www.markempa.com/

Lead Generation for the Complex Sale — https://www.amazon.com/Lead-Generation-Complex-Sale-Quantity/dp/0071458972

B2B Lead Blog — https://www.b2bleadblog.com/

B2B Lead Roundtable — https://www.linkedin.com/groups/1941474/about

Clayton Christensen — http://www.claytonchristensen.com/

The Innovator’s Dilemma — https://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Dilemma-Technologies-Management-Innovation/dp/1633691780

Toronto Empathy Assessmenthttps://markempa.com/empathy-quiz/


[0:00:07.2] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. Help us start a movement to make B2B marketers the maestros of shareholder value. On our website, LeadCrunch.com, you can find timestamped transcripts of these podcasts and info about the guests. Subscribe to these podcasts on all major platforms, like iTunes. Send topic or guest suggestions to the host at david.green@leadcrunch.ai.

Here’s Dave.

 [0:00:33.9] DG: I am here with Brian Carroll. Brian is the CEO and founder of markempa. markempa is a consultancy focused on helping marketers attract and convert more customers with empathy based marketing and I’ve known Brian for a long time and he was the original thought leaders around lead nurturing. He in fact wrote the bestselling book on Amazon, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, and he is writing a new book on empathetic marketing, which I believe is going to be much bigger than Lead Nurturing was for a lot of different reasons that we’ll talk about today.

He also does the B2B Lead Blog, which is great if you haven’t been there and leads a discussion group on LinkedIn that has a ton of people called the B2B Roundtable and he’s spoken at lots of different places like the Dream Force and the Business Marketing Association and the AMA.

Brian, thanks so much for joining us today.

[0:01:24.8] BC: Hey, thanks Dave.

[0:01:25.8] DG: You know, I wanted to get a quote and I’d shared this with you after we spoke last but I want to share it with the audience. A fellow by the name of Clayton Christensen, who is a Harvard professor and has written a lot of really fantastic books like The Innovator’s Dilemma, wrote, “Many products fail because companies develop them from the wrong perspective. Companies focus too much on what customers need; what’s missing is empathy, a deep understanding of what problems customers are trying to solve.”

So Brian, I think you’re really onto something here. Let me stop though and ask you for the audience, define what marketing empathy is.

[0:02:03.9] BC: Yeah. Let’s just quickly define empathy and then I’ll connect it with marketing empathy; does that sound good?

[0:02:10.1] DG: Yeah, that’s perfect.

[0:02:11.5] BC: So empathy is really looking at two things. It’s being able to see from another’s perspective. So in other words, that’s “perspective-taking” and the other is feeling from the feelings of another. So you are feeling into the same feeling and so we’ll get into some of the science but those are the two aspects and what’s different about it, when we talk about marketing empathy, is that we’re really focused on understanding, seeing things from the experience of your customer and also, you’re understanding the emotions.

And Dave, I know we’ll get into this but every decision our customers make is connected to emotion. Every decision we make is connected to that. So if we can take someone’s perspective and we’re able to understand how they feel, that allows us to understand their whole experience and from that, we can do the work like Clayton Christensen talked about, which is we can design better experiences. We can design things for our customers that honestly help them and help them in their decision-making process.

[0:03:21.1] DG: You and I know lots of people in marketing and they seem to me like they’re pretty empathetic people, by and large. Is that not true?

[0:03:31.4] BC: So there is actually an assessment people can take for free. It’s called the Toronto Empathy Assessment. You can actually take that and I have it for free on the markempa website. You can get your score. Generally speaking, there’s an average level of empathy and so it’s a skill. Every human who has mirror neurons that are functioning in their brain has the capacity to empathize with others, that is our ability to do it.

So marketers, all of you have the ability to empathize. But if I were to tell you, “Be more empathetic to your customer,” one of the ironic things or one of the counterintuitive things is actually being more empathetic when you feel you’re being empathetic to customers actually backfires. Here’s why.

A professor, this is actually published in the Journal of Marketing where they studied 480 marketing managers and asked them to put themselves in their customers’ shoes to design a campaign and predict what the customer would say. They had the marketers grade themselves on how empathetic they were and how empathetic they were in designing this offer for their customer, and here’s the interesting thing.

The more empathetic the marketer felt they were towards the customer, the worse they did. Not only that, the more empathetic the marketers were, the more they ignored customer data that told them customer insights of how they could actually create better messaging. We have empathy as a skill, but what he found, Hutula and the research team found, is that as marketers, unless we realize that our bias is to reference ourselves, when I tell you to be empathetic, you may think you’re putting yourself in your customer’s shoes but you’re thinking as if you’re the customer.

What that does is it actually tunes you out from what your customer’s experience is. Just you knowing this alone could help you be more empathetic toward customers. But then the question is, “What else can I do?” and so that’s what I’ve spent time doing is actually studying, “How do we apply this skill?” I actually think empathy, for marketers, is our super power. How do we apply this skill to actually better connect with our customers and help them through making decisions and guiding the experience so that we have better resulting outcomes?

[0:06:05.3] DG: That is really something. You know, our CEO, the mission for our company is to help people have better relationships and I believe that that starts with empathy and I like your characterization of it as our super power. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of research about empathy as a means of writing your book. Can you talk a little bit about it?

[0:06:29.1] BC: Yeah, you know really the first thing I started focusing on is this big problem that marketers are dealing with and it’s this that Dave, you and I both focused together on this world of lead generation and how do we get more leads and improve lead quality. But what the research has shown, so Forrester has done a lot of work around benchmarking as about best in class companies are converting 1.54% of their leads into wins, into won deals.

So if you think about it, inverse that what that means is the success is considered 98% of your leads fail. That’s success, that’s best in class and so when I started doing is trying to answer this question “Why?” If our focus is improving lead quantity and quality, why is it that we aren’t actually able to have more wins? The fact is that it’s not about lead generation anymore. It actually is about customer connection. It actually is about helping your customer on their journey.

Get the infographic: 12 Ways to Qualify Marketing Leads


So then I began asking this other question of, “Why is it so hard to connect?” We have all these channels, we have more channels than ever, more technology than ever, more content than ever. So why is it harder to actually connect with customers? The first thing is this, is that trust is at an all-time low. HubSpot and Gallop have both done research, HubSpot did a study with buyers and asking B2B buyers, “How many of you trust marketers and sellers?” And only 3% felt that marketers and sellers were trustworthy.

Then you add to that this problem of our customer experiences that professors of the research of customer perception of marketing messages and overwhelmingly, customers feel that marketers are not thinking about their best interest. As we do more marketing, what’s happening is actually because of the trust gap and because of this lack of belief that researchers have actually discovered the experience your customers have from other marketers actually influences their perception of your marketing. So bad marketing is making it bad for all of us.

So the other thing is that research has shown that B2B transactions, B2B decisions — So we treat businesses and the complex sale as this rational, logical thing. If only we could create a better value proposition and if only it were that simple. But the fact is, is B2B purchases are made up of human beings and what neuroscience has shown, so Antonio Demasio that I’ve written about, made a breakthrough discovery on how we make decisions which is this:

Every decision is emotional. Every single one, and what he discovered is that if we cannot access our emotions, we cannot make even simple decisions and I can tell you a story to illustrate that point, Dave. What this means is that we have all these things going on and so we have this gap of connection, we have this gap of trust, and the other thing is we have our customers who actually make every decision on their journey of buying and you have the complexity of a group decision.

Overwhelmingly and so I’ve – the CEB, which is now Gartner, has done extensive amount of research on B2B buyers and next to the government, they have the largest amount of psychologists. They spend a lot of time on the behavioral side of understanding and what they found is that the journey of buying, when they interviewed 2,400 customers and asked them, “Describe your experience of buying in one word, what would that be?” There were only three that used positive words. “It was hard, it was difficult, it was painful. I never want to do that again.”

What I have found and what the research is pointing to, is that we actually need to move from generating leads as marketers today. It’s important, it’s critical but what you need to do as a marketer to succeed now is you need to go beyond the lead and you actually need to go into the world of your customer and what’s interesting is how insulated we are as marketers. So this is the research on the problem that’s facing. The good news is that there’s research and what I’ve been doing in my book is collecting this research as well as filling in the gaps to answer the question, “Well the what do we do, how do we fix this?”

[0:11:34.7] DG: Brian, thank you so much for spending time with us today. I really appreciate it.

[0:11:39.6] BC: Thanks, Dave. I’m really glad I can be with you and look forward to hearing from you and your listeners.

[0:11:45.8] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening the B2B Marketing Jukebox by LeadCrunch. On our website, LeadCrunch.com, you can find timestamped transcripts and info about the guests. You can send topics or guest suggestions to the host at david.green@leadcrunch.ai. Subscribe to these podcasts on all the major platforms, like iTunes.

Thanks for joining us, and we wish you happy, data-driven growth.