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How to Become a More Empathetic-Marketer

B2B Content marketing

15 Min Read

J. David Green

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Today on Marketing Jukebox Podcast we welcome back Brain Carroll to continue our conversation surrounding empathy-based marketing. Brian is the CEO and founder of markempa and the author of the bestselling book on Amazon, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. He is also the creator of the B2B Lead Blog and runs a successful discussion group on LinkedIn called the B2B Lead Roundtable. In today’s episode we dive deeper into the topic of becoming a more empathetic marketer and Brian shares more about empathy mapping, empathy-based listening, and buyer journey mapping. We also learn why it is important for marketers to build connections by actually talking to their customers, and why it is critical to start understanding the motivations of your consumers. Stay tuned to get all this and more inside today’s episode!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Techniques for becoming a more empathetic marketer.
  • What it means to “listen to understand” your consumer.
  • Why it is important for marketers to spend time actually talking with customers.
  • Moving from being a marketer to being like a Sherpa; a guide to help your customer.
  • Learning to understand the motivations of your customer.
  • Importance of moving away from chasing conversations and towards building connections.


“You’re listening not for what people are saying in order to respond, you’re listening to understand.” — @brianjcarroll [0:05:39.1]

“The most important thing marketers can do today is understand the motivations of their customer.” — @brianjcarroll [0:09:48.1]

“So often we’re preoccupied with trying to get a conversion instead of trying to get a connection.” — @brianjcarroll [0:12:44.1]

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

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

markempa resources — https://www.markempa.com/resources/


[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.

[0:00:34.1] 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.

[0:01:26.6] DG: So what are those techniques that you have uncovered that can help people become more empathetic with their marketing?

[0:01:32.9] BC: Well, there’s three things right now that we can do. The first is you can use a tool called empathy mapping, which is – and we’ll get into that technique. The other is learning about empathy based listening, also called third ear listening and so this is a skill that allows us to listen and perceive the underlying motivations what’s behind being said and then the third thing is doing journey mapping but in a different way than most marketers I see. In fact, it’s not about content and mapping out your journey to say what am I going to say to someone.

It’s actually journey mapping to understand the buying journey of what someone is doing, what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling as they go through that process. There’s some new research that was just published in the journal of marketing that actually studied, what are the most impactful emotions that influence each step of the buying journey? So those are things that marketers can do right now and if you likely can dive into each of those further.

[0:02:36.1] DG: Yeah, let’s do.

[0:02:38.4] BC: Let’s quickly talk about empathy mapping and this actually comes from two places so Stanford d.school, I’ve adopted their approach and so the design school at Stanford in conjunction with IDEO, created an empathy mapping process which looks like four quadrants.

I love four quadrant things, you draw a box and you put on the left-hand side “Saying and Doing”. On the right-hand side, you write “Thinking and Feeling” and in the center, you put in the center, the person or the persona you’re empathizing with.

What this requires is that you have data, you have insight into your customer, you actually have interacted with your customer. But think about the status quo as your customer is just beginning their journey of exploring, buying from you, exploring solving a problem, and it may not include buying from you at all. It’s, “I have a problem.”

What I want to know is, before someone gets to that trigger event, I want to understand, before I change the way someone is doing their business, I want to understand how they think and feel about it right now. But to do that, I start with what I can observe. What are they saying right now? What do you hear your customers say? What are the words they’re saying? Are they talking about, “I need to go to a meeting” or “I’m overwhelmed with this”?

What are they doing? “I am completing reports, I’m spending an extra 10 hours to get this done.” What are the things that they’re doing? Then you bring that into, based on what the person, the persona, is saying and doing, these are things we can observe. You then use your empathy and your intuition to then go into the internal. Based on what they’re saying and doing, what are they thinking? What are the questions they’re asking themselves right now? Do I want to go through this, is this worth my time? Is this going to add 10 extra hours to a week, and how is this impacting them personally? How this impacts my team, how this impact on my team sees me, what are they feeling?

So they may be feeling a number of emotions. This is where you write out, “I’m anxious about this. I am concerned about this.” And Dave, one of the things I can share with you is there is 20 different emotions; there’s actually 27 different states of emotion. It’s no longer like the movie “Inside Out” where they thought we had six. We actually have 27; that’s new research that just came out last September. Categorizing the emotion. So introducing this language, and based on that, it allows you to understand the present status quo so you can meet your customers where they’re at and build a hypothesis.

The other technique I talked about is empathy based listening, and this is actually borrowed from psychology and therapy. This is a skill that they’re taught. It’s also used, the skill of listening is also used in criminology, and we can apply it to marketing, which is you’re listening not for what people are saying in order to respond, you’re listening to understand, not just what they’re saying but at a cognitive and emotional level, what’s going on inside? What’s motivating what’s being said?

You’re also listening to observe nonverbal communication. We already know the statistics of how much information is communicated nonverbally. What I recommend is that marketers need to spend time talking with customers. When was the last time you talked with a customer, and what do you talk to them about? What’s a productive way? Is you can start interviewing customers to share about their buying journey. It can be simple as, “I’d like to talk to you about your experience of buying, the journey you went through. I’d like to hear your story, so we can help others like yourself have a better experience.”

When you talk with your customers it’s, “Take me back to the day when you first thought of dealing with this problem, and as you went through the journey of buying, what was your experience?” You can interview current customers, recently who did work with you, and just listen. It’s amazing when people hear their story, you learn not only what they did — this gets into journey mapping — you’re listening for what they did. You’re listening for the questions that they had.

You’re also listening because if I ask someone, “Well, how did you feel?” it puts us on the spot, and we may — the truth is that most of the feelings we have are unconscious. But it comes out in what we say and our tone of voice and other things. This is where you can begin eliciting this information. So how are they feeling at each step? I find that by interviewing five to seven customers using empathy based listening, also known as third ear listening, you can accomplish a lot.

This segued into that third thing of journey mapping. Journey mapping really helps to understand the journey of the customer, and who you interview often is the mobilizer and the challenger — in the customer world, you call it the mobilizer, or in other worlds, you may say your champion. But who was it that brought you into the organization? Here’s the cool thing: when you do these three things— there’s certainly more you could do that we can get into, Dave, but by bringing these three things together, you actually are able to get a better picture of your customer’s experience and then you move from the step of saying, you know, it’s not a funnel that people fall into.

What it’s really like to buy, it’s like this, you’re helping your customer, and you’ve got to understand what it was like to climb the mountain to buy? Because we know it’s hard. “I want to know what you went through. You may have had hope, you may have had all these experiences.” At the beginning of the journey, you might hear someone’s excited. “I could solve my problem.” Well, by the second or third step, we found this pit of despair. “Is it worth it? Do we want to go through with this? Can we do this on our own?”

There’s all these things that they’re experiencing and that’s that mushy middle, but then you can move from being a marketer to being like a Sherpa who is a guide, helping your customer climb this mountain, deal with this challenge and help them be the hero to win.

Listen to the podcast: How to Build Trust with Senior Executive Audiences


[0:09:02.5] DG: You were talking about how often do you talk to customers, and I think all of us in marketing probably have to admit that we may not do that as much as we should. I’ve talked to marketers enough that are in a variety of companies, and the phrase that comes to mind when I think about how they feel is, “Hair on fire,” right? They’ve got so many things to do.

There’s far more to do than they have time to do it, and requests coming in, like you said, all these channels. How do you take the time to do this and how much time should you take?

[0:09:42.6] BC: I think that as you’re doing marketing right now, I would make it a priority to—the most important thing marketers can do today is understand the motivations of their customer. If you don’t understand their motivation, nothing you’re doing in marketing is actually going to connect with your customer, because you don’t know what’s going to really matter.

So I think that this is a primary thing, and in some ways, what’s different about what we’re doing now, with “Don’t I have personas? Haven’t I already done this customer journey mapping? Haven’t I already created content? Haven’t I already heard from my sales team?” Those are questions I think a lot of marketers are asking, “And you’re asking me to do something else?” Like you talked about, Dave. What I would say is that, the problem that I’ve noticed with marketing is when we’re “hair on fire,” you’re not spending time with customers, you don’t have time to reflect an understanding. And so, Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, he talked about this; he was quoted as saying, “It’s hard to design something for someone unless you have empathy.”

Another example I give is Apple, Steve Jobs, Mike Markkula was the third investor in the company and was its first vice president of marketing, and right before they marketed the Apple II, he created the Apple Marketing Philosophy. The very first word of the three focuses of their philosophy was customer empathy, which is we’re going to understand our customer and their motivations and their wants better than anyone else.

My answer, Dave, is that this is absolutely essential and the easiest way though is, I would say, the things that we’ve talked about so far helps you build a working hypothesis of what does your customer want? What’s motivating them? And when you understand the motivating emotions behind what people want, then you’re able to begin creating messaging using words they say. You’re able to connect with customers and see your marketing now, not from the lens as a marketer, but you’re actually able to see it from the perspective of the customer.

I remember taking a CEO and the entire executive team through the experience of their number one lead generation. This is a staff software company. They offer a free software trial and they sell work automation software. I was like, “I want you for a moment to look at your website from the perspective of,” — I clicked on the free trial and we went on the landing page for free trial, and I said, “Do you see it anywhere on this page? Free trial?” They’re like, “No.”

I said, “Okay, let’s read it further; what is it actually offering?” The team just talked about how hard it was. “This is really hard,” the CEO said. The team agreed, because so often we’re preoccupied with trying to get a conversion instead of trying to get a connection and make sense of the motivation of the customer.

[0:12:54.9] DG: As you were talking about this, I was thinking a little less about marketing and a lot more about people. That idea that you listen with a third ear and really try to understand what they’re feeling is really what all of us should do with anyone that we’re talking to, right? That you really tune in to what they’re doing. It makes perfect sense that that is the key to writing good messaging and doing good marketing, because you understand them.

You said one other thing that I just wanted to play back a little bit, which is, how people have lost trust. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that, I don’t know about you, but I go read the Amazon reviews because I try to see what people actually say about the product who have used it. Or the review sites like G2 Crowd or any of those are things that we all turn to now, right? Or Google reviews, or on and on, because we don’t trust the companies to tell us the truth or to understand what our problems are and really solve them.

So I think this is going to be, like I said, bigger than lead nurturing was, which you were one of the thought leaders for. I think this has really been fantastic. Can you tell people how they can get access to some of the free tools that you talked about?

[0:14:18.1] BC: Sure, Dave. You can go to markempa.com. I have quizzes, there are free resources you can download, videos, etc. Or you can also visit the B2B Lead Blog and click on the category “Empathy based marketing,” and you’ll find articles and resources there as well.

[0:14:40.9] DG: Brian, thank you so much for spending time with us today. I really appreciate it.

[0:14:45.6] 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.