The Era Of Empathetic Marketing: A New Imperative To Connect With Prospects And Customers It is a challenge for all of us as most of the target audience are rightfully focused on their basic safety and health needs, relegating their wants for a more certain time

By Arun Pattabhiraman

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It's official. COVID-19 forced a seismic shift in the economy driven by major changes in consumer behavior. While industries such as Web conferencing and online education thrive in this period of accelerated digital transformation, others such as travel, hospitality and retail are telling a much different story.

Yet, many marketers continue as if nothing has changed. It can come off as, at best, tone deaf—and, at worst, misguided. In an era of uncertainty, it's essential that marketers are more mindful of the times and sensitive about consumers' daily challenges. It is a challenge for all of us—marketers included—as most of their target audience are rightfully focused on their basic safety and health needs, relegating their wants for a more certain time.

What has changed for marketing?

B2B marketing is witnessing sweeping changes.

In-person, high-touch prospecting avenues such as events and business meetings are no longer possible. Event marketers are investing in virtual events by necessity.

Gone are generic marketing initiatives as teams are restructured to focus on targeted marketing at specific touchpoints throughout the customer's journey.

Spend is under increased scrutiny as companies look to conserve cash.

Marketing in the new world

How do marketing teams come to terms with the new normal? While much has changed, much remains the same. Most marketers aren't successful for long if they don't put the customer first. Now is the time marketers put themselves in their customers shoes—to adapt and expand their empathy. Today, marketers must move beyond the old axiom of "finding a need and filling it' to understanding the customers' challenges, victories, annoyances, and sources of joy. And, it's not just marketing, but all customer-facing teams from salespeople to customer support through to customer success teams. Everyone needs to tune in with a greater ear to not only what customers want to buy but what they need to hear. Only then will you build trust across every post, campaign, email, text and customer interaction. Fail and your communications become all about you versus being all about them.

Listen to serve better

While good marketing begins with listening and understanding the needs of your customer, it ends with delivering upon those needs in a way that adds value, across the different customer touchpoints and channels. This means reading up on their business and monitoring social media for what's said and what's unsaid.

Especially during these unprecedented times, acting in your customer's best interest is also acting in your company's best interest. One such practice is to establish check-in calls without a commercial goal in mind. They will not only appreciate the gesture but it will also help throw a light on the unique problems they might be facing and ultimately shedding light on how you can help serve them better.

Deliver value and focus on outcomes

Offering value doesn't mean offering a discount. Some might be looking for other forms of help—additional training on your products to help derive more value out of the investment they are making in your products. For instance, you could share best practices of how your product could help your customers maintain and retain their customers during this crisis.

Direct interactions with customers and leads will help you understand how you can best help advance your customer's business. Sometimes that's using a current product differently, sometimes it's adding a new product, and sometimes it's even winding down your relationship. By showing you understand the unique needs of your customers, you can calibrate your recommendations to optimize their budgets and reaffirm your commitment to their best possible outcome.

Focus on long-term relationships over short-term gains

It's better to invest in long-term relationships with strong partners than to risk jeopardizing the relationship when they need help most. And, while you've invested precious dollars acquiring them in the first place sometimes, a little short-term pain will result in long-term gain. Use your judgment to help customers now and into the future. This could include offering extended support, or providing a limited-time discount on service offerings. It might be in everyone's interest to part ways. Even if you lose a customer in the short-term, you'll often win a trusted advocate in the long-term who can and will often bring your company on board elsewhere. And, it doesn't hurt the word of mouth either.

Keep your focus on the customer

Ask yourself one simple question: How can you best help your customers and prospects? An empathetic ear doesn't help unless it's combined with action. What can and should you do to help your customer be more successful?

Now is the time to be a true friend of the customer. Today we need greater empathy if we are to gain greater understanding to help solve their problems and meet their goals, which ultimately is the foundation of any great marketing campaign. Even in these times—and perhaps especially because of these times—if you help a customer consistently meet their needs, you'll not only net positive returns you'll have a customer for life.

Arun Pattabhiraman

Chief Growth Officer at Freshworks

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