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Should B2B marketing show empathy? Seriously?

Bruce McKenzie | Jan 6, 2017 563 views No Comments

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There’s little doubt that video as a medium can have empathy. Reality TV shows can increase empathy and bring out the best in us. But let’s consider the kind of videos I know best, technology marketing videos. These are mostly short, high-level solution overviews for lead generation or account management.

What is empathy in marketing?

The production of marketing content — video in particular — focuses on packaging messages efficiently. Does anyone ever ask, “How do you think the person who looks at this content will feel about it?”

Brian Carroll at B2B Lead Blog writes interestingly about humanizing the sales and marketing processes. In “How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline” he notes that customers are deluged with so many impersonal marketing messages through so many channels, they are just worn out. We can all empathize here.



But the idea of empathy in marketing is that people warm to a message that addresses hopes, fears, and other feelings we all have. For example, if yours is a complex sale, Brian suggests focusing on the risks perceived by your customer. That’s a fruitful idea. I would add that, with a buying team, you need to address multiple kinds of risk-averseness to help encourage consensus. After all, you’re contending with group dynamics — which, among other things, tends to delay or cancel out buying decisions.

How to add empathy to technology marketing videos

In terms of video, empathy doesn’t necessarily mean trying to take hopes and fears into account. I really like Carroll’s formulation that “the best marketing feels like helping.” Customers aren’t looking for solutions. They’re trying to solve problems.

How do you help a customer who clicked on your marketing video? You use visuals that help the customer see your point clearly. You try to imagine how the viewer is now going about solving whatever problem your solution fits. What does she want to know, and in what order should you present your answers. In a short video, your objective is to get the viewer to seek out more information. If you can identify the next logical destination in the buyer’s information-gathering journey, your video can do a good job guiding the customer there.

Knowing the customer is pressed for time, you should also consider creating a series of short videos that answer specific questions, rather than long, wide-ranging videos that cover the subject in full. I’m in favor of completeness, but it doesn’t need to come all at once. You can also repurpose videos by editing them into short segments or “chapterizing” them with clickable overlays.

Take the viewer seriously

If you just imagine yourself as the smart person on the receiving end of your video, you’re sure to raise the empathy level.

Malcolm Gladwell has said that, for him, the key to a good live presentation is to keep in mind that the audience wants to be taken seriously. This struck me as pertinent to the development and production of B2B video for inbound marketing and sales engagement. We imagine the audience browsing our collection of marketing content like bees collecting nectar. We plant messages they’ll take back to the buying committee. But how much effort goes into making them feel that we take them seriously?

Support every claim

In a short video, there’s usually a requirement to put across several key messages, sometimes for different audiences. That can lead to adjectival overload — a string of phrases like “powerful features,” “unprecedented scalability,” and “advanced technology.” You probably don’t find such claims compelling. Neither will your buyers.

Anticipate questions

Many of the videos we produce deal with technology product introductions and upgrades. Most of these solutions have been pre-introduced to existing customers or user groups. If you can get a fix on what these groups are most curious about, you’ve made a good start on figuring out how to frame the story for a larger audience. Even if you’re required to deliver information on a set number of features, if you start with one you know people will have questions about, your audience will know you’re serious.

Remember how they got here

You’ve probably heard that B2B video needs to grab the viewer’s attention in the first 15-20 seconds. I’ve said it myself. It’s certainly true if the viewer is scrolling through a social media feed. But what about the person who arrived at your video via the recommendation of a colleague, or a link in an email or article? This is a person most likely does not need any of the following:

• a history of the problem your solution addresses
• a list of the bad things that happen when the problem is not addressed
• an introduction to an amusing cartoon character
• a list of expected benefits on the lines of “increased efficiency” and “lower costs”

If you can be pretty sure that the audience arrived at your video because they think you may have something interesting to say, you can’t go wrong if you start out by saying something interesting.

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