Understanding the Importance of Empathy in B2B Marketing

March 17, 2023

ViB Editorial Team


Topics we'll cover

Until recently, empathy was not considered a key business skill. But the ability to care about what others are going through — and to recognize and acknowledge their unique perspectives — has skyrocketed in importance. 

A recent Forbes article puts it this way: “Businesses need to understand that people all over the world just weathered one of the most challenging years of their lives, both mentally and financially.” Empathy is particularly important when it comes to marketing efforts. “Inconsiderate marketing in a time of strife can do more damage to a company than most people realize.” 

What steps can B2B marketers take to remain sensitive to the feelings and situations of our target audiences? And how can empathy create a valuable connection between people and brands?

Find out how leading marketing professionals are harnessing the power of empathy in this on-demand Art & Science panel discussion webinar. This episode is part of the ongoing Success Series of webinars brought to you by the marketing experts at ViB

Get expert perspectives and advice

In today’s episode, Tom Riddle, Director of Survey and Research Solutions at ViB, is joined by three expert marketers: Mariana Prado Cogan, SVP Marketing at PTC; Marissa Latshaw, Founder at Latshaw Empathy-Based Marketing; and Justin Hane, Director, Brand & Communications at Softchoice.

Tom and his panel of experts will share information, tips, and advice about empathy in marketing, including: 

  • How empathy is defined
  • Why empathy is important to B2B marketing
  • How empathy improves your marketing efficacy
  • Why building empathy impacts brand storytelling
  • and more

Learn how empathy is defined

Empathy can be defined in a number of different ways. For Marissa, the best definition of empathy is “our ability to feel, understand, and respond to the feelings of others.” When it comes to the business world, “I see tremendous capacity for collective empathy,” she says. “And our job as marketers and leaders is really to harness that empathy and activate it.”

According to Justin, “a lot of organizations get it wrong.” Their attempts at empathy can fall flat. “Empathy is not a cold email trying to sell me something,” he says, “or wishing me well in this difficult time.” Instead, marketers need to dig deeper to better understand the audiences they’re hoping to reach. So much of empathy “involves understanding the person on the other side of the screen or the other side of the table.”

For Mariana, empathy is the “ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes so that you can understand their challenges from their perspective.” As we think about how we use empathy in marketing, it’s also important to stress that “empathy should be part of our day-to-day life.”

As someone who was born in Mexico and has lived in Japan, Mariana has years of experience working with diverse types of organizations and stakeholders. What she’s learned is that “not everything has to be from my point of view.” Instead, the goal is to walk in someone else’s shoes “and see the world the way that you see it.”

🔍 How are B2B marketers approaching generative AI, lead generation and marketing budget allocation today? Check out our latest B2B marketing trends report for the latest stats and strategies you need to know.

Thumbnail of ViB B2B Marketing Trends Report

Discover the latest trends and statistics — and the key actions B2B marketers and leaders need to take today. 

Discover why empathy is important in B2B marketing

It’s critical for B2B marketers to consider how their use of empathy, or lack thereof, helps or hinders their efforts. Marissa points out that while value propositions and feature benefits have long been a part of marketing, “they represent an inside-out thinking, where they’re projecting the brand or the product onto the individual” rather than “seeking to understand the goals and the values of the people that you serve.”

Referencing statistics that prove a current empathy deficit, she says that “our organizations are in a great position to harness and activate empathy so we can amplify it out to the world that needs it so badly.”

According to Justin, “the B2B buyer is actually more emotionally attached to a brand than the B2C buyer.” And for good reason.“If you’re a B2B buyer, there is so much more at stake when it comes to your purchase,” he says.  It’s not just the success or lack of success for your organization, but it is the success of your career as well as your reputation and credibility with your peers.” As companies work to create authentic bonds with their audiences, it’s important to ask: “how do you create an emotional connection and bring it right back to empathy?”

Mariana says that “at the end of the day… we sell to humans.” But because so many touch points have moved to the virtual space, it’s “becoming harder to build that trust component.” What B2B marketers need to focus on is making “sure that we’re helping that consumer, that B2B, that human, to sleep better with decisions that they have to make.” She emphasizes that “you cannot have a brand in the B2B space that is not thinking about that human connection, about really helping our customers through their challenges.”

Find out how empathy relates to diversity and inclusion

Marketers need to take into account that customers have different emotional drivers. Diversity and inclusion principles play a large role in expanding our understanding of empathy.

Mariana speaks to data that proves “diverse companies are more innovative and more innovative companies are more diverse.” For marketers developing content for B2B audiences, it is critical to “take into account all the different challenges that different visitors are having.” It’s also not unusual to sell to “ten different people in order to close a deal.” 

Connecting with people on an emotional level involves more than just words. It includes ensuring greater diversity of perspectives in graphics and imagery on websites and across content. 

“We want to make sure that we connect with everybody,” she says. Creating marketing material that speaks to a wider audience of individuals with different backgrounds and experiences will deliver better results.

Learn about empathy and storytelling

How has the new emphasis on empathy in B2B marketing impacted the way companies craft and deploy brand narratives?

According to Marissa, “when social media really first came into being, we were telling the stories of the people in the workplace, at your office” in a way that “put a human face on the organization.” Now, businesses must make even more strides toward storytelling that is truly human. That means recognizing people as individuals with unique thoughts and feelings.

“Stories have really evolved now to be putting the people you serve — your customer — at the center of the story.” The reason empathy is key to effective storytelling is because centering the customer “requires a deeper emotional intelligence around who it is that you are actually serving and what they care about — beyond what your product offers.”

On a related note, Justin says that “one of my core principles of empathy in marketing and in writing is not to waste people’s time.” That includes understanding the priorities of the people you’re trying to reach to avoid sharing material that doesn’t speak to their primary concerns. To effectively communicate empathy, marketers need to find out what’s important to their audience and the world they’re living in.

Put empathy to work for your business

Empathy is not only important to your day-to-day life and that of your colleagues, customers, and prospects. It has the potential to impact marketing outcomes for the better. Find out more by watching the entire episode, “The Power of Empathetic Marketing.” Improve your use of empathy in B2B marketing efforts and make lasting emotional connections with audiences. Help people achieve more and feel better about their business decisions.

If you are interested in learning about ViB and our effective marketing programs, contact us

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