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The need to lead…with empathy (and 3 tips to make it happen)

You know the saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Well, in the words of the iconic Cher Horowitz, “As if!”—certainly as it relates to 2020. Routines changed. Work changed. Expectations changed. And as those seismic shifts caused many of us to initially lose our footing, nothing about what we experienced triggered a feeling of familiarity.

Then again, maybe that’s not entirely true.

According to Deloitte Digital, the more things have changed, the more one very important thing has actually stayed the same: Our collective craving for human connection and the values fueling that shared desire.

As Deloitte Digital researchers explain in their article about responding, recovering and thriving during the pandemic (and beyond), “Surprisingly, values are not changing more rapidly today than they were at this time last year. Instead, they are changing more consistently, and in a similar direction…”

And the direction they’re heading is toward control and caring—two of the eight core human values that Deloitte Digital identified and used to create its Values Compass. And what exactly is that? The Values Compass, as Deloitte Digital defines it, is “a proprietary algorithm that identifies what motivates an audience’s behaviors, actions and beliefs, and identifies the things humans share.”

The eight human values on the compass include:

  • Curiosity
  • Sharing (with others)
  • Belonging
  • Caring (for others)
  • Control
  • Learning (new things)
  • Ambition
  • Trying (new things)

*Art by Centerline Digital; content courtesy of Deloitte Digital.

COVID-19, of course, is at the heart of this “collective shift” toward the control and caring values—areas that speak to feeling unsure (control) and disconnected from real interaction (caring), the researchers explain.

All of which reinforces the need to lead with empathy in your 2021 B2B marketing initiatives. Empathy builds trust. Trust strengthens relationships. Relationships promote loyalty. And loyalty results in retention.

Ideally, empathy is already infused in your marketing initiatives. But it’s understandable if that’s not the case. How often in B2B work are we instructed to be more pragmatic in nature? The audience is quite practical, and these decision-makers need to justify the transactions they authorize.

So maybe that’s a silver lining in the storm that was 2020: We are reminded that B2B decision-makers are people, too. And they also crave connection. 

With that in mind, here are three points to consider as you revisit what’s on tap for 2021:

Focus on your customers, not your company. Nobody likes the party guest who speaks ad nauseam about himself, goes on about what he thinks, and rattles off his resume of achievements. Be critical in your assessment of how and when to make your company the focal point of your content.

Don’t sell to customers. Help them. This may seem to run counter to the previous point. However, it likely comes down to tone. Teach, don’t preach. Demonstrate through action. It may be less about “why you’re the ideal partner” and more about “how you can assist.”

Find out what motivates your customers. Don’t forget, in addition to control and caring, there are six other shared human values to consider. Knowing what spurs your customers to action is more important than ever. This goes for audiences facing unprecedented business challenges as well as the marketers tasked with laying the groundwork for a trustworthy and transparent relationship.

Not too long ago, this Edelman Trust Barometer report said 67% of survey participants agreed that “A good reputation may get me to try a product, but unless I trust the company behind the product, I will soon stop buying it.”

Remember: Empathy builds trust.

In 2021, being more human is in. So if you haven’t done it already, revisit your marketing strategy and determine if Ms. Horowitz herself would shout, “Let’s do a makeover!”