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The One Thing You Need in Marketing Is Empathy

This amazing advice was stripped directly from The Marketer’s Journey Podcast. 

During these past few weeks with the launch of The Marketer’s Journey, I’ve had the chance to be a part of some amazing conversations with some of my marketing peers. 

When I think back about common threads through everything we talked about, what stood out to me was how they all stressed that marketing leaders most need empathy in their relationships. That goes for customer relationships, employee relationships, and relationships with other leaders. Without empathy, marketing just isn’t as effective.

Here are three takes on the importance of empathy from CMOs I truly admire:

1. CMOs have to be able to mediate between the executive team’s needs and those of the marketing team.

“It is useful to understand what the marketer’s day is like, because it may not be as easy as it may appear.”

—Maria Pergolino

Maria Pergolino, CMO at ActiveCampaign, talked about how her high points on her journey were also her low points.

Here's what I took away from our chat:

  • Any given marketing team is chock-full of people with functionally specific excellence. A good CMO will just let them get on with their expertise.
  • Mentorship isn’t the same as sponsorship. Sponsorship’s better, because it’s about leveraging networks and connecting people.

The most important thing she shared was the importance of having an empathetic viewpoint. Don’t walk around wondering what your marketing team can do for you, but rather, think deeply about what their lives and jobs are like—and how you can improve it. Likewise, in a sponsorship relationship, use your knowledge of people to make meaningful introductions that will benefit everyone. 

2. The marketing team will fail without a sense of mutual trust.

“Liking people is great, but I don't have to like them as much as I really have to have a sense of mutual trust because we're all putting each other's futures in each other's hands most of the day.”

—Julie Springer

Julie Springer, CMO at TransUnion, explained how consistency in the buyer’s journey leads to two kinds of trust: employees buying into the brand and buyers trusting the brand.

These are some hard truths about marketing without empathy:

  • Your team will fail without a sense of mutual trust. It just will.
  • You have your team’s future in your hands, and they have yours in theirs. You need empathy to connect.
  • Speaking of connection, the CMO’s job is to get everyone to connect with the brand internally so that everyone within an organization establishes brand experience. (That takes empathy, too.)

I immediately saw how Julie’s perspective related to empathy when she talked so directly about trust. Developing a community of trust among not just the marketing team but throughout the whole organization is what will most influence the trust that buyers have in a brand. The best way to create a consistent brand is for everyone in the organization to share the same goals and to trust each other. Truth. 

3. Creating the buyer journey starts with empathy with the buyer.

“Marketing is here to help provide that lens, that true voice of the customer.”

— Christina Bottis

This is deep: A marketing leader today has to keep a precarious balance between between the beautiful creative side of marketing and its scientific execution.

Christina Bottis, CMO at Coyote Logistics, shared her insight into the customer’s approach to buying. Prospects spend 82% of the buying cycle doing research—in front of a screen.

  • Thus, they’ve pretty much already decided whether to buy when they actually talk to sales.
  • You have to understand customer needs in an all-new way.
  • Empathy with the buyer reveals their mindset when they’re doing all that screen-based research.

The common thread of empathy in marketing leadership extends especially to understanding the buyer. With so much of the buyer’s journey taking place away from interaction with a human, it’s especially important to intelligently use data and content to demonstrate an understanding of who buyers are and what they want. 

To get into the frame of mind of the buyer under those circumstances truly takes a measure of empathy that distinguishes the marketing leader with maximum sensitivity to the buyer’s wants and needs. 

Empathy with the marketing team.

Empathy with the buyer.

Empathy with the execs.

That's what it all comes down to. 

As always, for the best stories about career, buyer, and personal journeys, follow The Marketer’s Journey on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher, and Google Play.

About the Author

Randy Frisch is a co-founder of Uberflip and held many roles, including President and CMO, where he evangelized the content experience.

Profile Photo of Randy Frisch