Back to Gartner for Marketers Blog

You Gotta Have Help: Marketing with Empathy

By Kristina LaRocca-Cerrone | August 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

MarketingMarketingContent MarketingContent MarketingDemand Generation and Sales Enablementdigital marketingMarketing, Consumer, and B2B Insights

B2B and B2C marketers are eager to show customers – and prospects – that we “get” them. Empathetic marketing is the buzzphrase of the day. As my colleague has said, the potentiality and pitfalls of empathetic marketing have been argued about and opined upon by plenty of more distinguished authors. But, whether your marketing strategy is predicated on demonstrating empathy or not, you should certainly be focused on help.

All customers, B2B or B2C, want to make good, informed choices. They want to make decisions that feel rigorous and well-considered. Yet they don’t want to be overwhelmed with information. It may seem like a high-wire balancing act, but marketers have a truly unique opportunity to support both these needs in a way that measurably improves commercial outcomes.

B2C Help: The Importance of Customer Agency

In B2C, we know customers want to explore and experiment. 61% of consumers say they enjoy the process of researching new products – 58% love seeking out new products and services to try. And even those consumers who don’t say they enjoy this exploratory process are still engaging in pre-purchase exploration.

The most effective tactic for catering to this customer behavior is in supporting customer agency: the degree to which customers feel equipped to plan, evaluate, and manage purchase outcomes while still exploring. And it pays: B2C marketers who help customers explore in a structured way can increase the likelihood of purchase by 42%.

Take M.M. LaFleur as an example. The brand has created a digital experience organized by persona, so that customers can explore product options based on their own personality and needs – or even, who they aspire to be. Customers can be introduced to products they hadn’t initially considered, but won’t be overwhelmed by endless scrolling.

This experience gives customers a tightly scoped moment of exploration, within specific boundaries. It’s manageable, and productive for the brand and the customer. It gives customers the opportunity to choose for themselves, but still feel like they’ve considered all the right options.

B2B Help: The Importance of Decision-Confidence

Although B2B buying groups aren’t making precisely the same kinds of decisions as consumer audiences, they feel the same pressure to be rigorous, and confident, in the decisions they do make.

And it’s just as important for marketers to help the customer in that process, this time, by supporting quality decision-making. Gartner research has found that improving the quality of decision-making drives up buying groups’ decision-confidence. And improved decision-confidence translates to a 3.6x greater likelihood of completing a high-quality deal (that is, a deal of $10,000 USD or more).

B2B buyers need to validate independent research, arrive at consensus together, and most importantly, they need to be able to evaluate a purchase within a broader customer change journey. Most B2B purchases happen in the context of organizational change, with companies making purchases in order to enable some other goal.

Marketers who help their B2B buyers navigate those change journeys have even greater opportunity to build decision confidence and close the deal, because they’re helping buyers with what really matters: not the purchase, which is often just an outgrowth or incremental part of change, but with the change itself.

For example, Hilrom helps B2B customers plan, execute, and measure safe patient handling initiatives. Those customers will likely make many purchases – including purchasing hospital beds from Hilrom – as part of that change. But they won’t make any purchases, from anybody if they get bogged down in all the decision-making challenges inherent in evaluating existing patient handling programs, identifying improvements, etc. By playing the role of project manager, Hilrom can help customers achieve a mission-critical priority, and close the deal at the same time.

Hilrom’s Change Enablement Collection

Source: Adapted from Hilrom

You Gotta Have Help

Whether B2B or B2C, marketers seeking to improve customer acquisition and retention need to refocus on supporting customer confidence. Help your consumer customers explore, within boundaries. Help your B2B customers see around corners and make robust decisions in the context of their own organization’s goals and initiatives.

Both approaches focus on helping the customer do something that matters to them: empathy, rooted in action.

Supplemental Reading

For B2C Marketers: Redefining Customer Agency to Drive Growth

For B2B Marketers: Engaging B2B Buyers in Uncertain Environments

Leave a Comment