As marketers at Acquia, we are both the targets and the creators of B2B marketing programs. Every day, we delete irrelevant inbound solicitations out of hand. We sometimes coldly criticize the senseless pleas from vendors’ biz dev people who call and email, looking desperately for a way in.
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I bet you can be quick with the delete key, too.
At the same time, we’re building the machine that helps our audience come to better know and trust Acquia; working all the while to not commit the very same copywriting crimes that would offend our own sensibilities.
Marketing programs are delivered best when they’re delivered with a sense of empathy. And it’s not always easy to do.
Empathetic marketing means being acutely aware of your audience. It’s about acting with an understanding of their challenges, the pressures they work under, and the things they need to succeed. It’s respecting their time and attention, and delivering content that likely meets them at their point of pain. It’s not about selling as much as it’s about educating, and even at times entertaining.
Marketing teams are driven to deliver on aggressive goals to deliver leads for sales. That’s definitely true at Acquia, where our marketing programs are also a critical part of educating and informing an entire industry of developers, engineers, and marketing pros who need to learn about the latest tech. Marketing programs built with a strong focus on nurturing prospects and providing critical insights have the best chance at winning with empathy.
“We really try to lead all our programs with an outside-in approach,” said Alexandra Schurr, who manages demand generation programs at Acquia. “We start with the common pain points that our customers share and how we might help. We try to speak in a way that is familiar to them, because we want to help them get to know us. And we want to help educate them.”
Campaigns that focus on products and apps we’re trying to sell, she notes, sometimes generate initial interest and even a promising round of leads. As we track what happens with those relationships, though, we can see that more often than not, product-led conversations don’t build long-term interest and gain trust with our prospects.
“When we offer prospects content that’s designed to engage and inform based on real challenges they’re experiencing, we’re better able to educate people and warm them to opportunities with Acquia,” Schurr said. “Analytics help us be more empathetic. We can see trends, and the numbers show us what’s happening among certain audiences. It gives us a chance to make informed decisions and refine our strategies.”
Persona-based marketing also helps us be more empathetic. The more we know about our audience, the better chance our marketing strikes the right tone, balance and message.
Former Boston Globe editor DC Denison has been building a steady following for Acquia’s developer site, which he edits. He knows well the peril of hitting a critical audience with messages that don’t resonate.
“Developers are so hungry for information, and they really need the brass tacks to advance their knowledge and help them stay productive,” Denison said. “Vamp and sweeten your pitch, and they’re gone in a heartbeat. They’re looking for tips, they’re looking for code, and they want to find it fast.”
Understand how you can be most helpful to your audience, and deliver information in a format that works best, he recommends. That contributes a long way toward gaining trust.
“Much of our marketing is about helping people understand a problem and find a solution. Particularly in enterprise marketing, where we spend lots of time thinking about who the buyers are and who influences purchases,” Denison said “There’s a lot of browsing that happens. People will keep subscribed to companies in their field, and their interest may be percolating at a low rate until they hit an hour of need. If we’re not being empathetic to the challenges they have, we’re not going to be successful.”
Most of all, empathetic marketing takes time: building processes and building trust while building a lead machine that delivers on a company’s goals takes a commitment to the practice.
“Marketing is hard to do well, and it’s hard to do without criticism. Everyone considers themselves a marketer,” Schurr said. “If you’re only focused on the lead numbers, you may miss the chance to make your program more empathetic and more successful. So much rides on the work that we do, but it’s important to stay committed to educating and keeping your prospects’ needs first.”