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3 steps for building empathy in your B2B experience

Siegel+Gale

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March 4, 2024 | 5 min read

When we talk about brand experience with B2B clients, we sometimes hear scepticism

Look at it this way, if you’re dealing with a B2B buyer, their expectations are shaped both by their role and by their own consumer experiences. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if they dealt with a B2B partner that delivered a consumer-grade experience to them?

Putting empathy at the heart of B2B brands is top of CMO’s minds.

We recently spoke to CMOs at some of the leading brands out there in the B2B technology and services space, and our report shows that building empathy with customers is a top priority.

2020 was a turning point for a lot of organisations given the rapid pace of change in how customers are engaging with brands in a mostly virtual world. This has opened new avenues for engagement, especially through digital channels that might have been less of a priority a few years ago. With that rapid pace of change comes the challenge to stay relevant, and true empathy building becomes even more of a priority. Here are our top tips to get started, and scale up your empathy building in the B2B space.

Step one - Make it personal

Empathy comes from a deep understanding of who your customers are, beyond the data, and beyond the corporate segmentation your team has probably inherited. To build truly engaging experiences, you first need to make sure you know exactly what your customers expect of you – and then exceed those expectations in every interaction you have.

The first step to making it personal is to build a rich profile of who your audience is. Speaking to customers, asking them about their roles, needs and expectations, enables you to scratch beneath the surface, and dig into what really motivates and drives them. Personas are a great way of capturing the profiles of these audiences, the archetypes of your typical (and atypical) customers, alongside their needs, wants and hopes. They can become the lens through which your team makes every decision in the future - from what to write a piece of thought leadership about, and which channel to host your next event through, to what should your new account management platform do.

Once you know who your target audiences are, you can start to shape your experience around them. By doing just that, we recently helped B2B clients structure their thought leadership to appeal to a wide range of C-suite stakeholders, simplify the purchasing process for global procurement teams and design an on-boarding process for customers that builds a stronger ongoing relationship.

Step Two - Make it painless

Now that you have your customers’ attention, think about what you want them to do next – and make it as easy as possible for them to do it.

When mapping out the digital customer journey, we start by looking at the data. When deep diving into analytics, we quite often see very high bounce rates or exit rates on pages that are critical for conversation. We sometimes get customers to help us understand what’s going wrong by co-browsing with them. We try to uncover if what to do next is clear to them, if calls to action are clear and compelling, if the content we’re presenting is relevant content, and if help is easy to come by.

What we find is that clients often spend more time getting their customers’ attention than converting that attention into action. By mapping out the ideal journey we want customers to go on, it becomes easier to find the key moments of conversion and action. Approaching those journeys with a channel-agnostic perspective makes it easier for customers to engage on their own terms.

At those crucial moments in the journey, it is imperative to make it as painless as possible to take action or ask for help.

Step Three - Make it known

You might already be doing some great work on building empathy and embedding human-centred thinking into your experiences. Why not make it known?

Brands that have a true customer centric commitment embed customer feedback in their process, and they’re known for doing this. Monzo, a UK based digital bank, embedded this approach in their process from day one. They started out with an Alpha version of their card, inviting feedback from Alpha users, and iterated on that before launching a Beta version and then opening up access to the wider population. Even now, years after their launch, Monzo still captures feedback and feature requests from their users on an open blog. This openness and community engagement has helped bolster Monzo’s image in the minds (and hearts) of its customers.

There is no one-size-fits answer to getting this right for your organisation. From voice of the customer surveys, feedback capture forms on your website, a customer advisory panel to gather input into the future-state experience, or an experimental approach to test different executions and ideas before rolling them out to a wider audience, there are many ways to demonstrate a commitment to listening to customers and adapting to their needs.

In short, building empathy can be a refreshing differentiator for B2B companies. Building a deep understanding of customers’ expectations and their journey can help you get started. What customers want and need has changed at an incredible pace. Building empathy and closeness can help you anticipate some of these changes and stay ahead of the curve.

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