What Does it Mean to Market with Empathy in 2021?



Marketing and selling with empathy isn't a new idea. If you’re not messaging to your prospects’ challenges and pain points, you’ll be left behind in 2021.

By Lisa Heay, Marketing Planning Manager at Heinz Marketing

If you read any B2B Marketing Trends for 2021 article, you’ll likely find marketing with empathy is a hot topic. How could it not be after the year we’ve had? But marketing and selling with empathy shouldn’t be a new practice. If you’re not messaging to your prospects’ challenges and pain points, you’re going about it the wrong way.

Marketing to Humans

I watched a great LinkedIn Learning course last year on Marketing to Humans, presented by Stefan Mumaw, Director of Narrative Strategy at First Person. Because after all, companies do not make purchasing decisions. People do. Human people. And people are motivated by their emotions. Love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear are the six primary human emotions. Of course there are a myriad of feelings within those base emotions, but they all fit into one of those six categories. How does your solution speak to those emotions?

Mumaw explains that as a brand, your mission should be to make your prospects love you, not buy you. If you can understand your prospects’ loves and fears, you’ll understand their base motivations, and how (or if) your solution fits into what they love, or if it alleviates a fear. 

He goes on to explain that as brands, every time we create something we should ask ourselves why we’re doing it. If it starts with “we”, you’re acting from the perspective of the brand. “We’re great because of x, y, z feature.” But if you can flip it and the “why” starts with “they” – that’s the human approach that puts your prospect front and center.

I can’t do this course justice, but I highly recommend watching Marketing to Humans for a lot more detail and a deep dive into marketing to human emotions and motivations. 

Marketing and Selling with Empathy

In the meantime, I’ve collected a handful of great articles on the topic of marketing and selling with empathy—check them out!

Get human in your marketing now to reach B2B buyers in 2021
As economies recover from the impact of Covid-19, the brands that will reach and convert prospects to buyers in 2021 are the ones who will take a human-centric approach in how they listen and talk to their audience to help them engage, retain, and build connections with their audience online. Great article, Megan Thudium!

Professional Empathy: Where Humanity Meets Business
Professional empathy is an interpersonal skill that is important in developing relationships with co-workers and colleagues as well as customers. Though empathy is often considered the basis of emotional intelligence (EQ), it doesn’t always get the respect it deserves in business situations. Thanks to Heinz Marketing’s own Maria Geokezas!

#B2BMX Emphasizes Empathy In Storytelling & Renewed CMO Focus In 2021
This year’s B2BMX Online Experience opened with a keynote titled “Leading With Empathy: Let Your Customer Become Your Best Brand Storyteller” led by Miri Rodriguez, Storyteller and the Head of Internship Programs at Microsoft. 

In it, she discussed the importance of empathy in the buyer’s journey, and according to this article, she explained that “when brands create marketing content for buyers and prospects, they often make the mistake of solely using facts and statistics for their storytelling. When marketing to humans, she explained that empathy allows brands to connect with buyers on a cognitive, emotional and compassionate level.” 

Read on for her five-step process to develop B2B stories that resonate with buyers using empathy. Great summary, Michael Rodriguez

“Show more empathy!” – Microsoft, EY and Mitel on how B2B marketing will evolve in 2021
In a #B2BWorldFest panel made up of marketing leaders from Microsoft, EY, and Mitel, being able to adapt to changing customer behaviors and showing more compassion in marketing campaigns are among the key areas B2B marketers will need to improve in order to succeed in 2021. Thanks for the recap, Thomas Hobbs!

Top B2B Marketing Trends for 2021
This article doesn’t solely highlight empathy, but instead it’s Lee’s top B2B Marketing trends for this year.  He highlights personalization, influencer marketing, and customer experience, amongst others, but if you notice – many of these trends are about appealing to the human in your prospects.  

He goes on to say that “In 2021 B2B brands will focus on authenticity in their communications and make substantial efforts to better empathize with buyers, be “more human” and add emotion to their marketing strategy.” I’m interested to see how these trends play out this year. Thanks Lee Odden!

Brand Empathy: The One Critical Quality B2B Content Lacks [Video]
You’ll notice this article was published before the pandemic, but Jodi Harris of the Content Marketing Institute hit the nail on the head, further proving this is not (or shouldn’t be) a new initiative.

Jodi explains that “true brand empathy is different from merely identifying needs, serving up useful information, or even understanding the personal motivations that drive consumption. True brand empathy is about creating a shared journey between your brand and its audience. It involves a deeper connection to and understanding of that audience on an emotional level, as well as rational and transactional ones.”

To wrap up…

Clearly empathy isn’t just a key to business, but a great reminder for all the relationships in our lives. If this past year has taught me anything, it’s the importance of human connections and what it means to put ourselves in others’ shoes.

Have you tried a more empathetic approach to sales and marketing? What was the outcome?