Between the challenges of marketing during an economic downturn and unique considerations for communicating during a global pandemic, businesses need to work harder than ever to earn trust from both customers and employees.
Even more, companies that don’t work to balance empathy with their bottom lines are being held accountable. In July, REI was hit with staff backlash for its response to a positive case of COVID-19, and Tyson received a letter from over 122 advocacy groups after exposing thousands of workers to the virus. In today’s chaotic landscape, empathy isn’t just about doing the right thing — it’s necessary to protect your business.
Supporting your employees and driving revenue should not be — and does not need to be — a tradeoff. Rather, the two go hand in hand. To run a business, we need happy and healthy employees. When employees are happy and healthy, they’re able to be kinder and more empathetic with prospects. Buyers leave happier, buy more and remain more loyal over time.
Even during a global pandemic, good employees have options. If they don’t experience empathy at your organization, they’ll jump ship for a different employer. And with less income to spare, businesses are less open to a hard sell. Using the same tactics as in the past could land you in a previously loyal buyer’s spam folder. So, how can marketers create and live by messages that resonate with potential employees and prospective clients?
Practice empathy for employees and customers
Empathy starts at the top. Have open conversations with employees about what it means to be there for each other and for your customers. As a leader, open up about what’s on your mind to build human connections with your team. And as you have these conversations, think about what you can do to create more empathy on a structural level. Specifically, consider the following practices:
Help employees find their north star.
The best sellers actually believe in their products. If your employees are simply turning on their computers each morning to earn paychecks, your customers will smell it, and your employees will quickly burn out. Employees need to be connected to a deeper meaning in their work — a north star to guide them, whether it be improving business KPIs or getting involved in DEI initiatives. Connect your employees to their north star by talking to your team and determining what allows each of you to thrive. Remember there’s no one-size-fits-all for employees — what makes one of your team members tick likely differs from what motivates you.
Focus on education.
Many buyers are facing budgetary restrictions, which means now isn’t the time for a hard sell. Connecting with prospects on a deeper level and focusing on education around your product allows you to keep contacts close until they’re ready to make a purchase. If you can figure out what customers care about right now and get involved in that conversation, it’s the best way to show empathy.
Ask questions and provide answers: How has their business changed through all of this?
What is their strategy to weather through tough times?
Show them how your product or service can help their business. It’s critical to train all employees to be masters in empathetic conversation.
Develop consistent messaging across channels.
Your employees and customers want to know you stand for something. When messages bounce back and forth between tones or points of view, prospects and customers will lose trust and seek brands they feel a closer connection to. Everything from outbound emails to ads to blogs to social media should communicate the same message. Crafting a consistently empathetic message across all channels helps prospects get to know your voice, and helps them know how to act. After you’ve created your message, continuously measure how it’s performing and tweak it as needed.
Infusing empathy into all interactions with customers and employees is no small task. It requires a serious commitment on your organization’s part to live by its values and use feedback for constant improvement. But it’s also critical to driving value and employee retention efforts.
Creating an empathetic business doesn’t always require a massive overhaul of physical office space or giving away free services. Evaluate your day-to-day before diving into major business strategy shifts. Beginning a conversation with a genuine, “how are you doing?” is a good place to start.