Customers aren’t the only ones who we owe empathy to

When I started at Hippo CMS (Now Bloomreach) back in 2014, it was the first time that I had seen the use of buyer personas. Up until then my limited marketing experience was all around addressable markets, target audience and really just 4P marketing. So when I was creating content for Mandy the Marketer, Joe the Java developer or Issac from ICT, I found fun, focus and energy. It wasn’t until much later though that I realized that I was missing at least 3 more personas — our own Product, Sales and customer service teams !

Sure, I was working day and in and day out with them, but it was always in service of the customer — to seek and understand their voice, champion their cause and deliver a compelling buyer/user experience. However, taking a product to market (and keeping it there) is not something one does in isolation.

So today, as a tribute to everyone I’ve worked with across Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Service, I figured I’d explore their worlds a little bit and introspect whether we’re doing right by them as marketers. Because well we hear you and love is the answer !

1. Sales

A poor lead, an entitled client or prospects gunning for end of year discounts- all armed with more information than ever before. Sales representatives are under constant pressure and face rejection, scrutiny and distrust at every turn. Balancing charm, competence and relationships while challenging and convincing customers when the stakes are high isn’t easy.

It doesn’t come naturally to most of us and even the best at it need assistance.

So if you’re a marketer and you catch yourself saying Sales aren’t making the most of the leads you bring, think beyond your nurturing campaigns for a sec and empathize. Understanding your sales colleagues’ approach as relationship builders, value sellers, evangelists or challengers is key to delivering the intelligence, collateral, approach or whatever they need in order to charm, collaborate with, challenge and convince a customer. Never forget — sales success is what pays our salaries!

2. Product

Everyone’s got a million dollar idea but getting it from there to the hands of a customer is a long road fraught with challenges, uncertainties, ups and downs. The Product Team are among the first to wade into uncharted territories when coming up with a minimum viable product, releasing upgrades or launching entirely new portfolios. With never ending feature requests both local and global from customers, sales and marketing, planning and sticking to a roadmap is no mean feat.

So if you want the product to cash the check your marketing writes, best believe you need to be thick as thieves with the development team. Because the buyer journey will ultimately need to square with the user experience. So instead of shitting on features or lamenting their absence, find the real-world benefits they do offer the customer and bring it out front and centre.

3. Customer Service

Customer service tends to be on the receiving end of some of the most visceral moments of the customer journey. They often have to clean up after the rest of us whether it’s overpromised offerings, misunderstood positioning or stuff that’s just broken.

And with every beta release, product launch or upgrades we’re compounding their problems. Handling calls and tickets with patience, empathy and competence when a customer’s upset is neither fun nor easy when you’re expected to have all the answers that even your product team doesn’t.

Empathizing with their world not only opens up opportunities to equip them for the most important customer experience channel but also offers a goldmine of feedback and product ideas.

4. My fellow marketers

I get it, we’re constantly asked to prove immediate ROI, noone answers to us yet we absolutely have to nail that next campaign, product launch or event and everyone’s got ideas to improve the website, SEO, CTAs. And yes we’ve got to ghost write that next blog for the CTO too.

Empathizing with the marketer’s relentless pursuit of channel, content, campaign performance while staying on brand, in compliance and under budget helps us realize how important it is to come up with crisp positioning, clear messaging and a compelling story to ensure we don’t veer off target.

A note to my fellow product marketers

No I haven’t forgotten about you my friend. But there is a certain humility that needs to come with being a product marketer. Because your master plan to take over the world will never see the light of day — because well its not supposed to.

Your research will be hidden away in MRDs and positioning documents and you’ll spend half your time building message houses pillared by value propositions that pledge brand allegiance while offering proof points just in time for someone to go off script on twitter or overpromise a client.

Your work will inform the content, campaigns and collateral, and salesguides/battle cards will remain top secret. You might get the occasional blog or webinar with your name on it. But its not about you and you’ll need to be ok with that.

In these times of disruptive innovation and transformation where AI and Machine learning have outclassed human cognitive ability, I believe our ability to connect with people will matter more than ever before. So let’s bring soul back into business, marketing and leadership. Because in our hyper connected and data driven world, data may bring sense but it is still people that bring meaning.

Marketer, Techie, Storyteller