By Holly Bowyer, CEO of Media & Marketing Minds
September marks the beginning of the Fall season and for many, the start of the school year. For the past 19 years, that’s what it has been in the Bowyer household. Now, with the last of our three daughters heading off to college, this was the first year we didn’t have a child in the school system. However, as a school board member, I still found myself heading off to the all-girls 4th-12th grade school, for the beginning of the school Convocation, aka “Opening Ceremonies.”
As I arrived at the school, I was admittedly dreading the experience. It was a ceremony I had attended so many times and now, with no child of my own present, it felt more like an obligatory, “check the box”-type of inconvenience After parking my car and putting a smile on my face, I paraded into the gym along with many other parents and students of the all-girls 4th-12th grade school. It was time to kick off the new year.
The room was filled with hope, excitement, nervousness and apprehension, so dense you could feel it. Looking around, I could see the somewhat green, eager parents holding the hands of their pristinely dressed 9 year olds, who wore pleated white skirts that hung appropriately below their knees with shiny new shoes. I also spotted the familiar site of parents of the seniors who waved from a distance to their girls, huddling together proudly wearing their rolled up short skirts and their “senior shirts”.
I took a seat and scrolled through emails on my phone, waiting for the program to begin. Planning to multi-task my way through the next hour, I was mid-response to a client email when the Head of School appeared, began the Convocation and I felt something unexpected: inspiration.
This wasn’t just the same old beginning of school routine. The Head of School is a dynamic woman and she spoke passionately about the importance of empathy and connection. She walked the group through a series of questions and exercises, like asking everyone in the audience to think about another person in the room and put themselves in their shoes. Her ultimate objective was to demonstrate how taking a minute to listen and understand the views of others is so important. She highlighted how it helps to build relationships, strengthen communication, develop a point-of-view and potentially take action in a different way.
Her comments struck a cord with me both personally and professionally. Think of how many times you have been the recipient of someone who is empathetic to your situation or needs. I am going to take a guess and say that it changed your POV of that brand, that salesperson orthat experience overall. When someone takes the time to ask you questions to get clarity or requests your thoughts and opinions, the connection between the two of you changes very quickly.
You are heard. You are valued. You are seen.
In your own business, It’s no less important to connect through empathy and let your audience know that you hear and understand them. As you are talking to your customers—whether it is face to face or via a marketing communication vehicle—here are a few tips to remember.
Create a personal connection with your audience
There are so many ways to communicate with your customers these days. Let us make a suggestion - don’t get caught up in all the marketing hype! Connect with your customers the way you feel comfortable - connect according to your personality, your approach and the way your business operates. So, whether that is via social media channels, in an email or a blog, or sitting down for a cup of coffee, the most important thing is to take the time to actually connect. And don’t be shy about adding a few personal touches by telling a story. People work with people.
Build advocates and ambassadors for your business
In today’s world, there is so much talk about “influencers”—well-known people that promote products and get a decent payout to do it. And now, the marketing buzz is to go smaller and use “micro-influencers”. Guess what?You already have your own micro-influencers:your customers! They can be the biggest influencers you have! Connect with them. Educate them. Share your stories with them. Build your team of people who will talk about you, your products andyour customer service. Highlight them in your case studies. Give them a reason and a platform to sing your praises.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Connecting through empathy and letting your audience know you hear them creates lasting camaraderie and trust. Before you try to sell, listen. Listen to understand your client’s hopes, wishes and dreams along with the day to day challenges they face and the short and long-term goals they want to achieve. Listening and understanding from their POV will help you put together a personalized and customized approach for them.
Empathy fuels connection and at M3, that’s what we strive to do with each of our clients.
We would love to sit down with you and get to know you and your business over a good cup of coffee, a great glass of wine or a meaningful video conversation. Say hello here in the comments or feel free to email us at email@example.com.