The Splash | Issue 3: Empathy | By Turtl
In this issue of The Splash: empathy as a leadership quality, design for cognitive bias, the psychology of reviews, recruitment after COVID, and more...
*Preserving intimacy online*
*The Psychology of reviews*
*Design for cognitive bias*
*Recruitment after covid*
*B2B storytelling, and more...*
*In this issue:*
Cultivating compassionate empathy
It’s almost too on the nose in this most intense of years to be talking about empathy. The word was tainted, even pre-2020, by overuse in business and leadership rhetoric. Empathy is key to business success, so the story goes. It’s a bit of a reductive statement really. Empathy is the key to human success. Without this ability to separate our own perceptions and feelings from those around us - a critical neurological function - we’d be a roaming horde of egocentric narcissists. We are successful social animals because we can understand and act on the feelings and needs of others, even when they don’t match up with our own.
There are three kinds of empathy:
- Cognitive empathy: the ability to rationally “see” the perspective of another
- Emotional empathy: when you experience another person’s feelings as your own
- Compassionate empathy: when you feel someone else’s pain and take action to help them resolve it
Compassionate empathy is the most useful kind in most contexts, as it’s not just a matter of understanding and feeling someone’s pain, but helping them navigate a way out of it. In business, compassionate empathy fuels the best solutions to customer pain points.
If you want to master compassionate empathy, start by paying attention to what you don’t know.
We are not all equally equipped with these different types of empathy, as your latest true crime docuseries will neatly demonstrate. Context also plays a role. Research shows that our ability to empathize is reduced the more comfortable (and privileged) we are. The good news is that we can learn to be more compassionate, and take certain steps to empathize more effectively with our colleagues, customers, and neighbors.
How empathetic do you consider yourself?
- I haven't given it much thought
- Probably too empathetic at times
- I try, but I'm only human
Our compassion works like a muscle and can be strengthened with regular practice. In doing so, we physically alter our brain’s reaction to another’s suffering. There’s one step that everyone can adopt right away to be better empathizers: curiosity.
As Peter Bregman writes: “Before demonstrating my understanding, I have to develop it. I need to ask questions and be open and listen and learn. Which takes humility. Humility is not knowing. And that, eventually and almost always, leads to empathy which leads to compassion.”
If you want to master compassionate empathy, start by paying attention to what you don’t know. Ask. Listen. Learn. It’s the path to us all feeling a little more seen. ◆
Editor, The Splash
Building remote relationships with buyers through digital touchpoints
A look into the behavioral science that underpins online feedback
Understanding design ethics, influencing stakeholders, and using biases for good
Unlocking empathy in account-based targeting through data obsession
How learning to understand, respect, and implement other points of view drives business growth
Exploring the causes of candidate ghosting and biased hiring to bring empathy to recruitment
Why crafting a compelling brand story is the ultimate future-proof against competitors
Closing the loop:
How to preserve intimacy online
By Dani Mansfield
Here’s a fun fact for you – we humans can make over 10,000 different facial expressions, each one presenting a volume of information in a flash. Studies have shown a staggering 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, conveyed instead by tone, facial expressions, body language, and other physical behaviors.
You only need to spend about five minutes on Twitter to experience the implications that our reliance on digital channels has for our ability to accurately convey meaning. Putting a message out there, after all, is only one side of the communication coin. The other is how that message is received. A lot can get confused in the go-between.
Your ability to build relationships remotely depends on how well you’re able to compensate for the information and intimacy lost when communication moves online.
The adoption of Zoom and other video conferencing tools during the pandemic demonstrates the value we place on being able to see each other’s faces and expressions. Having the camera switched on feels like a more intimate exchange, and the faces our listeners pull give us important feedback on how a conversation is going. But we can’t access that feedback across most other digital communication channels, like when a buyer is browsing your website, watching a video, or reading your sales proposal. And what Zoom and it’s kind don’t capture are those moments of social connection that happen on the peripheries of an in-person meeting: the off-topic chat on the way to the meeting room, the confessions made over the pouring of coffee.
Your ability to build relationships remotely depends on how well you’re able to compensate for the information and intimacy lost when communication moves online.
Behavior is telling
In the offline world – at events, in particular – you can spot a person who’s interested in your offering fairly effortlessly. There are clear signals that it’s a good time to strike up a conversation. They’ll perhaps have just finished chatting to a competitor at an adjacent booth, or they’ve been eyeing up your live demo from a distance. In the online world, companies like Bombora have emerged to help businesses read the digital body language of target accounts to help you get in touch at the perfect time.
They use intent data to spot if and when a prospect is actively searching for your kind of offering, and which exact parts of it they’re looking for. That’s your SDR’s cue to pick up the phone.
This sort of third-party data can fill some of your information gaps, but first-party data is your brand’s true ticket to building deeper relationships with customers online. You can design your website and content to passively collect feedback from your visitor, and then use that information to tailor future touchpoints.
Touchpoints can talk
The context, interactions, and duration of engagement a visitor has with your channels and assets tell you a lot about who they are and what they’re interested in. It’s never been more important to build a data house that captures this behavior.
Your touchpoints help your buyers know you and help you know your buyers.
Imagine a contact logged in your CRM visits your website and spends 10 minutes reading through your market report, mostly focusing on the parts about a particular pain point your business can solve. They then move on to browse a selection of case studies, finding one that really interests them – as indicated by the length of time spent reading and interacting with it.
Your content is playing a double role here. It’s giving your visitor important information about the credibility of your business, but it’s also giving you important information about the intentions of that visitor. From their behavior – their digital body language – you now know which parts of your offering to talk to them about, and which customer story to go into particular detail on when you do. You can work out which other materials are going to be most useful to them, and later see how they interact with those to reveal even more about their intentions and priorities. This is a virtuous loop powered by strong data architecture and a customer-centric strategy. Your touchpoints help your buyers know you and help you know your buyers.
Closer through conversation
Putting commerce and business to one side for a second, think about how you typically go about building and keeping relationships going with people you don’t often get to see in person. If you’re one of the 4.8 billion people who own a mobile phone, this probably involves a fair amount of texting. Text and chat are informal and accessible ways of seeking and exchanging information, and that’s true in the business world as much as in our private lives.
SMS sees far higher engagement than email. According to SMS MarTech company NEO, customer open rates for SMS is 98 percent, while email is just 15 percent. Response rates are as high as 46 percent. Email is a mere six percent. Six! This is a channel designed for conversation, and it’s through conversation that relationships flourish.
SMS and chat are essentially open doors, especially when paired with AI. Your customers can get answers to their questions at a time that works best for them, and you in turn get to know more about them from the questions they’re asking. And that door is open in both directions. It takes 90 minutes, on average, for someone to respond to an email, but just 90 seconds to respond to a text.
If your goal is to build relationships at scale, chat and SMS tools get you closer to and more personal with buyers with far fewer resources than picking up the phone, and in a far more effective way than by email. Combine conversational channels with the insights captured from visitor interactions, and you can bring all the delight and convenience of a personal shopper to the digital buyer journey. Wouldn’t that be something? ◆
"90 percent of the people out there aren't evil, they're just thoughtless"
Talking design ethics with David Dylan Thomas
A Q&A with David Dylan Thomas
We caught up with the content strategist, speaker, and filmmaker about his new book, Design for Cognitive Bias.
What led you to explore the relationship between cognitive bias and design?
It all started with a talk that Iris Bohnet gave at South by Southwest a few years ago called Gender Equality by Design. Her point was around the idea that a lot of racial and gender bias comes back to pattern recognition.
Let's say you're hiring a web developer and the image in your head is a skinny white dude. That's coming from a pattern that you've seen in movies and TV or the offices that you've worked in. If you're explicitly asked if men are better at development than women, you would say that's ridiculous.
But when you see a name at the top of a resume that doesn't match ‘skinny white dude’, you automatically start to give it the side-eye.
Watch Iris Bohnet's SXSW talk
When I saw that something as terrible as gender bias and racial bias comes back to something as simple as pattern recognition, I decided I needed to learn everything I can about cognitive bias. So I studied one cognitive bias a day for a year and launched The Cognitive Bias Podcast.
The first time I really thought about putting my UX knowledge and my cognitive bias knowledge together was when a friend of mine asked me to speak about bias at a panel for city workers about accessibility.
I was later invited to Copenhagen to deliver a longer version of the talk, and it struck me that it was really all about design ethics.
What kind of design are we talking about here?
When I talk about design, I'm thinking of anybody whose job it is to help other people make decisions. You might be using visual cues, user experience principles, or content strategy to do it.
If your job is to help people make decisions, you're better off if you understand how people make decisions. And that's what cognitive bias is all about.
Are you making anything? Are you involved in the making of anything? Are you involved in the planning or budgeting of anything? And do any of those things help people make decisions? Yes? Okay, this book is for you.
One story you feature in the book is about a teenager’s use of design to curb cyberbullying – how did she do it?
It's a fascinating story. Tricia was 14 years old when she came up with this platform, called ReThink. She was really disturbed and upset by cyberbullying and hate-posting, and how in some cases it had led people to suicide. So she decided to do something about it.
And it was simple, really. If you're about to post a message that the platform detected could cause harm, it would pop up an intervention saying something like: “this looks like it might be harmful. Are you sure you want to post it?”
As soon as you remind them there's a human being on the other end of that communication, they change their behavior.
She did her first experiments with adolescents, who notoriously don't think before they act – that part of their brain literally hasn't finished forming yet. Over 90 percent of the people who saw the intervention didn't send their message.
I find that to be a really powerful example for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it tells us that all is not lost, 90 percent of the people out there aren't evil, they're just thoughtless. And as soon as you remind them there's a human being on the other end of that communication, they change their behavior.
The other thing is that it takes just two sentences to stop them. We’re losing our minds over social media, and it takes two sentences. If a 14-year-old can figure this out, we have
When designing interactions with stakeholders, you highlight the value of understanding what’s motivating and incentivizing people to behave in certain ways. How do you go about uncovering that?
It's very hard because it requires trust. Trust is hard. There's an example I give in the book about some folks who are trying to build a new taxonomy. We kept hitting all these roadblocks – roadblocks that didn't make any sense until we eventually figured out that we were dealing with two warring camps inside the same company. Once we understood our job wasn't to build a taxonomy so much as it was to broker a peace between these two warring camps, then it all unfolded.
If you're talking to someone and you need to change their mind, first of all, stop trying to do that.
Getting to that point requires someone to eventually sit you down and tell you: “Hey, look. This team over here really got screwed over the last time we tried to do a taxonomy, so they're really super suspicious.”
People don't talk about that stuff at the kickoff. Trust builds over coffee and sitting around after the meeting to chat a little longer. That's how these things usually come out. It's all very human and messy and social.
Once you get that information, you can start to empathize: Okay, well of course you're not incentivized to do research, you're not incentivized to listen to this presentation, or whatever. I need to understand what's really motivating you.
How do you go about challenging and changing stakeholders’ opinions and behaviors?
If you're talking to someone and you need to change their mind, first of all, stop trying to do that. Instead, walk into the room and try to hear them. Try to really understand where they're coming from. They’ll appreciate that. You may not change their mind, but I can guarantee you that if they don't feel heard, they definitely won't change their mind. If you shut down their dignity, if you shut down their agency, they're not going to listen to anything else you have to say.
But if they feel heard, that’s like opening the door – now it's possible for them to consider other points of view because they know that their point of view is being valued.
Once they feel seen, you can give them the tools to come to the desired conclusion on their own. That's even better than you convincing them. If I convince you of my idea, when the going gets tough, you can just abandon it, because it's not really your idea. It’s different when you have ownership of that idea. If you feel something is your idea, you’re gonna fight for it – tooth and nail. ◆
Design for Cognitive Bias
is available now
I want it
Power to the reviewers
The psychology of writing and responding to online feedback
By Natasha Keary
The average consumer spends roughly 14 minutes reading online feedback before making a purchase decision and expects to scroll through at least 40 reviews each time. Faced with this swamp of information, our brains have developed shortcuts and biases to help us avoid illegitimate reviews and make informed decisions. Getting to know these cognitive shortcuts leads to a better understanding of the science behind star ratings and the people behind the comments.
A short history of eWOM and social proof
The WOM tradition
Why are reviews so important to us? It all leads back to word of mouth (WOM), a traditional cornerstone of social influence. If a close friend calls and gives you a glowing review of the new cauliflower-based pizza, it’s likely that you’ll want to try it for yourself. WOM is one of the most powerful ways of influencing a decision — according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over anything else.
This tradition boils down to social proof — a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence. Cialdini describes the psychological act of copying another’s behavior in order to act and react appropriately. You see evidence of social proof everywhere in daily life. It’s behind thinking, ‘I must try that restaurant’ after noticing it consistently has a queue outside and making a questionable fashion choice after your friend says they ‘absolutely love it’. All in all, we like to use others’ experiences of others to inform our own decisions — and who can blame us.
During the rise of the internet, review websites emerged for everything from attorneys to company culture to vegan dining. Queue the dawn of electronic word of mouth (eWOM), bringing with it a supersized portion of social proof. Nowadays, 93% of consumers use online reviews to inform their purchase decisions, and 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. What could possibly go wrong?
30-40% of online reviews are estimated to be fake
The psychology of reviews
Just under a decade ago, TripAdvisor was investigated by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) over the rising number of fake reviews on its website. The travel company subsequently changed its slogan from ‘Reviews you can trust’ to ‘Reviews from our community’.
While eWOM continues the word of mouth tradition, it brings with it a host of new dangers. It’s far less likely that family or friends giving us recommendations in person are being paid to do so or are secretly fake news bots. On the other hand, between 30-40% of online reviews are estimated to be fake. So how do we, as consumers, tell a legitimate review from an illegitimate one? Research shows that we’ve developed a number of biases to help us cut through the noise.
68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see a range of positive and negative feedback
Number of reviews
There’s something fishy about a product with five stars but only a few reviews. If it’s not a bot, friend, or freelancer, it might just be an employee giving their own company some love — The Wallstreet Journal reported an employee leaving multiple five-star reviews on a range of upmarket espresso machines that his own company produced.
According to research from BrightLocal, we only begin to trust a product’s star rating once it has over 40 reviews. This golden number is the difference between feeling validated in making a purchase and looking elsewhere.
Positive or negative
It never seems like a good thing when the bad reviews roll in. However, research shows that negative feedback helps us to assess the legitimacy of a company. 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see a range of positive and negative feedback, whereas 30% of potential buyers report becoming suspicious when they can’t see any negative reviews at all.
A study by Brent L.S Coker concluded that the order in which reviews are presented hugely affects our final judgment. If positive reviews come first, we’re more likely to go away with a positive evaluation, whereas if negative reviews come first, we’re likely to be dissuaded entirely. This links back to prospect theory in psychology.
The premise is that ‘losses loom larger than gains’ or people tend to focus more on negative experiences than positive ones. This means that a negative review stays with us — even if the subsequent comments are positive.
Responding to reviews
Online feedback is a useful way of finding out someone’s experience first-hand. But thinking of this as a one-way interaction is misguided: 89% of consumers nowadays read businesses’ responses to reviews, and businesses who don’t reply earn 9% less revenue than average. That means that review sites should be thought of as spaces for conversation and relationship building. So how do you reply to reviews — especially negative ones — without coming across as dismissive or robotic?
Writing with empathy
Reading about someone’s experience and understanding their experience are not always the same thing. Responding to negative reviews with questions leads to a greater understanding and a greater likelihood of remedying the problem.
In linguistics, the concept of empathy refers to how someone’s sentence construction shows their point of view or perspective. Linguistic empathy is behind the difference between the sentences ‘I fought him’ and ‘he fought me’. In the first place, the onus is on ‘I’, and in the second, it’s on ‘he’. The concept is useful to bear in mind when writing review responses.
Placing the onus on the reviewer isn’t likely to make them feel heard and understood. This is the difference between:
We’re sorry to hear you had a bad experience.
We’re sorry we missed the mark this time.
All in all
There's a reason why your gut instinct is to choose a company with a lower average star rating but a higher number of reviews. There's a reason your brain bets on a business that responds to reviews to deliver better customer service.
The ticket to standing out in the vast world of online reviews isn't a never-ending streak of stars but a healthy portion of good conversation. After all, it was once impossible to receive a review without it. Harnessing the power of online feedback is really as simple as old-school listening and responding — that's what really makes our brains happy. ◆
Why empathy is the force that moves business forward
By Jayson Boyers
How can you walk in someone else’s shoes if you never get out of your chair?
One of the hallmarks of a successful business is its ability to harness creativity to constantly push into new territory. Without growth and innovation, businesses stagnate and eventually fade away. Those with staying power, however, have mastered an intangible, often overlooked factor that allows them to focus on the future with clarity: empathy. While that may surprise many, I am certain that the ability to connect with and relate to others — empathy in its purest form — is the force that moves businesses forward.
Though the concept of empathy might contradict the modern concept of a traditional workplace — competitive, cutthroat, and with employees climbing over each other to reach the top — the reality is that for business leaders to experience success, they need to not just see or hear the activity around them, but also relate to the people they serve.
Some may think they see the results they want from doggedly pursuing their goals without much thought for other people, or others’ successes along the way. This attitude works for some, but at some point — often sooner rather than later—everyone needs to rely on their relationships and established personal and professional connections. These relationships are the product of taking an honest and dedicated interest in others and their businesses. Successful people do not operate alone; each of us needs the support of others to achieve positive results that push us toward our goals. True empathy combines understanding both the emotional and the logical rationale that goes into every decision.
Empathy must be the driving force behind business communication
Effectively understanding empathy involves viewing it as each person’s connection to the people and marketplace that surround them. A biological principle known as co-evolution explains that the adaptation of an organism is triggered by the change of a related object. Similarly, businesses and their leaders participate in co-evolution-type relationships. Business success depends on empathetic leaders who are able to adapt, build on the strengths around them, and relate to their environment. When businesses fail, it is often because leaders have stopped focusing on understanding their environment intimately and instead stay insulated in their own operations. Successful business leaders are receptive to disruption and innately aware of what is going on in their organizations both internally and externally.
Empathy must be the driving force behind business communication. Unfortunately, I have seen many situations in which people talk at each other, instead of making a concerted effort to listen and discover opportunities for collaboration. The catalyst for change is open, two-way communication. Once people are able to step out of their offices and mindsets, and experience vulnerability, they truly begin to feel what those around them are feeling.
As I try to stress the importance of focusing on others and developing greater empathy, my question for these people is always, “how can you walk in someone else’s shoes if you never get out of your chair?”
To develop an effective workforce, we must be willing to compromise and meet people where they are. This can be frustrating and uncomfortable, particularly when you feel like your position makes more sense or offers a better solution. A critical part of developing empathy, however, is learning to understand, respect, and implement another individual’s point of view rather than forcing your own.
Early in my career, I learned the power of empathy to break down barriers and open doors. I was responsible for overseeing my company’s largest division, which needed drastic improvements from a state of poor employee morale, lack of trust in leadership, and customer retention issues. Rather than force my will and clean house, I sat down with each employee to gauge their feelings about the company and talk about how to improve results. Through empathetic employee engagement, we could create a pathway to success.
I wish I could say that there was a complete turnaround, but some employees felt that they would be happier elsewhere. We never stopped talking about what needed to be done, though — those who stayed knew that I was always open to new ideas.
Giving others an outlet to express their thoughts, even when we disagreed, gave people a vested interest in the company’s direction and success. To paraphrase the great singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, our cracks let the light in.
The door for empathy opens when we suspend our disbelief and openly engage new ideas. Relationship-focused success expands capacity and potential, and empathy is a business skill that actually grows when practiced and shared. Although it may be unlike any practice you have ever used within your business, empathy in the workplace creates and encourages sharing ideas free from the fear of ridicule. If we are to keep our businesses relevant and our consumers happy, we must embrace empathy and let it be the force that drives us forward. ◆
Jayson Boyers is President of Rosemont College, PA
This article first appeared on Forbes.com on May 30th, 2013. Republished here with permission from the author.
Putting employee experience in perspective
How employee engagement affects eight key business outcomes
The impact of high employee engagement
How companies in the top quartile for employee engagement compare to those in the bottom quartile across eight key business outcomes
Companies with employee engagement at the 99th percentile had four times the success rate of those at the first percentile1
REVENUE FROM NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES INTRODUCED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS2
Recruitment post Covid-19:
The search for empathy
By William Geldart
By William Geldart, Marketing Manager, BPS World
Widespread job losses from the pandemic have flooded an increasingly opportunity-scarce market. The subsequent blowback on recruiters and heightened focus on their soft skills has uncovered a delicate balancing act between the role of technology and human contact in the hiring process.
The power dynamic in recruitment has shifted. Just last year, we were being warned of a global candidate shortage of 85 million people by 2030. Those of us in recruitment marketing were being pushed to find new ways to attract and maintain the attention of a dwindling talent pool. And then 2020 hit.
Like many others, the recruitment industry was upended by the pandemic. Suddenly the market was highly competitive, with countless talented candidates going after limited job postings. This shone an unfavorable light on recruiters who have been unwilling or unable to manage this volume of people. Disgruntled candidates have taken to social media to criticize recruiters and hiring managers for inconsistent communication and, at times, even “ghosting”, where they don’t hear from a recruiter ever again.
These complaints center on a lack of humanity and empathy shown by those in recruitment for people whose lives have been uprooted by the events of this year.
Unfortunately, the truth is not so simple. In fact, it’s the “human” aspect of recruitment that’s responsible for many of their criticisms.
The uncomfortable truth about human empathy
It’s a common but understandable misconception that an optimal hiring journey should involve a high number of human interactions.
This method is fundamentally unsustainable when your number of candidates in the funnel reaches a certain level. It’s just not possible to give every single one of them a high level of direct, human attention. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, nearly 46% of hiring professionals said the outbreak has negatively affected the candidate experience at their company.
Human empathy is inherently biased. How we give and withhold it is formed by our own experiences and prejudices.
Operations aside, it’s also incredibly problematic to have every stage of a hiring process conducted by a single individual. Sadly, human empathy and bias go hand-in-hand.
Let’s say 300 people apply for a role. Based on technical skills and experience alone, they’re narrowed down to five people, all of whom would be great for the role. The fate of those five people is then in the laps of the gods. It’s all down to the hiring manager’s personal preferences and transient moods, whether they’re aware of that or not.
Someone could lose out on a role because the recruiter or hiring manager was feeling a bit tired during the interview. Or maybe another candidate reminded them of someone they knew. Or maybe someone else just seemed like they needed to catch a break.
The fundamental demand people are placing on recruiters right now is clarity.
Human empathy is inherently biased. How we give and withhold it is formed by our own experiences and prejudices. It’s why many in recruitment have tried to move away from filling roles with people who match company culture, which encourages homogeneity.
“We talk a lot about culture add rather than ‘fitting in’,” says Sandi Lurie, Senior Director of Global Recruiting at Optimizely. “‘Fitting in’ doesn’t create a diverse workforce.”
While it’s understandable that people want to be given personal attention in the hiring process, we need to be aware of the limitations of human involvement and fill those gaps with technology.
How technology can be used to build empathy at scale
Recruitment doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to adopting technology at the same pace as other industries. However, when given the chance, it can help pick up the slack where human output fails and even confront our own biases.
The fundamental demand people are placing on recruiters right now is clarity. They want to know which stage their application is at, when they’ll next hear an update, whether they’ll need to go back to an office environment, if their interview is going to be COVID-secure, etc. Addressing this is paramount.
Technology can be used to improve your capacity to be empathetic over time
As we’ve established, this can’t be done manually at any great scale. More and more recruitment agencies have adopted Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and talent pipelining software as a solution to this. It’s commonly used by marketing teams as it allows you to store huge numbers of contacts and automate messaging based on certain triggers. Pre-written automated messages might not sound particularly empathetic, but it means consistent touchpoints for every candidate so no one is ignored. And when you have access to vast amounts of data and the ability to segment, you can produce messaging that still sounds ‘human'. That’s much more than many are seeing now.
What's your worst experience with a recruiter been?
- Being sent a generic message about entirely unsuitable roles
- Being ghosted after expressing interest
- Being ghosted after an interview
- Being pressured into accepting a role
- Being pressured into a certain start date
Artificial intelligence (AI) is also growing in popularity.
One technique that’s been prevalent for a while now is psychometric testing which produces AI-generated assessments of a candidate’s suitability. This helps identify the best candidates for the role based on their personality profile and/or skillsets rather than demographic data subject to unconscious bias. Increasingly sophisticated gamification software is also becoming more widely-used, as well as other skills-related tools that remove bias and focus solely on the individual’s suitability for a role.
Technology can also be used to improve your capacity to be empathetic over time. At BPS World, we use Net Promoter Score®.
NPS measures a customer’s overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend us, which informs our own people strategy, and understanding of the experience we offer. We’ll ask candidates and hiring managers to rate us at every stage of the customer journey so we can isolate any problem areas.
This is measuring empathy as data that we can then analyze to improve not just one person’s experience with us, but every subsequent candidate’s as well.
By letting these technologies do the heavy lifting with labor-intensive tasks, recruiters are freed up to offer that human connection for important late-stage candidates when appropriate.
The future of technology-driven empathy in recruitment
It’s difficult to predict where technology might take recruitment in the future. Some say we’ll see face-scanning software that reads your emotional state and analyzes whether you’re telling the truth or not. Others think that sounds more like an episode of Black Mirror. But when we first started doing video interviews years ago, people labeled that as sci-fi as well.
What’s clear is that recruitment still has a long way to go. The backlash against our industry is proof that we’ve not kept pace with technology. When the job market changed essentially overnight, many lacked the agility to offer an empathetic experience to such a large volume of people.
While technology alone does not eliminate bias (AI is as biased as its creators after all) or completely replace compassion, it can be used alongside human labor to offer an experience that gives candidates the dignity and fair treatment they expect and deserve. The jury’s still out on whether this lesson will stick after the pandemic, but with projections of high unemployment to last for years, I don’t see there being much of a choice. ◆
BPS World is a global recruitment partner behind hundreds of thousands of unique and life-changing recruitment experiences across the globe
To be or not B2B?
Why crafting a compelling brand story is the ultimate future-proof against competitors
By Kit McKay
Once upon a time, the B2B buyer was considered a rational, emotionless being. Now, behavioral science and new buyer research tell us otherwise, but this myth is still deeply entrenched in B2B marketing. While brands battle it out over the latest product feature and pricing, there's one competitive advantage proven to outmatch all others: story. It's time to invest in the one thing that can't be copied.
The science of storytelling
Before we look at the business implications of storytelling, we need to understand the human implications, as the two are tightly bound.
The human brain is programmed to recognize patterns of information and assign them meaning. The stories we invent from these patterns allow us to better understand the world around us. We see ourselves in them, and the stories we hear become personal.
“Stories are the pathway to engaging our right brain and triggering our imagination,” explains Pamela B. Rutledge Ph.D., M.B.A.
“By engaging our imagination, we become participants in the narrative. We can step out of our own shoes, see differently, and increase our empathy for others.”
You can think of your brain as the ultimate virtual reality technology. When you consume a story, the same parts of your brain activate as if you yourself were experiencing first-hand the events described. So if you see someone eating something that looks tasty, your sensory cortex lights up as if you’re the person eating it.
Our brains are so hardwired for stories that we even fabricate them when they’re not actually there. This is called pareidolia, or “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist.” We personify abstract shapes and seek ourselves in the objects
In one study, 34 Massachusetts college students were shown a short film with two triangles and a circle moving across the screen. They were then asked to describe the scene. All but one described the movements with elaborate, human narratives, including:
- The two triangles were men fighting as a woman (the circle) tried to escape.
- The circle was “worried.”
- The circle and the little triangle were “innocent.”
- The big triangle felt “rage and frustration.”
This psychological principle refutes the common but misplaced idea that no one is interested in stories about complex business solutions. We will literally make stories out of nothing when given the chance.
By engaging our imagination, we become participants in the narrative. We can step out of our own shoes, see differently, and increase our empathy for others.
Pamela B. Rutledge Ph.D., M.B.A
How storytelling impacts the bottom line
The complex buyer journey is the main issue preventing storytelling from getting buy-in across the B2B world. It’s an easier sell for the B2C marketer, whose goal is often to trigger an impulsive emotional purchase from one decision-maker.
By comparison, B2B marketers must juggle the influences of purchasing committees, third-party buying consultants, and corporate procurement processes. Multiple layers of decision-makers distance marketer from customer and suggest that only “rational” arguments will win them over: If you buy X, your company’s productivity will increase by Y. But this is just fundamentally not how humans work or what they care about at a psychological level.
To put this misconception to bed, Google and CEB's Marketing Leadership Council worked with research firm Motista on a buyer survey. They found that in reality, 50 percent of B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with your brand, and 71 percent decide to purchase at the point where they see personal value in the product or service.
This was up to five times more than previous research they had conducted on B2C brands. They concluded that business purchases are more emotional because job prosperity and security are at stake.
On top of this, 68.8 percent of those surveyed were willing to pay a higher price to do business with a brand they believe in. An emotional, personal connection can supersede the brand differentiators that make sense "logically".
It's also virtually impossible to imitate as this kind of connection is rooted in a unique relationship between brand and buyer, making storytelling the ultimate future-proof against competitors.
“If your product features are worthwhile, then other companies will copy them within a short time,” explains Gideon Thomas, VP of Marketing and Growth at DealHub.io. “The thing that cannot be copied is your brand voice and the way you made your audience feel.”
of B2B buyers will pay a higher price for a brand they believe in
The thing that cannot be copied is your brand voice and the way you made your audience feel
Gideon Thomas, VP of Marketing and Growth at DealHub.io
Google’s Adwords Stories
While the number of B2B brands that really embrace storytelling is relatively small, the top brands invest heavily in it. HP has produced a full thriller series of cinematic videos starring Christian Slater. Advanced Business Solutions published literal fairytale books centered on the solutions its products offer.
But Google’s own series, Adwords Stories, is a perfect example of powerful storytelling that can be adapted to any budget. The documentary series consists of short one-off videos focusing on and promoting small businesses that use Google’s adwords tool.
In this video, we meet the people behind Zyrobotics and their mission to make the world a more accessible place for all children, especially those with motor skill challenges and other accessibility needs.
In reality, we learn almost nothing about Adwords here. We don’t know how much it costs, we know very little about what features it has, or how it integrates with our existing technology. But what we do learn is how it feels to use Adwords.
In under two minutes, we’re immersed in the lives of a small group of people with an important mission they’re extremely passionate about. This is a classic narrative in storytelling because it speaks to the psychological needs to succeed as an individual and to improve the communities we’re a part of. The secondhand emotions we experience through the story are then cognitively attached to Adwords and subsequently Google, without us even realizing.
Stories like these can be recreated more cost-effectively too. Salesforce get their customers to talk about how they’ve been successful in growing their business and then feature them on their “trailblazers” page. Microsoft highlights its employees and their personal stories in its Story Labs.
Of course, product and price have to meet certain expectations and play an important role in the purchasing decision. But when it comes down to making that ultimate decision between you and your competitors (who likely offer very similar solutions at a competitive price to yours), how you and your product make them feel could be the deciding factor.
Marketing is best placed to deliver this abstract strategy. As GE’s CMO, Linda Boff, puts it:
“The magic of any company’s story is one that the marketer is there to find, to sometimes dig out, sometimes unleash, and the best data in the world ain’t gonna get you there. Igniting passion remains vital to effective marketing.” ◆
What stories do you tell in your marketing?
- Product stories
- Customer stories
- Employee stories
- A little of everything
- None yet, but we're working on it
Data, the key to unlocking empathy in ABM
By Minaz Tejani
Does our data obsession stand in the way of real empathy? Far from it. To create a proper human connection, we need to know more.
By Minaz Tejani, Client Services Director, twogether
Hard, factual, unfeeling. If you’ve ever played the word association game with ‘data’, you probably got some unflattering results. What you probably didn’t get was ‘empathy’.
Picture the scene: you're at an expensive restaurant with fabulous food. You’ve met the person you're dining with before and it was an instant connection – all witty repartee and easy conversation.
When they arrive this time around, you rehash a quip about your favorite dish. Then have to explain it. You mention the sport you like. They ask how long you’ve played. Again. They don't remember a thing about you.
On its own, information cannot create an empathic connection
Minaz Tejani, twogether
There’s no empathy without (the right) data
It’s true that, on its own, information cannot create an empathic connection with someone. But it’s also true that you can’t empathize without knowing (and learning) a lot about them.
So, which data really makes the difference?
Firstly, data can mean virtually anything. In B2B marketing, it often means factual information about job titles or challenges. This data does many things: it allows you to find your targets, it tells you what they want solved, and it helps you position your products.
But when it comes to ABM, there’s another crucial level of data. It’s constantly evolving, and it’s the core of any genuine relationship. This is the information about what you share – whether that’s values, interests, or experiences.
Sympathy vs. empathy in ABM
We’ve all seen those ABM campaigns. The ones that focus on generic challenges. They ‘personalize’ assets with your company name and show how a solution can solve your problems. In short: well-informed,
Yet, change the name and it could work for any of your competitors. There’s no sense of your internal culture or your goals. It’s marketing that sells you a product, not a relationship.
While this marketing may give you some leads, it won’t build the trust that makes ABM so impactful. For that, you need to show that you share a company’s values, and that you aim for similar goals. Plus, you need to keep learning as you move through the relationship. In other words, you need to truly empathize.
Unlocking empathy in four steps
1. Walk the walk
The first step to showing shared values is simple: actually share values. Empathy in ABM – as in life – starts with knowing your own strengths and core aims. After all, headline messaging alone won’t spell ABM success.
You have to back up everything with genuine evidence, and live shared values through every sales call.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what drives your business, you can draw up a list of target companies. But the first question is: which firms are likely to share your values, experiences, or goals? If an account is potentially profitable but you have nothing in common, simply walk away. Your other marketing can reach it, but it’s not for your ABM.
If an account is potentially profitable but you have nothing in common, simply walk away
Minaz Tejani, twogether
2. Put the data in place
For every account or stakeholder you target, you need data that creates a genuinely unique picture. With the right social listening techniques and research, you can dig up insights into everything from corporate culture to internal thought leadership.
It’s these insights that can get you past the basic facts and give you the emotional truths you need for a great ABM campaign. It’s not about collecting information for the sake of information. Instead, it’s about finding every detail you can, throwing light – not just on challenges – but also on concerns, motivations, and aspirations.
As you discover more, think about how these emotional facts relate to your own business and the work you do. Where you overlap the most, you’ll find the best territory for your campaign. If you don’t have much in common, then it’s time to focus elsewhere.
It’s about finding every detail you can, throwing light – not just on challenges – but also on concerns, motivations, and aspirations
Minaz Tejani, twogether
3. Let the creative take hold
Parrot-fashion repetition isn’t empathy. I might say that I want a partner I can trust, but that doesn’t mean I want them to say ‘you can trust me’. And I might want a partner that values inclusivity, but they won’t convince me by claiming ‘we’re inclusive’.
So fuel your creative teams with the core emotional insights you’ve discovered.
Then take a step back and think more broadly about the message you want to give your audience. Shared values are better shown than told, so the subtext of your creative needs to do the work. If you judge work by that standard, you have a better chance of amusing and engaging your audience.
4. Live and learn
Good relationships are all about paying attention. Things don’t have to be perfect from the start, but you do have to respond to signals.
Before you set out on an ABM campaign, you need a plan for how you can collect information and improve your knowledge through every interaction. This is arguably the most valuable data set you have: the one that’s completely unique to your particular partnership.
If you put this front and center in your strategy, you’ll achieve a truly empathetic approach. ◆
Would you consider your ABM more sympathetic or empathetic in its current state?
- Sympathetic. Our personalization is largely surface level.
- Empathetic. We deeply understand our accounts and act accordingly.
- A bit of both.
Twogether is a multi-award winning marketing agency focused on B2B technology
4 types of sales videos to humanize your cadences
By Chris Gillespie
By Chris Gillespie, for Vidyard
Creating a video for sales is as simple as pressing record.
There are several different types of sales videos to choose from. Each one is suited to different goals and fits at different points in your sales cycle.
And, the more precisely you match your format to your prospect’s mindset or sales stage, the more effective your sales videos will be.
The most effective style of video depends on your use case and the message you’re trying to deliver.
Michelle Benfer, VP of Sales, HubSpot
#1 The screen share video
Great for: Explanations, product walkthroughs, email prospecting
Screen share recordings allow you to show and tell, and are ideal for explanations—like the reason for your outreach.
Sales reps often use screen shares as part of their video outreach to review the prospect’s LinkedIn profile to explain why they’re an ideal buyer or to explore their website to highlight areas where the seller can help.
If the salesperson reviews something the prospect will recognize, like their own profile, the rep can use that image to personalize the thumbnail to make it extra intriguing.
Reps can also record demo videos to walk prospects through a particular feature or benefit. Demo videos excel at convincing unsure prospects to commit to a longer call or eliminating the need for a second or third live demo to speed the deal along.
Take your screen share to the next level by recording on your webcam at the same time and adding your face to the corner of your video. This can be a great way to deliver complex information like a pricing proposal or demo while keeping things personal and putting a face to your name.
Before recording a screen share video:
- Turn off notifications and close unrelated or irrelevant tabs
- Organize the recording flow (such as putting your tabs in the order you’ll speak about them) ahead of time
- Optional: Do a trial run beforehand
#2 The webcam video
(a.k.a. selfie video)
Great for: Introductions, building relationships, email prospecting
In a webcam video, a sales rep records themselves speaking to the camera. It’s the next best thing to an in-person interaction: It travels anywhere an email does, but earns you face time where prospects would otherwise only get to know you through cold-hard text.
Because webcam videos familiarize prospects with your voice and face, they kickstart the relationship early. And because they transmit emotion, they’re shown to increase prospects’ attention and recall.
You can also use props to add an element of personalization or capture viewer attention.
Like all outreach, webcam videos must be relevant to earn responses. Reps should aim to intrigue prospects into clicking their video by selecting an interesting thumbnail that features a bit of personality and personalization—like a sign with their name on it, or the rep holding up one of their company’s products.
Once the video begins, get right to the point of how you can help.
#3 The marketing-personalized video
Great for: Driving leads and engagement at scale
Marketers can help sales reps conduct personalized outreach on a massive scale. A marketing team with a video platform can insert personalized snippets—such as the prospects’ name or the sales rep’s LinkedIn headshot—into a pre-recorded video, and then end the video with a link to the salesperson’s calendar.
The result is a video that feels like it was created just for the recipient and leads them to book a call.
Below is an example of a video produced by Vidyard’s own marketing team featuring one of its outbound sales reps, Jacob.
While it may look like this video was recorded just for “Jesse,” the name on the whiteboard is one of several elements that can be personalized, on the fly, for any individual recipient.
Watch the version personalized for ‘Jesse’ at Jess Kidding below, then check out the second video in the playlist to see the same video personalized for ‘Stephanie’ at Steph Digital.
Great for: Saving time, making pre-recorded videos feel personal
With video prospecting software, sales reps can not only record their own videos, but also incorporate them into a playlist, making it easy for them to use all the great marketing videos your company already has.
Video playlists are great for saving time: Salespeople can give personalized introductions to explainer videos they or their sales consultants have already recorded.
They can also introduce marketing videos to explain why they think they’re particularly relevant for the viewer. ◆
Vidyard is an online video platform helping businesses keep a human connection with their customers and employees