Leading with Empathy: Tips for Unifying Teams and Nurturing Leads

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As my seven overstuffed bookshelves and Kindle’s nearly full storage can attest, I think there’s always more to unpack, digest, and discover. Having a learning mindset not only makes the world a more exciting place to be but is essential for professional growth and success. For a self-professed lifelong learner, attending the SiriusDecisions Summit was the ultimate opportunity—in large part to it being entirely online.

The SiriusDecisions Summit is 1000% about learning—learning to be a better leader, about B2B marketing and sales best practices, and what to expect on the horizon. Since it was online this year, I was able to attend sessions not only in my registered tracks but in ALL of the tracks. It was a learning free-for-all that I and my fellow attendees reveled in for four days straight. Brush your teeth, watch a session on Sales Ops. Making lunch, how about a session on presenting to the board? Sit on the patio, pick a specialty you’re not familiar with. This deep dive got me thinking about how learning goes hand in hand with sharing. And, since my amount of sharing made my isolation partner go socially distance in the car for a bit, here I am.

To avoid any trips to the car, I’ll make it short and sweet with a few things that caught my eye: Leadership, B2B Trends and Account-Based Marketing (ABM).

Leadership During a Crisis

Leadership was featured in several keynote sessions but also woven throughout the conference. Many focused on the global health crisis, refining our marketing plans, and our plans as we emerge. But something that struck me, during Dr. Brené Brown’s keynote, was the need to not forget about your team during this time and in particular, to lead with empathy.

Transparency is the word of the moment in B2B communication, but as leaders, does this carry down to our teams? Are we letting them know what our reopening plans are or how we’re doing as a business? And, if so, are we sharing this regularly even if all there is to report is “nothing to report”? There are two facets for achieving this transparent communication, operational, which can be a weekly internal email or newsletter, and interpersonal, like a video meeting where you share stories of those representing company values or general expressing empathy.

Expect that there will be interruptions from pets, kids, other household members, and probably a few doorbells. Basically, we will all be Robert Kelly at some point. Of course, too many video meetings can lead to burnout, so determine which meetings need video and which don’t.

That, and in these stressful times, keeping to a regimented clock isn’t the best way to work for everyone. “9 to 5” isn’t a true constraint anymore so allowing a more flexible workday might do your team some good.

My favorite tip from Dr. Brené Brown was the “Two-Word Check-In.” On every Zoom call, you ask each team member to say two words about how they’re doing. This allows people to feel heard and for leaders to understand each person’s mindset, and how to best help. It’s simple but impactful. Needless to say, these sessions inspired more than one book purchase.

B2B Trends: Shifting from Customer Engagement to Customer Enablement

For years, we heard all about customer engagement and getting them to connect with your brand, now is the time for customer enablement. This means delivering the right experience on the right channel and making sure the interactive components are useful and meaningful. While every session was informative, the session outlining the three actions necessary to move the audience experience from engagement to enablement was particularly helpful.

Interconnected insights

In 2020, data is everywhere. Sessions, clicks, opens, likes, UTMs, pageviews, search terms, demographics, and the list goes on. It’s like someone put Oprah in charge of it (you get data, you get data, and you get data). There are days I love it and days I want to return to the time before marketing attribution. Thankfully, we’re getting to the point where the data can be integrated. You can manually map out journeys and refine customer paths or you can utilize the technology to optimize the customer experience—artificial intelligence. AI helps to connect the dots between existing content, customer behaviors/needs, and future content development. It is more efficient at figuring out and facilitating the journey, and is less biased or blinded at connecting different content paths. We can accomplish much more if we leverage these and other innovative tools.

Frictionless engagement

Like data, the number of engagement channels we have are growing. Not terribly long ago, digital marketing channels consisted of emails and your website. Then we added in PPC, events, webinars, social media, community platforms, web chats, SEO, and more. There are so many ways to send our message to buyers but we don’t always make it easy. When we invest more time in developing and reviewing the user experience, we avoid excessive clicks, steps, inadvertent dead ends, or the need for searching. This renewed focus ensures digital resources are easier to find, calls to action are clear, and that each piece of content is valuable to the intended audience.

Though seemingly the basics, there’s always room for a refresher.

Immediate, valuable contextual experiences

As one of the most important aspects of marketing, the importance of making content valuable bears repeating. Session leaders referred to this as the Content Contextualization Continuum (I say, CCC or The Three C’s—it’s easier), which is a data-based approach to content that delivers a hyper-personalized buying experiences that adapts in real-time to the individual. Essentially, it’s delivering the right content at the right time.

With AI, you can select the content to index and create the taxonomy that aligns to your solutions. Then the AI will assess each individual interaction and develop individual prospect profiles. Things I used to spend hours on and hope were correct, it can do in moments and refine it in real-time. It’s auto-magical. This frees up time for all of us marketing professionals to do other more complex tactics.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Out of all the B2B marketing tactics, ABM is quickly becoming my favorite. It connects content, messaging, and branding with technology, data, and processes. It’s also a silo-busting tactic since you need ongoing involvement, commitment, and dedication from many departments. In the SiriusDecisions Buying Decisions Framework, there are three main phases that inform the type of content: education, solution, and selection (i.e., the why, how, and who).

The education/why phase is where buyers try to better understand their problem or need. This can be internal, like a system break, process issues, or new initiative, or external, like new regulations or even advertising. They are ready to leave this phase when they’ve expanded their search from looking into the problem to looking for solutions.

During the solution/how phase, buyers are looking at all options available to them. This is not about the specific solution but fulfilling the buyer’s needs and the path to purchase. Here is where they compare to find the one that will deliver the best results, so user reviews or case studies become increasingly important.

Lastly, the selection/who phase, this is where they make their buying decision. It’s where all the other members of the buying process are involved (procurement, finance, IT, etc.) and where website personalization and company identification come in handy. What I often see is new users going straight to the “end of funnel” content, mucking up your metrics with an outlier you cannot explain. I like to group the journey based on companies, so when the last players of buyer decision join, you can see a complete picture.

Now, by developing your content strategy based on the above framework, identifying your prioritized audience, selecting the channels you’re going to use (remember frictionless engagement), and setting your KPIs, you’re ready to operationalize your campaigns.

First, you need to figure out what content is needed to meet your objectives. Are you targeting a specific industry at the solution phase? If so, consider using industry case studies, an analyst report, or maybe a comparison matrix. Next, integrate it to the channels your prioritized audience is going to want to use. Use this audience and their persona to determine how to deliver the content. You may want to rely more heavily on chats to deliver ungated items like case studies or maybe some website personalization, so they get hyper-specific content at the right time.

Once you have your campaign architecture, you can audit the content you have to see what is available as is, what could work with some customization or updates, and what will need to be produced. Now you have your content mapped to your channels, so it’s time to set your KPIs. Are you validating moving to ABM? Then maybe percentage closed ABM vs non-ABM. Maybe you’re testing if the content hyper-customization is worth the effort, so look at increased engagement and effectiveness at moving them towards your goal.

Yes, getting both sides connected takes a lot of planning, alignment, and refining, but ABM isn’t a sprint—it’s a team marathon.

The Takeaway

While I hope this has given insight into an enriching week, I know some of this might be a refresher. But, as I learned from my time at the summit, just because something is old to you doesn’t mean it’s old to someone else—someone will find value. So, take this unique opportunity to get online, learn from your colleagues, and share what you know. There’s a lot of knowledge out there, and quarantine can’t stop us from connecting, learning, and harnessing it.

If you need someone to put these or other marketing tactics to work for your business, let’s talk.

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