Triple Your Results Using Empathy

Overview: Brian Carroll, CEO and Founder of Markempa, gives us 4+ tools to help use empathy to understand a customer’s emotional motivators.

About the speaker: Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa. He is the author of the bestseller, “Lead Generation for the Complex Sale”, and the “B2B Lead Blog” which is read by thousands each week. As a researcher and leader in empathy-based marketing, Brian’s at the epicenter of the shifting customer landscape. He also founded the B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,000+ members.


Have you considered how your emotions drive your decisions? If not, you should. And in today’s session, we’re going to talk about emotional motivators, and how you can apply them to increase conversion. Let’s talk about why emotional motivators are important.    

Well, Antonio Damasio, who’s a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California said this, we’re not thinking machines that feel we’re feeling machines that think demands us research laid the groundwork. His big discovery is that every decision is grounded in emotion. He wrote a well-regarded book called Decarts Error. 

Decart is the person who said I think, therefore I am, well with Damasio, who discovered is that we feel therefore we decide we think, and so our emotions and our thinking are totally connected. We can’t separate them. And if you look at it, even in Latin, the root word of emotion, and the word of motivation, mover, is the same, which is to move. If you want to move people, if you want to move yourself, you need to understand and know how to connect with emotions.   

Evaluate Your Funnel 

So, I want you to see this analogy. As you think of your own conversion process, your own testing process, I want you to look at what your customer is doing is not moving into a funnel, they’re actually moving to a journey of climbing a mountain. It’s an emotional journey. Sometimes it’s a very quick decision. Sometimes it’s not. Where you’re in a complex b2b sale.  

So, you have your customer who may, let’s say, be making a considered purchase, and they’re going out in the internet, and they’re finding answers to the question. Either they have a problem they have, they don’t want to, they have the results that they want that they don’t have yet. They go to the internet, they start searching, and they have hope. They move on their journey of having hope.

Maybe it’s more complicated. Maybe they have to get their coworkers involved in the decision-making process, because it’s a complex sale, they got to get multiple people, so they move into despair. This is more than I thought it would be is even worth it. How would my team respond and suddenly moved to this despair?   

Uncover your Customers Emotional Motivators   

And my point is, is that the journey of conversion really follows the emotional state of our customer. I want to distill down, everything I’m going to share with you today can be wrapped into the single thought, which is to focus on emotional connection, before conversion.

Today, I’m going to take you through three things. The first is how can you uncover your audience’s your customers emotional motivators, then what’s the method you’ll use to get that information? So, what’s the skill? And then finally, how will you apply it and we’re going to talk through a framework of how you can apply your customers motivators, as you build your hypothesis. As you build your test to get better results and conversion.   

Emotion Mapping 

So, mapping emotional motivators. Well, the first thing is it starts with empathy to do this. Let me just quickly define empathy. It’s two things. First, its perspective taking. Understanding how another person thinks, and then it’s understanding how they feel. That really is understanding the emotional side. It doesn’t mean you feel how a person feels exactly. But that means that you understand what they’re feeling.

You may be saying, but Brian, isn’t empathy obvious? Well, some professors actually studied would having empathy actually helped marketers perform better. professor Hattula who’s a researcher and professor in a university in London, did a study with 480 marketing managers. And the question research question is, would empathy allow marketers to predict what offer would appeal to customers sounds a lot like what we do in conversion, right? So what after would appeal to customers?

480 marketers participated, they predicted which offers would be most appealing, and Hattula’s team actually had customers go through and provided their feedback on what was most appealing? So do you think the marketers did better or worse using their empathy? Well, when I saw this study, my thinking was, of course, it’s obvious.

The truth is the marketers who were empathetic did worse. Here is why we use our own biases and preferences thinking it’s empathy. So, to put it another way, what the marketers are doing is saying, if I were the customer, how would this appeal to me? They were thinking they were being the customer, but no, they themselves for the customer. So their own preference, their own bias was informing that. Just knowing we have biases, that’s why we test. But if you can overcome that bias, before you even build your hypothesis, you’re going to have a better outcome. There’s some new research just in the science of understanding emotion. That’s brand new. What I want to do is share that with you.

The first is this comes from Cohen and Keltner. And they did a study to understand how many emotions to human being’s experience. Well, the common logic, and if you’ve watched the movie inside out, you think, well, there’s six emotions, right? There’s joy, and there’s anger, and etc. The fact is, we actually experienced 27, different emotions, different states. They’re all unique.

So you may be asking yourself, Well, what are the emotions that drive decisions, drive buying decisions? This comes from a paper in the Harvard Business Review. It was titled the new science of customer emotions. What the authors have studied are what are the emotions that drive purchase decisions, while there is nine across multiple categories that they found. Here they are standing out from others.  

So we want to be special, we want to be unique, feeling confident about the future, a sense of wellbeing? Do we feel good? Do we feel healthy, a sense of freedom, so we’re unrestricted? We’re unrestrained, a sense of thrill. This is feeling excitement. Feeling it is you think of an amusement park, a roller coaster, a sense of belonging. We want to feel that we’re a part of something Seth Godin wrote a book called tribes all about this sense of, of belonging, being a person that I want to be. Are we our best selves? And do we feel that we’re growing to be able to be our best self, feeling secure? Do we feel confident, and calm and peaceful? Then feeling success?   

Use Customer Insights 

So these were the nine emotions now, you probably are asking, well, that’s great. How can you discover your emotional motivators? Well, I’m going to walk you through three ways that you can do that and give you some suggestions for other ways that you can explore as well. The first is something called an empathy map. And it’s really laid out like this, you draw four quadrants, this was put together by Stanford d. school, as well as IDEO, they originated this as part of Human Centered Design.

So you may see it and user experience and customer experience. But it requires you to have actual customer insight from talking with customers, not just looking at data, not just looking at analytics, but actually having conversations with customers, so you need to be able to understand what your customer saying. For a specific persona, what are they saying? What are they doing? And then from there, based on what someone’s saying and doing? What did they thinking and feeling?  

When you’ve spent time with someone based on what they say and do you can tell how they’re thinking and feeling. The whole point of this is that we’re able to walk in our customers shoes, to be able to understand these emotional drivers, you can get an empathy map checklist; they’ll take you step by step through this process that you can do or your team can go through with you. 

Empathy Maps 

So this is a quick empathy map example, I use a tool called mind mapping. But it can be as simple as using post it notes, putting it on a poster board, it can be very straightforward. If you have personas, you may be saying, Well, why do I need an empathy map? It’s because personas are flat. Empathy maps help you understand how your customers are thinking and feeling so you know what stories will matter. And you also know what emotional motivators really matter. If you don’t have that, you your persona is going to help you as much because you don’t have the context to know how you can best connect with a customer.   

Journey Mapping 

The next is journey mapping. So that’s the next process that you can use empathy to start uncovering your customers emotional motivators. So as you go up that that mountain journey, I already talked earlier about the emotions your customers experiencing, but at each step, what are they doing what Thinking In other words, what are the questions that they’re asking themselves? What are the thoughts that they’re having? Are their concerns? What are their worries? What are their anxieties, and then moving into this specific feeling of what that concern is? Based on what someone is doing, and thinking, I’m able to observe and know what their emotion is, so I can help them through that journey.   

The whole point to this is as you do your journey mapping, think of yourself being a Sherpa. Your customer is a climber that’s climbing as we talked about. But you as a Sherpa have helped other customers go on the journey, you already know the likely concerns, you already know the issues, you already know the likely emotions. But for that specific customer, you need to be able to connect with them. So be a buyer Sherpa, the best marketing and selling feels like helping because it really is.   

This is an example journey map. As you see this example here, it goes way deeper into multiple tiers. The point though, is that for each customer, you can start out simple and over time, as you learn more as you interact with more customers, you’re going to have more insight to apply and refine. All of this is to help us get out of our own bias to start thinking like a customer.   

Empathetic Listening 

Here’s three more ways you can do, empathetic listening, which is listening with your third year. And what that means is that you’re listening, not with the intent to reply, but you’re listening for the deeper motivation underneath what’s being said. Therapists call this third ear listening. So they’re listening for the motivation, buyer journey interviews. What first caused them to start looking take me back to the day when you first started looking? What caused you to look?  

What were some of the concerns that you had, what were the steps that you went through? As you listen, using empathetic listening, you’re able to begin getting that insight as people share their story, you contextualize and within that, you’ll be able to elicit the emotions. Just getting out of the building, and going to events where your customers are going to where your customers are, is a great way for you to start gathering these emotional motivators.   

Empathy Index 

So those are the things you can do right now, to activate, then what? Well, we’re going to talk about the empathy index. And this is a tool over the past three years that I’ve developed, to help us move from thinking like marketers to now putting ourselves in the perspective of the customer, to really know how to best connect with them, and in do so in a way where we’re connecting with them in emotionally resonant way. The framework focuses on four things, emotional resonance, is really looking at, am I connecting, just rationally and logically? Where am I connecting to the deeper emotions of my customer? 

Emotional resonance is the degree that you’re connecting to your customers motivating emotions? customer focus, so as you think about it really is, who’s the hero of the story, your product, or your customer? relevancy is really talking about, am I focused on a specific person, or persona? What’s likely going on in their situation? Then finally, clarity? Am I clearly communicating what steps they need to take what decisions they need to make? Is my message clear? 

So these four things can be measured, and I use a simple Likert scale on a scale of one to five, one being poor, five being outstanding. I looking at any kind of communication, you can focus on these four things is an emotionally resonant isn’t focused on the customer. is it relevant? And is it clear?

So we’re going to talk about the first two, because I find this is the area that most messaging that I review falls down. And so I want to put particular emphasis into this. Let’s just dive quickly into emotional resonance. It’s thinking of this before and after story. When your customer buys something, either they’re trying to get a result, or they’re trying to address a problem. But there’s an aspect of transformation that happens and that’s an emotion. So moving from insecurity to confidence, or being afraid and anxious to feeling safe and secure, moving from despair to now feeling hopeful. Being trapped and restricted in feeling boxed in to a sense of freedom, or overwhelmed and stressed which I think many of us in marketing can relate to at times, all of us can do times to feeling relaxed and calm.

So the point to this is, when you are writing a message, when you’re developing something as a treatment for a test, what’s the beat or the emotion that you’re connecting to? And where are you hoping? Where does that customer want to be? Is that where they want to be? 

Customer focus, as we talked about is three elements that you can focus on there. Are you speaking words that I say? So marketers? We’re famous for using jargon, and buzzwords. But are these words that our customers actually say? You can get these words by talking with customers by looking at reviews, they write online, about your product or about competitors’ products? And so what are the words that they say? If you have an inside sales team, you can listen to that information? Are you speaking the results that I want? You know, specific problems? I’m having, does it feel like you’re speaking to a day in my life? Is this story fitting me? If you’re talking to a specific audience, are you sharing stories that fit that specific audience? So this is an example of not using these practices?   

An Example 

And I want to walk you through an example of what it might look like if you did, I downloaded an eBook about content marketing. So it looks like you’ve viewed our eBook, and how did on how to document content marketing workflow, are you looking to solve a particular challenge that your team at Mark camp is currently experiencing? blank can help PMOS. And then you notice there’s a bunch of bullet points.  

If you’re looking to implement a new solution, now, now think about it, when real people talk to people, we don’t speak to each other in bullet points. When you email peers, you don’t talk that way. This email isn’t connecting to my emotion, which was, I was interested, but they didn’t dig deeper. Like, why did you download the eBook, they jumped immediately to the solution. There wasn’t a great customer focus, it wasn’t necessarily relevant. Then finally, it was clear what they wanted. But then it wasn’t clear connecting to what I wanted.   

So this is an example. And this is a test that came from marketing If you look at it’s a similar follow up email, it’s about rich online, you’re just one step away from getting free access to our award winning event management registration software. It’s not a terrible email. But it’s not again, connecting to an emotion. There’s some customer focus, but it’s more about the product. It’s all about read online, it’s not about what I get, so I’m not the hero.

And if you look at it again, well, this is the treatment. I just want you to see the difference when where you’re connecting to an emotional motivator. Hi, I noticed you started the process of getting access but weren’t able to finish, are you concerned about giving out your phone number, or you’re worried about high pressure sales tactics, or mandatory contracts. So you notice, it’s speaking to problems, in that our emotions inside me my emotional motivators, I’m anxious, I’m worried, I don’t want to give out my information. I don’t know yet. I don’t trust you. It’s customer focused. We believe our product sells itself. We’re just wanting to provide you with whatever you need.  

As you think about it, the lens has shifted. And it’s also connecting emotionally. When you compare the control versus the treatment, so the control is using more of a sales-based tone. But when you move to this more empathy based, this emotionally resonant way of communicating it, this test moved from 1.58% to a 7.8% conversion rate, which was a 349% increase. So just by addressing the customers anxiety with empathy, they saw a 349% increase in the total amount of leads.

The takeaway from this is that just simply connecting to what matters to me, my emotion, and then focusing on me as a customer, they had a better outcome or result.

So this is an empathetic based landing page test. And here, just the small thing, improving the emotional resonance, you’ll see can make a big impact. This is the landing page and I clicked on request free trial. It doesn’t say free trial anywhere in this page. Clarity obviously could be improved. I’m feeling anxious to get that completed to get started. From a customer focus standpoint, it’s all about the product get started with Enterprise Project Management Software. It’s not about me at all. The testimonial, you can’t even see it, which would give me another indicator about the customer focus and relevancy, the testimonial is completely lost, because it’s on the far-righthand side of the screen, that person there in the sportscoat is actually a customer.   

So this is the empathy-based treatment. And what you see is, is that the headline actually addresses what my motivation was. Get my free trial of project management software, so get your free trial, and then moves into, you can still connect to your customers emotions by speaking to what they’re trying to do. So the when you get to write in your copy, you don’t have to always say emotion, in order for it to connect to the customer’s emotion. But you need to have the understanding of what it is, in order to write the copy that connects to that, you can see the the customer focused improved that they added three testimonials.

This is more of a general landing page. So they chose three brands, and customer references that would connect to the audience that was coming to this particular page. That improved the relevancy. And the clarity was much improved as well, because I know when I’m on this page for it speaking to directly what I need to do to get started. Going from the control to the treatment, running this A B test and move from 14.3% to 18.8% conversion rate. As you can see, by addressing my motivation, they saw a 32% increase in sales leads. And this led to a significant impact in ROI. Because for SaaS based software company when someone gets a free trial, that’s a significant step towards conversion in so they could trace this to a bottom-line impact as a result.

So here’s the email that went out to customers after they completed a free trial. Thank you for your interest, we’re going to be contacting you shortly to schedule on one session with you. And as you can see, there’s definitely some areas to improve both in emotion as well as customer focus. Let’s break down why. On the emotional resonance standpoint, here’s the thing. Thank you for your interest, we’ll be contacting you certainly to schedule a one on one session with you. One on one session.  

What does that mean? It doesn’t address my motivation of a free trial and schedule. I didn’t even know that I needed to schedule someone I thought that was requesting a free trial product specialist. What do you mean by product specialists? How long is this going to take? I went for me excited to the free trial to now feeling annoyed. Because I felt like I was going to get something right away. And now I’m not. 

And we knew we needed to address this. We look forward to speaking with you. So as you see, I didn’t know I needed to talk to someone that wasn’t clear on the form. And what’s my next step? How are you going to contact me again? How long is this going to take? Our treatment was like this to improve the emotion thanks for your interest in a free trial. We’re saying that right up front, that’s improving clarity, we know your time is valuable.  

And so the point is, is to focus this on the customer acknowledging Well, yeah, obviously, my time is valuable. We’d like to kick things up with a quick five minute phone call to assess your project. You’re answering my concern right away five-minutephone call. And why is that important? To match with the product specialist and connect schedule your one on one demo the software, please listen for the phone call the next few hours.  

So again, addressing my concerns, focusing more on me as a customer. Also, the relevance is the same, but it’s much clearer what they’re asking. And so just seeing these subtle changes can make a big difference in the experience the customer.   

So let’s talk about the takeaways. You’ve learned about how to map your customers emotional motivators. You learned about empathy mapping, how to do journey mapping in a way that connects to each step of your customer and where they’re taking what their motivating emotions are, as well as some other tools. We need to exercise empathy, but we got to do it in a way that overcomes our own bias as marketers as conversion rate optimizers.

And so to do that, we need to actually use tools to overcome our bias, to be able to think as our customer to be able to be our customer. From there then, as we’ve applied those skills, this we’ve applied that understanding, using the empathy index to help inform and build your test to build your hypothesis. So we talked about emotional resonance. customer focus, relevancy and clarity.

So as you bring all these together, I think you’re going to feel much more equipped to be able to run your next test and build an approach that helps you apply emotional motivators to ultimately increase conversion. If you have questions you can email me at and I look forward to hearing from you.