How can you strengthen your team’s empathy and curiosity muscles?

Mark Ritson is publishing his #ritsonsmonster series at the moment where he looks at the most important traits of a marketer. His top 2 include:

  • Empathy. Seeing the world through your customers eyes;
  • And Curiosity. The permanent asking of questions about the market, about customers, about how the brand is delivering.

Building you empathy or curiosity muscles does take practice. But how are marketers strengthening these muscles today? The best way is to build your Customer Immersion Program.

Corporate brands have been trying to do this for years. Since the early 2000s business have talked about the importance of immersion practices for their people. I was lucky to be a part of Proctor & Gamble’s early version of their practice in the mid 90s in London and have spent the last few years guiding our clients on how to build the best programs.

Here are the top 7 things we have learnt:

  • Start with a list of problems that need solving and attack them methodically every month.
  • Include rigor in your program; build your hypotheses for each issue and project, include the team’s burning questions, recruit your actual customer and don’t ask your mates or your family to answer a few quick questions over dinner.
  • Ensure every person in the business has access to the Immersion Program from the Chairperson of the Board and the CEO to the Finance Intern working in procurement.
  • In fact, we would recommend making talking to customers part of people’s KPIs so roll this into a solid Culture strategy and include the Head of People when building it.
  • Have a couple of ways for your people to spend time with their customers but definitely include 40-60 minute customer conversations so your teams can hear exactly what your customers want and need and … oh … avoid another survey, you have enough big data in dashboard.
  • Use technology to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of how the Program is run. This will also ensure you are keeping the conversation data which would have previously been lost and not analysed with any depth.
  • And give the managing of the Program to a dedicated person in the Marketing or Growth team and make it 40% of their job. The other 60% is getting the right people actioning the findings.

A well-run Immersion Program changes the strategic outcome for business because the team is in front of the customer hearing first-hand what their customers want. Sarah Scammell, Marketing Manager from Britex who is using our tech platform Hearsay to talk to customers said couldn’t believe the difference between listening to customers and reading it in a report.

“Hearing what our customers are saying really changed how we developed our strategy. We made assumptions about our brand experience, but it lacked some care in its execution. The team is much more empathetic about what our solutions need to be because we heard the customers feedback directly.”

Ritson is using film scenes to make his point about what traits make a great marketer but I will leave you with a quote A.G. Lafley who was CEO of Procter & Gamble.. twice.. and understands the importance of empathy and curiosity amongst his people.

‘I am a broken record when it comes to saying, ‘we have to focus on the consumer.’… I don’t think the answers are just in the numbers. You have to get out and look.’

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