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Empathy First, Technology Second: How Tech Marketers Should Engage With SMEs

In his 1922 autobiography My Life and Work, Henry Ford revealed the secret which empowered him and his automotive empire to change the world. The secret was not a feat of engineering genius – or an incredible scientific breakthrough. It was something much more powerful. Something more human.

“If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own”. Ford’s success wasn’t determined by engines. It was determined by empathy. By placing himself in his customers’ shoes and striving to understand their pressures and needs, Ford was able to devise a product which accelerated humanity into a new era of innovation.

There is an important distinction to be made between asking a customer what they want and using empathy to discover what they need. Henry Ford is famously attributed as saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Customers can easily describe a problem they’re having — in this case, wanting to get somewhere faster — but often not the best solution.

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New Landscape, Same People

The world has changed unimaginably since 1922. But people, and the principles of innovation, have not. Empathy is still a marketer’s greatest ally and it has never been so important. Especially when reaching out to SMEs.

Covid-19 has reshaped the business landscape at a blistering pace – and in doing so it threatens to leave those small businesses still without strong digital capabilities behind. According to the FSB’s Small Business Index, more than a quarter of a million businesses are set to close in the UK due to Covid-19, with the figure expected to reach 4x that in the US.

Technology marketers have the right tools and expertise to help these businesses adapt to the new landscape and stand a better chance of survival or even a return to growth – but how do they reach them?

Empathy might not be the first thing you think of when planning for a technology campaign – but it’s a quality that customers value in the current climate more than ever. The sense of community spirit that has been so evident during the pandemic, should be reflected in both outreach and inbound content marketing campaigns with warmth and positivity – something Dell did in a recent campaign.

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This warmth and positivity must be part of the story your brand tells. According to our latest research, nearly 80% of people want to hear brand stories – with a further 55% stating they would consider buying from a business if they love the narrative. But to tell a great brand story, you must put empathy at its heart.

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Putting Empathy at the Heart of Technology

Empathy is a two-way vehicle. It can show you where your customer is at – and can show the customer where your brand or service can take them.

But while the impact of COVID is all encompassing, the way people experience the pandemic and its effects remains highly subjective, and technology marketers need to consider this when reaching out to SMEs – especially across different markets.

It’s important to recognise that when you run a campaign internationally, what may feel empathetic to prospects in Germany may seem insensitive to buyers in France. Paying attention to local insights is vital, as is understanding where they are socially (are they in lockdown? Are shops open?) as well as understanding where they are in their level of technology adoption and sophistication. These factors mean approaches to content and channel delivery will vary dramatically from market to market.

Tech marketers need to ensure content is published and distributed in a trusted, best-in-class environment that is fully measurable. This will enable meaningful data analysis to build up a picture of how and what the audience is consuming/reacting to and what stage of the purchase journey they’re at; helping to tailor ongoing engagement to business needs.

The world is undergoing a period of immense upheaval and change. But the core features which make us tick as humans are here to stay. As digital transformation accelerates around the globe, technology marketers must ensure they are doing all they can to ensure small businesses don’t get left behind. The technology may be the solution – but it is empathy which will open the door.

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