Empathy is Key With Marketing Logistics Services

Jim Bierfeldt

Jim Bierfeldt is the founder and chief strategist at Logistics Marketing Advisors, a marketing firm that helps logistics businesses define and communicate their value, and then translate that value into revenue.

As logistics marketers, the greatest gift we can bring to our work is empathy – a genuine understanding of the buyer’s needs, wants and feelings. This empathy informs our strategy and messaging work like nothing else.

The best way to build empathy is to talk directly with these buyers. But, unlike salespeople, the day-to-day job of marketing doesn’t require regular interaction with our customers and prospects. One of the things we must guard against is reliance on second-hand sources as the pathway to empathy.

There’s a very big difference between talking to salespeople to gain insights into prospects’ buying triggers and talking to actual prospects and customers. Similarly, paying close attention to news feeds and trend articles about logistics and our specific focus areas can give a false sense of confidence that we understand buyers’ desires and motivations.

This second-hand data certainly does help in understanding the logical buying triggers – things like a need to reduce costs, gain more flexibility and access newer technology. And, by and large, we do understand the logical buying triggers for our specific product or service. The problem is so do all of our competitors. That’s why we see so much sameness in marketing messages across the logistics industry.

We need to look beyond just the logical side to the emotional side of empathy – how buyers feel.

There is clear empirical evidence that humans make choices based on feelings, then rationalize those decisions with logic. The neuroscientist Antonio Domasio summed it up nicely: “We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.”

The logical buying triggers are knowable based on indirect insights from salespeople and survey work. The emotional buying triggers require a deeper level of empathy that comes from talking directly to customers and prospects. 

If you want to read some direct input from buyers of logistics services, read our 2020 research report: How to get, and keep, the attention of buyers of logistics products & services.

Why not just trust second-hand sources to inform marketing strategy and messaging?

Because, as marketers, we listen differently, and that can really feed the creative process.

Here’s an example. I spoke recently to six senior supply chain executives who work for the largest retailers in the Middle East. They all communicated that their businesses desperately need scarce courier capacity to cover last-mile delivery needs for the huge, post-pandemic jump in online orders. The salesperson on the phone with me heard a business opportunity linked to supplying more trucking capacity for home deliveries. As a marketer, I heard fear.

Fear that their jobs, even the survival of their respective companies, would be at stake if the business could not transform itself from a traditional retailer to a full-on, omni-channel retailer with a streamlined solution for B2C distribution.

What is the more powerful marketing promise: simply providing access to courier capacity or providing a solution to accelerate the retailer’s omni-channel transformation?

Talking directly to prospects and customers fuels the creative approach. It takes you to a different place.

How can marketers directly connect with buyers to tap into this creative fuel?

You can join salespeople on their calls with prospects and customers or participate in customer satisfaction survey work. But perhaps the best thing you can do is refresh your buyer persona profile by talking to customers, and even companies that chose a competitor, about their buying process. It’s enlightening to delve inside this process and learn how and why they ultimately chose you, or someone else. You’ll find customers surprisingly willing to assist in this effort.

The Voice of the Customer

If you were asked to write web copy for a new, local homemade ice cream brand, my guess is you wouldn’t rely solely on industry research on ice cream preferences to inform your work. You’d park yourself outside one of their shops on a busy summer evening and talk to customers leaving the shop. Why then do we settle for second-hand data to create messaging for the high-cost, high-value logistics solutions that we market?

Communication without empathy is noise.

As logistics marketers, we must allow the direct voice of the customer to shape our marketing messages. The best messages reflect a full understanding of not only how these buyers think (their logical buying triggers) but also how they feel (their emotional buying triggers). That requires more than talking to salespeople or reading a survey report. We need to regularly get out of our offices – physically or virtually – and have actual conversations with our best customers and prospects.

The more we do this, the more authentic, differentiating and effective our communications will become. 

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