Success in digital marketing requires more than great data, it requires an emotional connection.
We know consumers are attracted to value, so how did a nearly free commodity become the most purchased beverage in America?
We know social media users are attracted to creative content, so how did a plain egg become the most liked picture on Instagram?
We live in a time with such mind-boggling amounts of consumer data and insights at our fingertips that anticipating trends should be a breeze — yet human behavior and motivation is still so often a mystery. As marketers, we can analyze data, follow the latest best practices and stay on top of trends, yet still find ourselves surprised by what captures consumer attention.
When was the last time you shook your head in disbelief at a trending hashtag or viral phenomenon?
It probably wasn’t very long ago.
Predicting the unpredictable in digital marketing
Consumers are unpredictable because they are people.
When we talk about digital marketing, we spend a lot of time on hard factors such as search rankings and CTR. From this perspective, it’s easy to see a top keyword ranking as the ultimate success. But if high rankings aren’t equaling high conversions for you, it may be time to focus more on the human factor.
With the rise of big data, it isn’t less important to see your customers as people; it’s more important. The deluge of data makes precision-targeting possible, but you also run the risk of human connections getting lost in the numbers.
Ultimately, it’s the attention and action of people you want and people won’t always make decisions based on a formula. Human decisions are based on a complicated web of cultural, situational, and emotional factors.
The importance of human connection in digital marketing
Emotion should be part of the digital marketing experience — because making people feel is what makes them engage with your brand and open up their wallets. In the opening examples, emotion is what accounts for the seemingly strange behaviors of paying for water and endorsing an egg.
In the case of bottled water, the product was presented not as an alternative to freely available tap water, but as an alternative to famously unhealthy soda. People choose water because they want to feel like they are making healthy choices. In the case of the egg, liking the everyday image was presented as an alternative to a certain brand of shallow celebrity that often rises to the top in Instagram. People liked the egg because they wanted to feel like they were making a statement.
In the light of logic, these decisions may not seem to make sense. But from an emotional perspective, the motivation becomes much clearer.
Emotional decision-making in business
It isn’t just among everyday consumers or the curious culture of the Internet where decision-making has a strong emotional component. According to a recent Fortune Knowledge Group Study, business decisions are also made emotionally and justified rationally.
Finding a human connection is as important in B2B marketing as it is in B2C. In fact, the same study found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of executives say they make business decisions based on factors that can’t be quantified (like company culture and values) and 62% say they like to rely on their gut.
Making the human connection in digital marketing
So how do we connect with today’s buyers and decision makers if their motivations can’t always be predicted or quantified? Evoking emotion that drives engagement and profit is necessarily personal, so your tactics will change for every business and audience. These tips will help you understand your audience and refine your strategy:
- Question your assumptions – Do you really know what your target buyer is looking for? Many organizations find themselves in a rut — held back by a set of assumptions about what their customers want. When an organization only focuses on business intelligence, this limits their view of their customers and the world. If you are guided by misinformed buyer personas based on business intelligence, you may be missing the factors your buyers are truly basing their decisions on. Consider that your audience might be swayed by something less tangible and more emotional than your initial numbers suggest.
- Focus on storytelling – Both you and your customers have a story. Think about how you fit into theirs, but also how they fit into yours. Everyone wants to be part of something bigger and your business can be that something. People who purchase a bottle of water may just want the convenience or they may want to be part of a movement toward better health. Focus on the “why” of your business, share it with the world, and invite your audience to be part of the journey.
- Develop empathy – Empathy is the ability to understand the point of view and feelings of another person. To do that you need to walk the proverbial mile in their shoes. Find where your customers exist online (or in real life) and immerse yourself in their world. What makes them laugh? What makes them cry? What problems keep them up at night? Empathy allows you to anticipate customer needs and leads to stronger financial performance.
The benefits of the human connection in digital marketing
As technology continues to evolve, the influence of big data on business/customer interactions will continue to grow, but we cannot neglect the human factor.
Rankings are important, but reaching out and connecting with people is the end goal. By keeping people at the forefront of your strategy, you can better understand what motivations their decisions and improve your digital marketing results.