What makes a good marketer?
Most people would say good communication skills are top-of-list. Maybe a solid grasp of analytics. And certainly an in-depth understanding of the buyer’s needs. It also helps to be good at writing pitches, including the ability to tell a story that inspires.
But what might not immediately come to mind is an important skill that is the foundation of all the rest—emotional intelligence.
And in the digital age, it’s more important than ever.
The speed at which we communicate is increasing rapidly, meaning there are more and more opportunities to connect with customers—and navigating these interactions requires emotional know-how. In an era of instant gratification, customers expect brands to respond to questions and make statements on relevant news stories almost immediately.
They also expect those responses to be thoughtful and considerate.
Responding quickly and thoughtfully is challenging. It requires being adaptable, but more than that, it requires tuning into others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is sometimes hard to quantify, and it rarely comes up in a performance review, but all great marketers have it.
The good news is it’s a skill you can learn. And if you want to be a successful marketer in 2019, you’ve got to master it. Here’s how:
Emotional intelligence is a human skill.
The zeitgeist has historically treated emotions as largely the purview of women. Unfortunately, this outdated thinking carries over into the business world.
In the workplace, women are expected to be the office caregivers. We’re often tasked with planning birthday parties and providing baked goods at meetings, to assuage difficult customers and mediate disputes between coworkers. If someone in the office is going through a rough patch, they’re far more likely to go to a female colleague to cry it out.
But automatically assuming emotional labor is an inherently feminine trait is misguided, not to mention harmful. There’s a big difference between being emotional and having emotional intelligence.
It puts an unfair onus on women and can make them feel resentful. It also ignores the fact that men can be just as, if not more, emotionally intelligent. For the record, I know plenty of men with off-the-charts emotional intelligence and many women who just don’t get it.
There is nothing specifically feminine about emotional intelligence. It’s about being able to identify your emotions and control how you use them, and then identify the emotions of others.
It helps you answer the “whys” and influence customer perception.
The cornerstone of a marketer’s work is getting to the “why.”
Why do people care about our service? Why are we selling this product? Why are we losing customers? You get the picture.
And to answer those “whys,” you have to be emotionally intelligent.
For example, say some data alerts you to the fact that most people logged out of a 45-minute webinar just 15 minutes in. You’re probably going to be pretty curious about why that happened, so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again. Getting the answer requires evaluating your message leading up to the drop-off, soliciting feedback and being emotionally attuned to the response. If you can identify your customers’ underlying emotions and use that to inform how you communicate, you can tailor your process from there on out.
Honing your emotional intelligence can also help you to control how customers perceive things. After all, marketing is all about perceptions and being able to cater to those emotions.
I used to work for a nonprofit that brought modern band music education to underprivileged students in the New York City area. Sounds like an easy sell right? But in order to raise the millions and millions in funding we needed, we had to make people feel special about that message. And that’s all about how you tell the story—in this case, playing to their heartstrings. You want to position your message in the way that’s most impactful to them. And that requires emotional intelligence.
When you learn to consider your audience and work to truly understand their desires and pain points, you can use these emotions to evoke reactions within the story or message you’re sharing.
But without checking in emotionally with your customers to find out “why” and what touches them, you risk losing them.
Like good communication skills or leadership skills, it’s something you should continue to hone.
Emotional intelligence isn’t just something you’re born with—it’s something you have to work to cultivate and then continue to work on throughout your career.
The first step is to identify those emotions within yourself and then work on managing them in different scenarios. You can’t get mad during a meeting and start throwing papers around the boardroom. Instead, take a deep breath and find a way to channel those feelings productively. Is there a way you can diffuse them with an open and honest conversation?
Becoming more emotionally intelligent can also help you navigate problems before they arise.
If you’re going into a meeting and know something is going to come up that will bother you, strategize beforehand. How do you keep your irritation in check? What can you do to manage your emotions? Have a plan in advance to reduce the potential of a conflict.
Step two is don’t be afraid to ask for others’ perspectives.
When you have an interpersonal interaction that doesn’t go the way you’d hoped, ask your colleagues how you could have handled it better. Don’t take constructive criticism personally. Everyone makes mistakes. Instead, be observant and actively listen. Don’t be afraid of an awkward pause—use it to your advantage and have faith that someone will fill it with valuable advice.
It’s all a learning curve.
Like any other skill, emotional intelligence will come more easily to some than others. But no matter how emotionally intelligent you think you are, it’s a skill that requires honing and constant checking in. It has to become a part of your daily life.
To make sure you’re headed in the right direction:
- Get in tune with your own emotions.
- Ask for an outside perspective.
- Be open to feedback.
- Be observant and listen actively.
- Explore the “why.”
A better understanding of how to manage your emotions in conversations as well as catering to the emotions of others will make you a great communicator instead of just a good one.
And that’s when it becomes the strongest skill you can have.