“Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a small business, or a Fortune 500 company, great marketing is all about telling your story in such a way that it compels people to buy what you are selling.

~Gary Vaynerchuk
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy World

This is probably where I will get into a lot of trouble disagreeing with Gary.

And to be clear, I love Gary’s work and style. Who doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, stories are great, everyone loves a good story. The best ones engage the audience, grip them, and never let go.

And that’s also their weakness, they are stories. They are crafted narratives to engage the audience. Oftentimes, and if not to say even almost certainly every time, they are fictional (or at the very least heavily curated). The weakness in Gary’s quote is the conflation and perpetuation of storytelling, buying and selling as a function of business.

Maybe I’m just that much of a leftist hipster, but that doesn’t sit right with me.

helping passion empathy

Moving Past The Sale

I believe as marketers, business owners, entrepreneurs or just generally people we have to do and be better.

We need to move past the sale as a function of business and show empathy to our ‘clients’. Scratch that, lets just show empathy towards our fellow humans.

I don’t even like the term ‘client’ all that much, it carries with it that linguistic degree of separation that selling and buying tends to bring with itself. My clients aren’t “marks” or “leads”, they are human beings that have a problem.

And I don’t care what kind of problem it is, it can be anything between having someone to talk to because they are having a hard time, and needing to be more profitable as a business. I prefer to think of my ‘clients’ as Tara, Iza, Chris and Sam, and not as “warm lead 654”.

Sure, opportunity cost starts knocking at the door because I’m just one guy, so being able to help everyone at all times is not possible. But that’s why I founded this company in the first place. I can use more resources to help more people and to solve their problems.

But What About The Money?

Do you like money?

I like money. Yeah I like to be compensated. I have to eat and need a roof over my head just as much as the next guy.

But you know what? Fuck money.

If money is the only thing you are interested in, go trade on the stock market. You’ll make more money that way, and you don’t need a business or a product.

I can’t count how many times I get into discussions about someones next venture that turns out to be a way to try and make a quick buck (usually in an ethically or legally questionable way). I usually tell them we aren’t a good fit to support them with that.

Yeah, I’ve turned down more jobs than I accepted during my professional lifetime. I’m not afraid to do it because our way is just not for everybody and that’s ok. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and roughly 115 Million registered companies. We will be fine. Trust me.

Why don’t you come up with something that helps people? Why don’t you grow it into an ethical, empathetic business that enriches everybody’s lives that you touch. Not through clever marketing and narrative, but just because it actually does. Does it really take a special kind of person to do that? I don’t want to believe it does.


Empathy Lowers Costs

You know what else I learned? Your marketing becomes So. Much. Easier. if you don’t have to bullshit your audience.

Imagine if you don’t need to spend time and resources crafting the narrative, and you just need to expose your history. If you aren’t convinced yet, let me appeal to your sense of financials: You can save money by actually using empathy as a company.

Is your brand’s “authenticity” just a thin patina on your product/service, or are you actually doing good for others and solving their problems? Guess what’s easier, cheaper and more effective to market and which one of them has more value to the person.

I didn’t need to meticulously craft this post because it was in my “content strategy”.

So to let this really hit home, let me quote myself because just in my own article I’d like to be on the same footing as Gary Vaynerchuk.

Fuck money.

~Aleksander Adamkiewicz, CEO/Creative Synthesist, Fortify Agency

Empathy as a Function of Business

Do you know what else follows empathy? Reciprocity.

If you actually mean it and act with empathy, people see the exchange as mutually beneficial. You don’t make a sale, you make a trade. You move way up on the emotional scale.

You stop trying to push a product on people in the hopes of someone buying it, you offer it up to them because you genuinely want to help solve their problem and enrich their lives.

And people will start giving back.

That’s the elusive “brand engagement” you are after. That’s what will make you grow.

To reiterate, I do not advocate for you to throw yourself or your business under the bus to try to be a Good Samaritan.  I advocate helping people as much as you can, you know to the point where you start hurting yourself, then you stop.

I gladly offer my help up if I think it can be of value and I don’t penny-pinch people out of their savings for it. If I can’t give them the help without hurting myself, I’ll ask for compensation.

tomatoes helping hand empathy

Can You Scale Empathy?

Yeah blah blah empathy.

Easy for you to say Alex, you sell services for clients you can count on the fingers of both your hands. You can talk to them personally, give them a pat on the back, make them feel like you care. But what if I sell a product in bulk? Like I sell millions of tomatoes to thousands of consumers each month. How can I be empathetic to this tomato-buying rabble?

So what. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how much you sell to how many people.

I think you still don’t understand: Empathy isn’t a tactic and it’s not a sales-tool.

It has to be in the DNA of your business. Every single choice you make, from hiring your personell to selling the tomato must be informed by it. I don’t make my clients “feel like I care”, I actually care. And I expect all my staff to care in the same way, from the freelance designer to the strategist.

Every fiber of your operations should be punctuated by empathy for others. Your staff should be just as helpful to each other as they should be towards your client. This is how you build great teams. Get people that care.

This is how you “scale” empathy.

Or rather you don’t because it’s your foundation that everything is built on.

Try it, and you will be surprised by the results.

Also published on Medium.

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  1. Pingback: What Is Brand Strategy & Why Would You Need It? | Fortify

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