Harnessing the power of emotional intelligence can help brands connect with their audiences, increase conversion rates, and foster brand loyalty.

If you’ve focused your marketing efforts on simply selling your product or service, that seems like a practical approach — but you may be doing it all wrong. As marketing expert Louise Kelly claims, “If you’re just talking about direct and functional benefits of your product or service, then you’re not actually connecting with your target audience.”

In order to connect with your audience on a human level, you must go beyond the practical benefits of your product and actually sell to the needs of your potential customers. This requires something called emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ enables one to identify, evaluate, monitor, and express emotions, as well as perceive and process others’ emotional experiences and construct meaning from emotional contexts. Harvard developmental psychologist and theorist Howard Gardner defines EQ as “your ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them.”

Why EQ Matters to Marketers

With overall digital marketing spend in the U.S. up nearly 50% since 2014, brands must fight to set themselves apart from competitors and reach their target consumers. What’s lost in this cutthroat mindset is a focus on making genuine, meaningful connections with consumers. This lack of empathy is felt most by those whom marketers are trying to reach: only one-third of consumers believe their favorite brands really understand them.

As Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti says, “we started thinking that social media marketing is a game or an algorithm when really it’s about humans, and what we want to share, and making things that are worth sharing.”

The merits of a human-centric approach have actually been scientifically proven: in a recent study, researchers at Nielsen used electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets to detect the brain’s emotional patterns as participants reacted to advertisements. They found that positive psychological reactions correlated to higher success — in fact, above-average EEG scores were associated with a 23% lift in sales.

Brands are beginning to recognize the importance of this EQ-driven approach to marketing. “People are interested in babies, not diapers and, thus, Pampers Village was created,” says David Aaker, marketing mogul and Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley. “Women care more about Avon’s fundraising walks for breast cancer than they do about Avon lipstick. Brand leaders now understand the need to aim conversations at customer interest and passion areas, and not just what the company is trying to sell.”

In short: consumers are much more compelled by why they should buy your product than they are by the mechanics of what your product can do. Here are three ways to demonstrate your brand’s purpose and make a genuine emotional connection with your consumers.

1. Drive website traffic through emotionally intelligent SEO practices.

As it applies to marketing, EQ boils down to understanding what consumers want and the ways in which they articulate those desires.

Semantic search, which “seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding a searcher’s intent through contextual meaning,” is one way to connect the dots between what your consumers are typing into search engines and what they actually mean. Rather than optimizing your content for Google’s algorithms, tailor it towards your ideal consumer’s intentions. By seeking a deeper understanding of the actual needs that are driving relevant searches, you can position your brand to better meet them.

2. Increase conversion rates with psychologically stimulating visuals.

The medium is the message. Research reveals that visual content — and video in particular — is the most effective medium with which to capture the attention of today’s consumers. In 2017, 79% of consumers reported they’d prefer to watch a video about a product rather than read about it, while simply featuring a video on your landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%.

The power to convey logic is not what gives video its resonance among consumers. Rather, video an influential medium because it can be used to tell compelling stories that inspire an emotional response. Consider the global success of the “Like a Girl” video campaign by Always, which rose to global prominence because it taps into consumer beliefs and emotions about the societal expectations surrounding gender.

3. Build brand loyalty by feeding your audience a “logic sandwich.”

According to marketing expert Bryony Thomas, consumers go through a six-step decision-making process when they commit to a brand:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Evaluation
  4. Trial
  5. Adoption
  6. Loyalty

Think of this process as a “sandwich.” Yes, you read that correctly. The first two steps (awareness and interest) and the last two steps (adoption and loyalty) are the bread of the sandwich. These are emotionally motivated steps, so marketing at these stages should tap into the customer’s initial attraction to your product and then into the why behind a customer’s choice to commit. In between these stages is the meat of the sandwich: demonstrating the merits of your products. The logical reasoning associated with these steps will move your customer through to the last, emotional bite of the sandwich: brand loyalty.

Ultimately, dialing into EQ to communicate more effectively with your audience encourages consumers to make an emotional and psychological connection to your brand. This can drive real results for your business, including higher website traffic, better conversion rates, and increased brand loyalty.

Author Kendra Clark

A current graduate student in creative writing at the University of Cambridge, Kendra writes for a broad array of L&T's clients in industries ranging from healthcare to manufacturing. She has consulted for tech startups in California and Washington, D.C. on editorial and brand strategy development. With a degree in philosophy and literature from Santa Clara University, she is a lover of poetry, vegan Thai food, documentary films, and arguing about Nietzsche.

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