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The power of caring

It's an impossibly small moment. That sliver of a fraction of a second when we decide to buy from you or move on. It happens long before we put down our credit card. It's a feeling first - a mental rationalization second.

Maybe this isn't new information for you. For many it's rapidly approaching common knowledge. So, why are most businesses - and 99.9% of marketing professionals - still trying to manipulate our perceptions (mental), change our beliefs (mental) and persuade us with features and benefits (mental)?

Why are they going backwards and trying to get to the feeling through the mind?

It's astounding that science and psychology haven't figured out that the source of what we feel is not our mind, though of course it's understandable since we use the mind to organize what we feel. It's as backwards as concluding that because the bulb lights up, that's where electricity comes from. But understanding why people feel what they do and what they are going to do with that information (and what their mind does and doesn't have to do with it) is the basis of real branding and marketing.

Does anybody really think that the source of caring is the brain?

We all know how hollow it feels when somebody tries to 'care' about us with their head. It's stilted, forced, and full of "shoulds." We walk away untouched, not really knowing why because we wanted to like what they were selling.

As a business leader, you know how exhausting (and ineffective, especially over the long term) it is to try and manipulate people's perceptions. And you know how much better it feels when you make a real impact, how much more fulfilling it is for you and your team when your hearts are really in it. And if the goal is a lifelong relationship with your customers, shouldn't it be based in mutual self-interest instead of "Sell. Hope. Repeat?"

The goal is not to connect with your customers through your product, but through your shared humanity.

That's the world I want to shop in. I want to experience your self-interest - why you want to sell your product to me and why you're passionately and honestly confident it will meet my needs. I will never utter these words, but this is my internal checklist before I put down my credit card. Think of me as every next customer, and accept that really changing how you do business to meet that market is going to take some time.

The difference is caring. But real caring for the customer (the effect) is a symptom of something happening inside your company (the cause). Caring is an inside job, and it shows up when we can feel that buying from you means not just something to us, but that it means something to you. Our conditioning says there's no place for that kind of intimacy in business.

The mind is not nearly powerful enough to capture the profundity and utter magic of that kind of human connection. It can only follow after, and try to describe why it worked or how it felt and then create a system to support it happening again. The mind can do that well.

And so it becomes easy to hide in the shadow of the strategists - the consultants and agencies who teach us how to get results through tactics and tricks. The alternative - to open up, be real and make a stand for your work - is harder, but infinitely more rewarding.

Ironically, the first step is not caring for the customer. It starts with caring for yourself, and the many challenges you have to face as you get out of the old way of thinking and into the new way of feeling your way through your business decisions, whether all the data is available or not. When you do, the result will be that your customers feel cared about because you've taken care of business internally first.

Caring is everything. And scripts and manipulations will never bridge the gap when it's missing. Great branding is about being the real thing, because only the real thing will do.

Jonathan Raymond

Written by Jonathan Raymond

Jonathan was a frequent contributor to the EMyth blog from 2011-2015. His articles focus on marketing, branding, and organizational culture.