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Your Emotional Response is Requested

Daniel Glickman

No, actually, your emotional response is required.

Last month, I invited Jay Acunzo to be my guest speaker at the CMO Confessions meetup. Jay spoke about a lot of interesting topics—he’s a dynamic superstar marketer, after all. But one topic that struck me most urgently was the importance of engaging our audiences on an emotional level. I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on this front over the past year, and from what I’ve seen and heard, it’s startlingly obvious that most of us need to do a lot better when it comes to tugging at our customer’s heart strings… or inspiring them to want us, need us, and love us.

CMO Confessions Meetup with Jay Acunzo

Inspiring a relationship with our customers, clearly, goes beyond merely hooking them. “That sounds like a lot more work!” you say.

Well, yeah, it is! And in many ways, measuring how well we are emotionally engaging our customers isn’t practical—it’s conceptual, and therefore, not easy.

To begin with, there’s no one formula for creating emotionally engaging material—once you try to tell someone how to drive an emotional response, it isn’t organic anymore. Emotion is complicated, and measuring it is paradoxical, but Jay Acunzo and the CMO Confessions gang came up with a really cool metric anyway: The Organic Response Rate (ORR).

The idea here is: We marketers should be striving to get our audiences to organically react to our content on an emotional level, without them being incentivized to do so.

Here’s an example of an ORR:

Inbox — CMO Confessions (8,865 messages, 2 unread) 2017-02-12 11-23-31

Any decent marketer knows there is a negative exponential correlation between emotional connection and USP. That is, the weaker your emotional connection with the client is, the more your product or service must shine—and vice versa.

USP vs emotional engagement

So why, especially for those of us who are B2B marketers, is 99% of the content we put out there so emotionally unengaging? Why do we continue to believe that just because we’re selling software or office supplies, a stale, impersonal, fact-laden email is the only way to go?

One reason many marketers aren’t working and leveraging the emotional angle enough yet, no matter what our niche, is because we are all on a journey—or at least, I confess that I am. Most of us are just now beginning to learn how to engage a particular audience, and between trial and error, much of what we’re attempting turns out to be unsuccessful. Why?

The reason is simple: ORR is very hard to plan for and measure.

Jay Acunzo knows how hard it is, which is why he’s actively exploring the topic and motivating a bunch of marketers to do the same. Initially thinking in terms of UERR (Unsolicited Emotional Response Rate), and then in terms of URR (Unsolicited Response Rate), we are still pushing for answers to the question: How can we measure emotion?

I confess, the only way I know how to answer this question is: “You know it when you see it”

But of course, “You know it when you see it” isn’t scalable.

“You know it when you see it” is not what CEOs or CFOs want to hear and it’s probably not what most marketing teams want to hear either—but really, it’s the truth.

Whether we’re selling razor blades, toilet paper, or energy drinks (note the range from not exciting at all here, to too exciting!), we must be actively engaged in the process of figuring out how to elicit an emotional response from our targeted audience.

“Yikes!” you say. “But emotions are risky!”

You’re right: With love comes hate, and hate can terminate a product, a career, or a company. Naturally, you don’t want to be the person beyond the next big PR blunder. But moving forward, there is no doubt that companies that remain risk-averse will miss out on building an emotional connection with their audience, and the cost of not connecting may very well outweigh the cost of trying, failing, and having to start all over again.

Emotional engagement—fostering and measuring it—is difficult, but rest assured: There are ways to be emotionally engaging without risking it all, and without being too weird or quirky.

AirBnB, as an example, nails it here. How? Note the little things, because that’s where emotion get triggered.

AirBnB could have just said: “Check out our weekend deals.” But they didn’t. They tweaked their copy ever so slightly, and used the word I’ve been riffing on throughout this email: “Inspired.” For New York, they even wax a little poetic.

AirBnB emotional email

There is no cookie cutter solution to creating more emotionally engaging content. Nobody wants cookie cutter anyway, because it’s not authentic. So, here are my suggestions:

  1. Place a moratorium on anything you already know is unexciting. What is the most unexciting thing you can put in an email? You were smart: You thought “Download our White Paper.” Axe the White Paper today!
  2. Actively ask your team to share stories about what kind of organic responses they receive daily. They will quickly get excited about this. You can even provide a small weekly prize to the team member whose content drove the best organic response.
  3. Discuss and analyze what could have caused the best—and the worst!—kind of response. Don’t just leave it at: “I engaged ten readers with my last newsletter.” Discuss what the reader responses were and think about why you got them.

OK, you’ve probably caught what I’ve done: I’ve painted myself into a paradox. I encourage “driving organic responses,” while also saying that once you start measuring ORR, you risk systemizing your content in such a way that becomes no longer truly organic. This brings me to my last point:

ORR is much more of a culture than a metric.

Like romance, if you focus too much on the process and outcome, you lose the magic.

Bottom line: Bask in the kinds of questions and challenges the Organic Response Rate concept brings to the table. Stay curious, authentic, honest, and personal with your customers—like you would at the start of any good relationship—and you will improve your chances of engaging them on an emotional level and getting the love from them you want and deserve!


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