Have you had a moment when someone who clearly is out of their league tells you how you should do your job? Like when the Controller tells you there is not enough white space in a brochure, the web content needs to be jazzed up, or that blog is just plain boring. My reaction inside gets all fired up by the gall of the person, while outside I graciously accept the feedback/criticism. While the Controller is hardly an expert in marketing communication, I hate to admit the response is valid. Why? Because the human experience matters in marketing. More on this in a minute.

First, I want to share a picture of Sunita Malhorta, who sat next to me at the Intro to Design workshop that we attended at MATTER, in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. I asked Sunita if I could share this and she kindly agreed. Please know that this picture does not do her justice.

the human experience matters for marketingLooking at picture you will probably agree with my father, who told me when I was in fourth grade that an artist I was not.

I’d like to argue that I am a designer. And in fact, we all are.

Why were we doing drawing pictures at MATTER? Well, MATTER is a pretty cool outfit that describes itself as “a community of healthcare entrepreneurs and industry leaders working together in a shared space to individually and collectively fuel the future of healthcare innovation”. So, what does design have anything to do with healthcare innovation? Everything, according to our speaker and presenter, David Schonthal.

Design is not a discipline, it’s a way of looking at the world through a human lens, Schonthal told us.

Using that lens, he instructed us to spend 60 seconds trying to draw our neighbor. It was the first exercise intended to impress on us that we are designers. Schonthal’s take on design is that your degree, profession, or industry do not exclude you from being an important contributor to the design process. Each one of us has a unique perspective that collectively benefit a product, a program, or service. The workshop was focused on health care – it being emotionally driven because the human experience is at its core – and how empathy is often absent from the very people designing new technologies, products, and programs.

Ok, pause and breathe. I know what you thinking. “Why is she writing about design, and health care and empathy when she works for a B2B marketing and communication firm?”

Empathy is the answer and the human experience matters. I am not an engineer, chemist, or designer by trade. I certainly am not a Controller or by any stretch of the imagination an expert in Finance. But, Alison and I are communicators and marketers. We were journalists first and learned long ago that rule number one is to know your audience. Before we propose a path, tactic, or strategy, we always envision the finish line first. How will this be received? Will the audience connect? Does this make the company look human? Does the story resonate? Will it create urgency and spur action?

When it comes to communicating to an audience, our job is to understand the nuances, respect their strengths, and have empathy for their challenges. And no matter what, making the human connection is imperative. Any buyer wants to feel like the seller gets them, wants their business, and is grateful for it.

With February already underway, stop for a moment and do the following. Make a list of areas of expertise in your company and compare that with your business goals. Do you have the team to realize those goals? What “designers” are needed to complete your team?

I learned at Schonthal’s workshop that collectively, we can accomplish more together. Even if you are the Controller, whether at the forefront of a project or future iterations, all of our observations are valuable. For when we put the human experience first, and bring an array of expertise to the table, extraordinary ideas and perspectives will flourish.

At Harris Media Services, we consider ourselves to be part of your kitchen cabinet. We are the marketing strategists and communicators, who together with your vision and insight can design the strategy to help you meet those business goals. And we know our limits: We readily outsource graphic design work because like you, we aren’t experts at everything.

Thanks for reading. Please share with a friend, and contact me to learn how we can help grow your business.

Schonthal is on the board at MATTER. You can learn more about at him The Next Best Thing. He is one wickedly smart and engaging presenter.

Karen Craven is an associate with Harris Marketing Services, based in Portland, ME. After 16 years of communications roles in government & politics, education, corporate and not for profits, Karen joined Harris Media Services in 2015, 15 years after Alison first hired her to join United Publications in Yarmouth, ME.