You don’t very often see ‘emotional intelligence’ among the skills listed on a marketing job advertisement. Come to think of it, you don’t very often see it listed on any job advert. However, research shows that it is among the most crucial skills in life. We think that emotional intelligence is likely to be one of the must-have skills for marketers in the future—even if it is not described in those terms.

What is emotional intelligence?

The concept of emotional intelligence was developed relatively recently, in the mid-1990s, by researchers including Daniel Goleman. They wanted to understand why some people succeeded despite relatively low IQs, and why others with high IQs were not successful in life. They defined emotional intelligence as the ability to recognise and manage your own emotions, and those of others.

Goleman identified five key skill areas that were important in emotional intelligence. He divided these into personal skills and what he called social skills or interpersonal skills. The personal skills are self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation. The social skills are empathy, and social skills. Each of these, in turn, is broken down into more skill areas. For example, self-regulation includes self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability and innovation. Empathy contains five skills, including understanding others and political awareness. 

Fundamentally, self-awareness is about understanding yourself and your emotions. Self-regulation is about mastering those emotions, and motivation is your drive to succeed. Empathy is about understanding the needs of others, and finally, social skills are about how you use all these insights to interact successfully with others. When you break it down like this, it becomes much clearer why marketers need to embrace the concept of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence in marketing

The link between marketing and emotional intelligence is not merely theoretical. Research shows that people with higher emotional intelligence find it easier to form relationships with other people. They understand and respond to people in ways that meet their needs—and in turn are valued by others for that capacity. They are authentic, and trusted, and they deliver on their promises.  

Does any of this sound familiar? It should do. 

Much of marketing now is about building relationships and communities. Content marketing and thought leadership in particular focus on this area. Indeed, studies show that the best thought leadership is almost entirely focused on relationships. The list of skills included in emotional intelligence could almost serve as a checklist for becoming a great thought leader, including authenticity and trustworthiness. 

Leveraging emotional intelligence

It is, therefore, clear that good thought leaders and marketers have emotional intelligence. How, though, can the skill be leveraged to improve marketing activity? There are several ways.

First, emotional intelligence can be used to improve social listening. Marketers that apply emotional intelligence to their social listening activities hear more of the nuance in the conversations. They are better able to understand the emotional undercurrents—and that means that they will be able to respond more appropriately. They will also have more awareness of their own reaction, especially to critical comments, and can therefore better manage their response. 

Second, emotional intelligence can help companies to build a better brand image. Social listening gives you information about the company image. Emotional intelligence then allows marketers to build and develop that image. This may only involve minor tweaks—or it may mean a major rethink of marketing strategy. This is likely to require insight and self-awareness. 

Insights from social listening, filtered via emotional intelligence, can be used to build better connections with customers. This, in turn, develops a better customer experience, and therefore brand image. The point here is that emotional intelligence allows employees to connect with customers on a more personal level—and that makes for a better relationship. 

The bottom line

Marketing is not about slick communications, it is about meeting customer needs. This does not mean simply responding to customers. Instead, it is about a deep understanding of your customers: their expectations, their pain points, and their challenges. Great marketers engage on an emotional level, and not merely an intellectual one. This allows them to anticipate customer needs, often before they have articulated that need themselves. 

You cannot do that unless you understand both your customers and yourself, and can recognise and manage your and their emotions. In other words, emotional intelligence is only going to become more important for marketers.   


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