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Marketers, it's time to get emotional with 'business EQ'

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"Feeling emotions is what makes life rich. You need your passions." —Daniel Goleman

Emotions drive us.

We are emotional beings and when we are moved, we act. More importantly, if we are not moved, we ignore, we discard, we move on without hesitation.

This presents an extra-special challenge for us as marketers and business leaders. In our oversaturated world, it's easier than ever to get ignored and harder than ever to cut through the clutter and connect to people with emotion and relevance. We, as human beings, connect to inspiration, relevance, a higher-order purpose. Facts alone do not inspire us. In order to connect with people, marketing cannot be comprised of dry, emotionless, factual content.

In other words, we need to develop a higher business EQ.

EQ is emotional intelligence. As management psychologist David Caruso so eloquently points out, this is—ironically—not all about emotion. "It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head. It is the unique intersection of both," he has said.

Developing and leveraging high EQ helps to create the exemplary results talked about in Jim Collins' book, "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't" (HarperBusiness, 2001). Some of the most successful and against-all-odds success stories today have been built on the foundation of high EQ and culture-driven organizations that strive to add value and inspire their customers and communities, both internal and external.

In my hometown of Denver there is an extraordinary and most unconventional leader, Kent Thiry, CEO at DaVita, who has facilitated one of the most successful business turnarounds of our time based on EQ. In 10 years he has led the kidney dialysis company from revenue of $1.6 billion, losses of $56 million and a share price of $2 to revenue approaching $6 billion, net income of $374 million and a share price near $60.

Thiry has achieved these impressive results in a most unusual way. He is an openly emotional, inspiring and caring leader who taps into both EQ and IQ to reach the hearts and minds of his employees and customers.

DaVita (which means "to give life") takes care of its customers by inspiring and taking care of its employees. Kent creates one-of-a-kind employee rallies where he somersaults, sings, ziplines, rides in on a Harley and delivers purpose and inspiration with pizzazz by being incredibly authentic, caring and vulnerable.

His heartfelt speeches are often filled with tears of empathy and pride and he delivers and creates extreme loyalty with his core values, rituals, recognition and heart. How does this translate to DaVita customers? An estimated 16 million customer interactions a year creates possibilities for small mistakes or misdiagnoses which could be deadly.

"It's hard to make a purely business case for people to care as much as they need to care in order to deliver great service," observes Bill Taylor on the Harvard Business Review blog. "You have to be motivated by something deeper, a sense of commitment not just to patients but also to one another."

I think that says it all. EQ matters and matters greatly.

Starbuck's CEO Howard Shultz is committed to keeping employee and customer/community needs at the forefront no matter what. While Starbuck's stock has increased over 12,300% in 21 years, Shultz states, "Profitability if a shallow goal."

"We are equally proud of what we are doing in the community, what we are doing with our people and how the company has built itself around a purpose that is not just about making money," Shultz said, in a CNBC interview.

Starbucks is committed to understanding the needs of the community, the customers and the employees, and then passionately and consistently meeting those needs. All employees, including part-timers, get healthcare benefits. Community service hours are at 600,000 today and moving to a forecasted 1 million hours by 2015. Customer input and preferences (through online ideas, voting etc.) are the primary driver of new product and service ideas through My Starbucks Idea.

This is business and marketing EQ at its finest and the business results show it.

Standing out and connecting to others requires EQ. Business EQ is a differentiator to the bottom line and paves the way for more conscious capitalism. The upside to increasing business EQ is tremendous, and I have yet to find the downside.

Sandra Zoratti is an author, speaker and marketer. You can find Sandra on LinkedIn, Twitter @sandraz and on her website, sandrazoratti.com.

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