Two ways to “bathe” your customers

Way back in the day, my first full time job was as a consumer respondent at Parker Brothers games.

I answered questions about the rules to the various games they make (Monopoly, Ouija board, Sorry and so on).

One time an elderly lady wrote a letter requesting a copy of the rules to the game of Sorry because she had lost them.

She then went on for several paragraphs about how sad she was because her husband had died, she was estranged from a daughter, etc. etc. I was so struck by how she poured her heart out to a stranger.

People would often call and ask things like, “The Ouija board says I’m going to die tomorrow. What do I do????”

The way I handled calls like this is worthy of a blog post of its own.

Suffice to say I had to do a tremendous amount of listening to customers about things that had nothing to do about the actual products we sold.

Listening is powerful and effective but how can you use it in your marketing?

I’ll describe two of the ways you can do this.

The first is a listening technique called BATHE that was developed by two doctors as a way to quickly get to the heart of a patient’s story in a busy doctor’s office and also show empathy at the same time.

I’ve used this technique in marketing as well.

For example, I once created a survey that asked questions based on these questions and it received a huge response.

One can use this technique in other ways as well, such as questions you ask on you Facebook fan pages, etc.

Here’s how it works:

B = Background. Ask the question, “What happened to you?”

In marketing, the questions would be something like, “Tell me a little about your background and experience with email marketing.”

A = Affect. Ask the question, “And how does that make you feel?”

Yes, you should ask that question in your business too because as copywriters and marketers it’s very important to know what their dominant feeling is about their problem.

T = Trouble. Ask the question, “And what troubles you the most now?” This helps focus the person’s mind.

In marketing, asking something like, “What is your greatest difficulty with email marketing?”

You’ll get specific answers that will even inspire product ideas sometimes.

This happened to me after creating a survey using these questions.

H = Handling. Ask the question, “And what helps you the most to handle this?” This question focuses the attention on the resources around them that can help them to cope and take action.

In marketing this question can give you an opportunity to follow up by showing what you have to offer them.

E = Empathy. Sincerely express the feelings you experienced as you listened to the other person.

In marketing this would take the form of simple statements like, “I’m very sorry you had difficult with our product” while interacting with a customer.

Or telling a story in your email or web copy that shows you have once been in their shoes.

The second way to listen to your customers is to write emails and blog posts that they want to reply to.

An email is more than an opportunity to get a customer to click on your link.

It’s an opportunity to listen as well. The listening benefits the customer… and you and your bottom line.

If you want to read more about how to use BATHE in your personal life (after all, the great thing about marketing is how these skills can make you a better person too) read my How Listening is Like Prozac post on my personal blog. I have other posts there about listening as well.

And thanks to Doberman Dan for making a video that reminded me I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.

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  • John Thomas


    I've never heard of the BATHE process before. Powerful stuff. Wow. Makes you wonder why we weren't taught this kind of thing in school.

    I would be curious to know your response to the Ouija board phone call…


    – John

  • anitaashland

    Thanks, John. I'll have to write a post about the Ouija board. 🙂

    You're right, no one ever teaches this stuff in school even though it's applicable to all areas of our life unlike, say, algebra.