If you’re marketing a product or service, it’s essential to understand your audience before you start. This is an often overlooked area by businesses, who tend to focus on their own wants and needs. Empathy is the most crucial element to successful marketing. Even when you’re not interacting face-to-face, empathy is vital if you want your marketing efforts to pay off.
If you have no empathy for your prospective customers, it won’t matter how great your product or service is. You won’t see the potential in how they could benefit from your services. Sure, you can make big gains and profit with a strict focus on what you want and need, but if your business is to continue thriving into the future, then empathy is key. Developing empathy for your customers is a vital part of creating marketing that speaks to your unique audience.
Marketing isn’t easy. It’s a balance of speaking to the right people at the right time, and doing so in a way that captivates and connects. The emotional connection that leads to a sale should never be neglected.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s one of those basic human qualities that all humans possess, at least to some degree. Empathy is defined as the ability to know or imagine what another person is thinking or feeling. To be empathetic, you have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel that person’s pain and happiness. At the same time, these feelings have nothing to do with your own individual emotions.
How to have empathy: Know your audience
One of the most important parts of empathy as a marketer is knowing your customers. How do they spend their day? What are their lives like? Where are they looking for information?
If you don’t know, ask them. Run surveys, create polls, and use social media to start a dialogue. If you have the resources, commission some market research, or set up focus groups. The more you know about your audience, the better equipped you will be to understand them and create content that resonates with them—not just on an emotional level, but also a practical one.
If, for example, you know your customers live in an area with poor mobile internet service, it’s probably not a great idea to push lots of video on social media. And if they have a long and painful commute every day, it’s probably best to avoid posting marketing content at inappropriate times—like during rush hour.
Create a detailed buyer persona to kickstart your marketing journey. If you’re unsure what they want, then you should do some research to figure that out. If they are hurting in a particular area, then help them address it with the solution that you offer.
Empathy is more than just person-to-person
At its core, empathy is about understanding someone else’s experience. Empathy is the ultimate building block of marketing. As marketers, we use empathy to understand the customer experience and identify opportunities for improvement.
A lot of people think of empathy as just being between two people, but it can be built into your entire user experience. It can be the foundation of your organization. For example, making your website and content easier to access for people with visual disabilities.
It’s easy to get lost in the technical aspects of digital marketing—the where, how, and when— and lose sight of why we do what we do: Helping our customers make informed decisions about how to solve problems. To do that, we need to think of how we can make their lives easier, every single step of the way.
Empathy leads to better marketing
Marketing strategies need to have empathy at its core in order for it to succeed. In the field of marketing, empathy is a powerful tool. It helps you understand your customers, their pain points, and what motivates them to make a purchase.
At its core, marketing is about communicating with people. Even in cases where it’s not a “people-to-person” interaction—for example, if you’re posting a message to a corporate Twitter account or Facebook page—you have to understand that you’re communicating with other people. And if you don’t have an empathetic view of your audience, you don’t really have any idea what impact your message might have on them.
The goal is to create marketing that speaks to your audience in a way that matters and makes tangible improvements to the lives of your customers.
A lack of empathy can destroy your brand
A lack of empathy can be damaging to your brand, especially in the age of social media where people aren’t afraid to share their experiences—good or bad—with others. If your customer care team is rude to a customer, don’t be surprised if they share it in the reviews or on social media. Since 93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product, this can make or break a purchase.
Plus, as marketers, be careful you’re not lacking empathy on social media. For example, on International Women’s Day in 2021, Burger King tweeted: “Women belong in the kitchen.”
USA Today wrote, “Burger King’s attempt to highlight gender disparity in the restaurant industry with a provocative tweet appears to have backfired.” Burger King approached the issue in a way that perpetuates harmful stereotypes against women.
They tried to convey their point in the following tweets in the thread, but on Twitter, the first tweet will be seen the most. People were easily able to take this tweet, and forgo the rest of the thread. Perhaps a more effective approach would have been combining the tweets into one, but I don’t even know if that would have saved Burger King.
Empathy on social media: Nail your responses
Social media has created a new conversation dynamic. No longer do brands communicate only to their customers; they communicate with them. This means that how you listen and how you respond directly affects your brand and how it’s perceived.
Empathy takes many forms, from listening to responding to being proactive in sensitive situations. Here are some best practices for showing empathy with your social media marketing:
Responding to customer comments with thoughtful answers or retweets shows that you’re an active part of the conversation. It also helps inform your content strategy, because when you know what people are talking about, you can join their conversations and build stronger relationships with them.
When someone mentions your brand on social media, they expect a response—especially if they’re contacting you with a question or complaint. Not responding makes it seem like you don’t care about your customers, which could diminish customer loyalty and damage your business.
How you respond and interact on social media is just as important as what you post.
Another example: Don’t market during devastating world events
As marketers, we must see the big picture and empathize with our customers’ situations beyond the product itself. We need to look at the world through their eyes and perspectives. What happens if an unexpected event disrupts their normal lives? Our products can become insignificant at these times, but our brand’s response can be remembered forever.
Empathy isn’t always so obvious. It’s not just listening to what customers want or what they say they want. It’s also thinking about what they need and the times when they need it most.
One way to use empathy in marketing is by keeping up with current events. If something major and unfortunate happens in the world, it’s important to acknowledge this event even if it means putting aside your normal marketing plan for a few days. This ensures that people don’t feel like they’re being marketed to during a sensitive time. It helps build trust between your brand and its customers.
Use empathy for successful marketing
You want your customers to trust you, and the best way to build that trust is by showing them you understand how they feel. Empathy helps you see the potential customer, and how to provide a valuable service to them.
As much as you believe in your own product, it’s going to take more than that. Convincing someone else to purchase something is going to take a journey into their mind and seeing what they need, before you can provide it to them.
Empathy is the backbone of marketing. And it all starts with deep observation, thinking about every part of your business from the perspective of your consumer and ensuring that you never lose sight of why your customers are buying from you in the first place.
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