Why Empathy Is an Important Part of Every Marketer’s Toolkit

Nitish Menon

The digital world we live in has people constantly battling between information overload, noise, and extensive marketing, making it nearly impossible to get your message across, or even be remembered. Unless you can make people feel good about themselves. I mean who doesn’t like being coddled? And the quicker brands can understand this, the better they can get with their marketing efforts.

“Don’t push people to where you want to be; meet them where they are.” — Meghan Anderson, VP Marketing at Hubspot

As a brand, you may think this is an easy task considering the technology we’re presented with today. However, with even more layers added to human connection gaining empathy with your customers can be extremely difficult.

What’s Empathy-Based Marketing?

Back in 2011, award-winning author Adam Grant defined it as “perspective-taking”, but contemporary marketers simply refer to it as empathy.

The literal definition of the word according to Google is the ability to share the emotions of others. To understand what people feel, why they feel that way, and what they care about. It’s always about them and not about you.

Empathy-based marketing is all about taking a step back and taking a hard look at your brand from the eyes of the customer. As marketers, we must have a clear understanding of who our customers are, the various challenges they face, and what motivates them to make a purchase.

By gaining a better understanding of their motivations, you can focus on solving a problem they face or help them with the tools they need to be successful. An effective way to do this by creating educational content and resources that directly speak to their situation.

Eyes on the Prize (Aka Your Customers)

Empathy-based marketing is built on the foundation of trust. The funny thing about trust is that it’s one of the easiest things for your brand to lose and one of the hardest to win back. It’s imperative you get it right.Since trust isn’t a one-way street, it’s equally important for your brand to ensure that your customers have faith in your brand. The right way to achieve this is to humanize your brand and communicate with your customers just like you’d catch up with a friend.An article by Forbes also outlines:

“If the humans who represent the brand act like humans and friends, then that’s how customers will see you.”

Understandably, this isn’t always practical, and building those connections with your customers is always easier said than done.So how do you empathize with your customers? The simple answer is with their time. In this attention-filled economy, brands must be considerate of the time demanded of their customers. For example, a 30-second ad placed right before a two-minute YouTube video clip is not a fair tradeoff.A great way for brands to be more empathetic is to follow an empathy mapping exercise (refer to figure below). Essentially all your social media channels, newsletters, and customer support are different tools you can leverage to understand your customers better. Put in the effort to find out who they are and what excites them.

Image by OptinMonster

We need to adopt a customer-centric mindset to have real empathy towards our customers. Try to think of all the things you like/dislike while seeing other marketing campaigns and use those findings to inform your decisions. Respecting your customers’ needs will boost their trust in your brand.

How Marketers Can Use It

Now that we understand the importance of empathy in marketing, let’s talk about the different way marketers can use them as part of their marketing strategy (with examples):

  • Humanize your brand. We need to be aware that our customers are not fictitious characters from a novel. They are real people. The fast-food brand Chipotle does a great job at understanding customers on a human level. They recognize that their customers are human beings who would appreciate a personal touch or connect with the brand.

Image by Twitter
  • Embrace customer uniqueness. Remember that each customer is unique. They all face their own challenges and don’t share similar problems or desires; each of them will have a different response to the same words, patterns, colors, and images. The coffee brand Starbucks does a great job at checking in with their audience regularly, helping them craft inclusive communication pieces and products.

Image by Instagram
  • Conduct research and behavior analysis. The core essence of empathy involves placing ourselves in our customer’s shoes, we shouldn’t be making guesses about them. Conducting in-depth buyer persona research can translate into empathetic marketing campaigns if done right.

  • Proactive social listening. Leverage the brand’s social media to gather feedback and understand how customers feel about your brand. It’s an extremely underrated but powerful tool. The famous audio brand Spotify has a designated Twitter page to learn and address any challenges their past and current customers are facing, which helps them tweak their marketing strategy and product updates for the future.

Image by Twitter

Bottom Line

My thoughts are that truly understanding your customer’s wants and needs can help differentiate your brand from the rest. Your marketing campaigns will be better received and appreciated by following this empathetic approach.Marketers today need to constantly revisit their campaign ideas to stay relevant in the long term. However, being empathetic with your customers is something that will never go out of fashion. Additionally, you establish brand trust and positively impact your bottom line through the process. Every brand dreams to be there.It's simple — be smart, be empathetic and the rest will happen on its own.