I read an excellent article recently on the topic of a much neglected but essential skill in marketing: empathy.
The dictionary definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
From a marketing perspective, empathy simply means the ability to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about how they will perceive what you present them with.
In fact, for me, this is one of the most fundamental skills in marketing.
The role of marketing in any business should be this: to be the representative of the target customer and to truly understand them. Only by understanding your target customer can you understand what products and services to create and how best to present them to your intended audience.
To some degree, this might sound like we're crossing over into the realms of psychology and to some extent we are but essentially we’re all human and we have predictable behaviour patterns. To understand those patterns we simply need to talk to enough people and observe their behaviour.
I don’t consider myself an expert in psychology but I do believe that an understanding of behavioural psychology can really help from a marketing perspective.
In fact, there are all sorts of fascinating studies done about the impact of using certain colours on your website and in your branding but essentially what it all boils down to is the need to make an 'emotional' connection with your audience.
So how can you begin to employ 'empathy' in your marketing activity?
Talk to your customers We can all be guilty of the 'sample of one' syndrome: I do this, think like this or behave like this, therefore everyone else must be the same.
Asking and understanding what attracted your customers to buy your product or service over a competitor in the first place can really help frame your future marketing strategy and messaging.
What's in it for me? We're all constantly bombarded with campaigns asking us to click here, sign up here, try this or that new product or service. To avoid your message being lost in the noise, always begin by putting yourself in your customer's shoes and asking this simple question: What's in it for me?
What will my customer get by visiting my website, filling in that form, clicking on that link? What value are you adding for your target customer? Is your offer compelling enough?
Focus on relieving pain points Traditional marketing thinking would have us focusing on 'selling' the benefits of a product or service i.e. appealing to the pleasure-seeking parts of the brain.
However, our pain-avoidance response is 3 times stronger than our pleasure-seeking response. Highlighting how you can relieve your customer's pain points and eliminating 'negatives' can often work more effectively in your marketing.
Tell your story To quote the leadership consultant and author Simon Sinek: "People don't buy what you do... they buy why you do it."
By giving people an understanding of why you do what you do, what you stand for and what motivates you, you give people the opportunity to relate to you. This can be such a powerful means of creating that 'emotional' connection.
Keep It Simple Speaking to your customers in a language they understand is one of the fundamentals of marketing communication.
It can be tempting to believe that you're demonstrating your expertise by using jargon or industry terminology but all that serves to do is confuse and potentially alienate your target clients.
It's certainly not rocket science but in a world where we're constantly bombarded with advertising messages through multiple channels, adopting empathy in your marketing activity can make a huge difference in whether potential clients choose you over your competitor.