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Why empathy matters for your marketing strategy

Decoding the intricate consumer mindset is something marketers have been trying to do for years. But to crack this complex puzzle, they need to attack it from the other end.

The most successful marketers address problems from a customer or user standpoint through design thinking. This mentality focuses on whom the product or service is designed for rather than whom it’s designed by. But the biggest component of successful design thinking is a marketer’s ability to empathize with customers.

This detailed understanding stems from the ability to set aside assumptions and relate to customers on a deeper level.

Marketing With an Empathetic Mindset

When marketers empathize with customers and apply that understanding to their marketing efforts, their messages resonate with customers and inspire them to take action.

Empathy is key to gathering new perspectives and discovering customers’ unique points of view. Sometimes they reveal solutions you might not have discovered otherwise or unmet needs and challenges you might be overlooking. You can use these revelations to make critical product or design changes and enhance the overall consumer experience. They might even pave the way for new product or service ideas.

It’s clear to see how empathizing with customers leads to stronger marketing initiatives and user-optimized products. For business leaders, it’s important to get your teams comfortable with the idea of empathizing with customers so your marketing messages have a profound impact and galvanize your audience. Here are three ways business leaders can promote empathy within their companies:

1. Train your team to conduct empathy interviews

Actively listening to customer and non-customer qualms with your product or industry is crucial to uncovering a viable solution. But before sending your team out into the streets, you need to equip them with the tools to extract the most valuable information possible from each interview. Online training opportunities can lay the foundation for strong empathetic interviewing skills and help your staff become better interviewers.

Point Forward is a great resource that offers step-by-step instructions on how to hold empathy interviews.

Initial training should get your staff comfortable with conducting empathy interviews, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your efforts. Once the training is complete, employees need to repeatedly practice these skills to hone them.

2. Emphasise learning by doing

Interviewing with an empathetic mindset is an acquired skill. The best way to ensure that employees are truly understanding customer needs is to challenge them to get out from behind their desks and have face-to-face talks with the people they can impact. This can feel daunting at first, but it becomes easier with practice.

Throw out the idea of conducting surveys and focus groups — these can skew data and cause your marketing team to miss out on important contradictions or revealing information. Engaging random people in in-depth conversations will provide your team with raw feedback from a less controlled sample group. As your team continues to interact with the public, they’ll naturally start putting people first when devising new marketing initiatives.

3. Encourage them to look beyond the surface

When interviewing people in the field, it’s important not to take every word at face value. Part of empathy is identifying underlying consumer needs they might not even realize they have yet. Henry Ford once said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Paying close attention to the nuances and contradictions in what people tell you will help you identify their core needs and build a revolutionary product to fulfill them.

Procter & Gamble recently utilised design thinking and empathetic marketing when it realized its Tide brand was losing its younger customer base. Through empathy interviews, P&G discovered that younger customers weren’t using Tide because they feared it would make their designer jeans fade. At that point, P&G realized it had lost touch with this valuable customer base; its Tide products weren’t solving an important consumer problem. As a result, P&G introduced a new Tide product that addressed this specific fear.

P&G saw the power of empathy interviews and design thinking, which led to more product lines that improve the lives of a wider market. As your team regularly incorporates empathetic thinking into its marketing strategy, you will see better results and bigger ideas emerge as you grow to understand your customers’ wants and needs on a more personal level.

Don’t be afraid to break away from the traditional comforts of market surveys and focus groups with empathy interviews and design thinking.

How do you relate to customers on a deeper level?

Author | George Hines

George Hines
George Hines is the chief information officer and head of innovation at Global Experience Specialists and has 20 years of experience in various B2B companies in the marketing, live events, telecommunications, outsourcing, and travel industries. You’ll have no problem recognizing him. He’ll be the only one in GES’ Las... More

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