Brands have leveraged a variety of ways to attract, engage and retain customers. From playing up heritage to prestige to instant gratification to entertainment, or a combination of these in varying degrees, while trying to stay authentic and honest. Marketing is the bridge between what businesses have to offer (sell) and what customers buy. Its role is not only to communicate and engage but to reduce the friction that exists between the product that's being sold and the customer’s wallet. While all marketing should be about creating remarkable customer value journeys (not just experience journeys) it does get complicated in terms of time, effort and money. With constantly-evolving changes in customer personas and biases, social and economic drivers, competitive environment and the global pandemic that has possibly irrevocably changed customer behaviour for the foreseeable future; how can brands today connect and convert more customers?
The answer is actually quite simple and for some marketers counter-intuitive: Empathy!
People are emotional creatures by nature (some more than others) but emotional nonetheless. People's reliance on Emotion and Connection are more necessary than ever before. The way we live, work and engage has been changed in ways that we never could have imagined before. As businesses continue to move towards a marketing automation world to improve customer engagement, it becomes more imperative that marketing not lose its emotional appeal, but more importantly remain empathetic to its customer and their emotions now.
Empathy-based Marketing can be defined as walking in your customers’ shoes to better understand their wants, needs, desires, fears, motivations and experiences from their perspective. It is not about 'thinking' like your customers; but rather 'being' the customer. It is about the ability to see events and situations from another perspective.
“It’s very difficult to design something for someone if you have no empathy.” – Stewart Butterfield
To elaborate further, empathy marketing is about
Putting your customer in the centre and getting yourself out of the way. (i.e. think less about what you as a marketer want... your ego and biases; and more about what the customers feel. Move towards customer-centric thinking and away for marketing-centric thinking)
Going into the customers’ world by understanding and empathising with their experiences (i.e. listening to learn something new VS. listening to confirm what your already know)
Exploring their pain points in the real world as well as pain points with regard to your business. Then understanding how they solve their problems by retracing their steps towards solving their problem
Looking for ways within their experience journey where you can add value and ease their journey (alleviate their problem and make their lives better)
Understanding what motivates them and then providing them with what they need (Giving them content and expertise that genuinely help them get clarity)
In order for Empathetic Marketing to be effective these are the 3 stages that marketers must demonstrate:
Being aware of what your prospect customers are going through (understanding their feelings and fully comprehending their emotional state).
Engagements that demonstrate that you understand their feelings, their problems and showing that you actually care about them.
Take specific action to support the customer; solve the problem that s/he experiences especially relating to your brand.
Conclusion: While it might be tempting or have been a past practice to leverage/ evoking negative emotions to drive sales, it is important to adapt your brand’s content strategy, re-examine the customer journey and educate your employees about empathy during current times. Avoid hard selling or sounding too preachy or being vague. Focus on what you do best; provide clear and concise advice and solutions. If brands want to attract, engage and retain customers they need to build an emotional connect and genuinely give customers what they want. Not only does this create a powerful bond but it also builds lasting competitive advantage which will eventually result in more sales, better ROI and of course revenue.
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