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Empathy in Marketing: How Knowing Your Audience Helps Foster Empathy [Part 1]

Jacqueline Zote
Jul 19, 2021 2:34:27 PM

During the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, the healthcare industry was experiencing a dire shortage of PPE equipment. Realising this urgent need, Barbour immediately pitched in. The U.K brand began using its South Shields factory to produce disposable gowns for local NHS trusts, making 1,000-1,500 pieces each day.

On the Barbour Facebook page, positive and heart-warming comments started pouring in from across the U.K. “This is why my family have continued to support your company over the generations,” one commenter said. “Yet another reason to continue buying from the great British brand,” said another.

This goes to show that empathy goes a long way when you’re trying to build an authentic connection with your audience and win their loyalty. Show that you care and your customers will care back. Marketers who understand this are starting to realign their focus and put empathy at the centre of their marketing messages.

To explore this topic more in-depth, we’ve put together a massive, 3-part guide based on insights and experiences from 150+ professionals. Now let’s dive in with the first part.

What Is Empathy in Marketing?

Why Empathy Matters in Marketing

What Is Empathy in Marketing?

According to a Forrester Consulting study, how people feel about a brand has 1.5X more impact on positive business outcomes compared to how they think about the brand. Their emotional connection with the brand makes them more likely to buy from the brain, remain loyal, and advocate for the brand.

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And empathy is the driving force of this emotional connection. “One of the first lessons we learned in marketing is that people buy emotions; not products,” explains Kami Turky, Head of Marketing at Solar Energy Hackers. “It doesn't matter if you have the best product in the world, if you didn't show empathy people won't trust you and won't give you their money.”

But what is empathy really? And what does it mean in the marketing context? Lacy Summers, CMO of Crush the PM Exam, explains it as, “the ability to recognise and understand the feelings of others, as well as the ability to envision what others are thinking or feeling. Empathy is a technique for gaining a better knowledge of your clients' points of connection so that your brand, product, or service may provide higher value in an effective and relevant manner.”

According to Nathan Hughes, Digital Marketing and SEO Manager at Diggity Marketing, “Empathy marketing is a strategy based on creating content. It speaks to people and invokes a sense of understanding and empathy within the consumer. It is crucial to be sensitive to the crowd’s reality while also strengthening the company’s resources and adding value into the realm of empathetic marketing.”

Why Empathy Matters in Marketing

Here’s a closer look at the different ways in which empathetic marketing benefits your business:

Understanding Audience Sentiments

Empathy involves putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, which will help you understand their sentiments.

Neil Grant, Director of Dalvey believes that marketing success is sorely reliant on the sentiments of our audiences. “If we don’t listen to their problems or desires, how will we make our marketing efforts reach them?”

“Their pains and dreams, their sentiments are the guideposts of our marketing content,” agrees Chris Von Wilpert, Founder of Content Mavericks.

Addressing Consumer Needs

Empathy in marketing gives you the perspective you need to address the needs of your audience.

According to Luke Smith, founder of We Buy Property in Kentucky, “The audience doesn't care about you or how great your company is. They only care that you can solve their problem.”

“You don’t sell products; you sell-off of pain points, emotions, and problems,” agrees Jamie Hickey, Founder of Coffee Semantics. “The only way to truly know what the buyer’s emotions are is to understand them and have empathy. It would be much easier for someone to sell a weight loss product if they were at one time overweight.”

“Understanding your audience is critical to being able to meet customers’ needs and expectations. You need to know what is important to your audience and where their greatest needs are,” says Lauren Picasso is the Founder & CEO of Cure.

Trishan Mehta, Co-Founder of PassionWP explains, “When I truly understand my audience's pain points, I can devise the best way to solve that pain in the shortest possible time.”

That means empathy gives you the audience insights necessary to guide your audience-centric content creation. “Having empathy for the wants, needs, and pain points that potential customers are facing allows me to craft content that effectively speaks to their situation,” agrees Francesca Nicasio, a Content Marketer at Payment Depot.

Closing More Sales

By better understanding and addressing your audience’s needs, you’ll naturally get to close more sales. “Every experienced salesperson understands that anticipating your clients' wants and demonstrating how your product or service will best meet those requirements is the key to closing sales,” says Sep Niakan, Managing Broker of CondoBlackBook.

“How can you expect your sales team to explain how your products or services fit into your consumers' lives if they don't have a thorough understanding of their lives?”

Empathy empowers you to tap into the emotions of your audience and turn them into paying customers.

Humanising Your Brand and Messaging

Jason McMahon, a Digital Strategist at Bambrick believes empathy is crucial for humanising your brand and messaging.

He explains, “Our target audience isn't a fictitious, intangible persona. They are real individuals like us. While it's essential to understand where a customer is in the buyer's journey, at the end of the day, we must remember that we're developing communications for people.”

According to Tim Sutton, Founder of CoffeeGeek TV, this is important because “the heavy usage of push marketing doesn’t work that well anymore as people develop an aversion to ads and ‘fabricated corporate values.’ Brands have a higher chance of building an organic relationship with their audience and increase the conversion rate by promoting trust, empathy, and authenticity.”

“By incorporating empathy in marketing campaigns, brands are presented to be more human and genuinely understand the customers’ pains. Therefore, their products/services will appear to effectively bring values that can relieve these pains, successfully touching on the customers’ concerns,” he explains.

Making a Real Connection

Empathy is also vital to build authentic connections between brands and their audiences. It’s the key to crafting genuine messaging that truly resonates with your audience.

Michael Knight, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Incorporation Insight says, “Empathy is important to me in marketing because it allows me to be more genuine in my approach, which allows consumers to easily connect with my brand.”

“Customers trust your brand if they feel that your marketing strategy is authentic and empathetic,” adds Pavel Ladziak, Founder of TheBeardStruggle. “These are the reasons why customer reviews, testimonials, and influencers are effective in promoting products and services. Empathetic marketing enables customers to get the information they need and they feel cared for when the marketing messages provide tips or warnings.”

Julian Goldie, CEO of Goldie Agency agrees, saying, “Understanding their preferences in choosing a product, how they feel toward that brand, and how they think they would be benefited helps me know where to assert and express genuine assistance.”

The Sprout Social #BrandsGetReal survey proves just that, with 51% of respondents saying they feel connected to a brand that understands them and what they want.

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Building Trust

Trust is another area in which empathy can help your business. “As a brand, you need to establish trust before you make sales. Empathy is the way to do that,” explains Janice Wald, the social media marketing and small business blogger behind Mostly Blogging.

“A buyer must have faith in us in order to purchase from us. And our buyer's trust stems from their belief that we understand them, that we comprehend their problems and requirements, and that we can assist them. Empathy is the source of this understanding,” agrees Darshan Somashekar, Founder & CEO of Spider Solitaire Challenge.

Wayne Connors, Managing Director of ACCL says, “Acknowledging their pains and dreams in our marketing content will let them see that we as marketers do care about them, which could result in gaining their trust.”

This is particularly important in industries such as the legal sector, explains Seth Price, Founding Partner of Price Benowitz LLP. According to Seth, showing empathy helps to address the stigma that lawyers are heartless and cold so leads can understand that the firm actually cares about helping them with their legal needs.

“Empathy helps you to build a real connection with your audience, as well as understand who each person is. This connection is then translated into other areas of legal work, as the client has more trust in you as a lawyer, and you have a stronger understanding of their individual situation. It’s a win-win situation,” he explains.

Eric Holguin, Brand Ambassador of Herrman and Herrman PLLC agrees, saying, “We understand that if a client needs our help, they are going through a traumatic and difficult time. Our main goal is to make sure our clients feel safe and trust our law firm during that time.”

According to Abby Herman of Snap Agency, “(Empathy) builds the trust you need in order to have a loyal audience, a strategy that can cost a lot less than the robotic marketing campaigns most agencies run for their clients in hope of gaining new customers every day.”

Garnering Loyalty

Empathetic marketing helps you form an emotional connection with your audience, which in turn wins their loyalty.

“Every human has a deep need to be heard and validated. When you can read a person's emotions and reflect them back, that person is deeply grateful and is more likely to become a loyal customer,” explains lawyer and professional mediator, Doug Noll.

Brett Downes, Founder of Haro Helpers agrees, saying, “With emotional marketing, the customer not only appreciates your understanding of them, it actively promotes loyalty, and all marketers know this is where the profit is at.”

Gaining a Competitive Edge

Empathy also helps you gain a competitive advantage, according to Jabez Reuben, Owner of The Blueprints. “It enables the organisation to stand out in the present cut-throat competition market which is brimming with salesy promotional content,” he says.

“You can talk all you want about analytics and whatnot, but at the end of the day, we are marketing to human beings,” agrees David Walter, Head of Marketing at Electrician Mentor. “An empathetic approach cuts through all of the noise that most marketers fall prey to, and when you can make that breakthrough your campaign will be that much more successful. “

Making a Lasting Impact

Most importantly, empathetic marketing isn’t just a trend; it’s evergreen. An empathetic approach can have a lasting impact on your audience, according to David Walter. It rarely grows stale because it speaks to the very core of our humanness.

“Want to build a marketing approach for the ages? Benchmark it around empathy and you'll rarely lose,” David says.

This is part 1 of our 3-part guide on “Empathy in Marketing: How Knowing Your Audience Helps Foster Empathy.” Stay tuned for part 2, where we discuss how to know your audience better for empathetic marketing.

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