How to Know Your Audience Better for Empathetic Marketing
To show empathy in your marketing, you need to know and understand your audience first. For this, you need research and data to give you insights into your audience.
Evian Gutman, Founder & CEO of Ringcommend believes that once you have the insights you need, you can turn them into action through a holistic and empathetic understanding of the people your decisions are truly going to impact.
“Some things you should know about your audience are things that go beyond demographics. Demographics just give you insight to some of the issues that your audience might face, and that's where empathy is necessary,” says Rhea Henry, a Content Strategist at EnergyRates.ca.
In part 2 of our 3-part series on “Empathy in Marketing,” we show you some ways to gain a better understanding of your audience so you can foster empathy in marketing.
- Build Accurate Buyer Personas
- Look at Behavioural and Demographics Insights
- Personally Engage with Them
- Collect Audience Intelligence through Social Listening
- Hear It Directly from Them
- Hear It from Experts and Thought Leaders
- Conduct Strategic Testing
- Learn from the Competition
- Think like a Consumer
Here are some practical steps that will help you know your audience better so you can empathise with them in your marketing:
Build Accurate Buyer Personas
Creating detailed and accurate buyer personas is critical to gain a better understanding of your audience and gauge their different needs and pain points.
According to Jenna Carson, Marketing Director at Music Grotto, buyer personas are the “bare essentials” in empathetic marketing. “They help you create marketing content that will be empathetic because they will help you in understanding aspects of your potential clients’ lives,” she explains, “and from that, you can find out pain points and be empathetic.”
Jessica Mason, a Digital Marketing Strategist at Three29, states that she utilises an empathy-based audience discovery process that includes creating detailed buyer personas for each of her clients. “Creating personas means empathetically and strategically diving into the mindset of a fictional representation of each client's largest sources of business, then developing a target audience built around that persona,” she explains.
“In strategy sessions, we identify how a persona thinks, how to communicate with them in our messaging and position, what their questions are, and what they will get by becoming a customer and brand advocate.”
According to Chris Nutbeen, Founder & CEO of Nuttifox, creating buyer personas involves building an outline of your ideal “target customer.” “In most cases, this takes the form of a fictional character, whom you shape with bits of information like education level, family life, career, and income, and maybe even details like a name and personality traits,” he explains. “This helps you conceptualise and ‘talk to’ your average target customer, and it serves as an ideal tool to get your other team members up to speed.”
John Bertino, CEO of The Agency Guy believes that you need to consider client emotions in order for your personas to be effective. “Determine their desires and pain spots, as well as how these aspects affect them and tailor your content accordingly,” he says.
“Customers who are always short on time, for example, may appreciate simpler usage instructions, whilst those who are buying to treat themselves would appreciate extra-special touches, such as a free gift with purchase.”
Jordana Megonigal, COO of Elysium Creative Collective believes that personas are effective because they allow you to communicate with a person, rather than market to a segment. “This allows you to connect a little deeper with your market because you can make it personal, rather than just talking to a wide group of people.”
Igor Avidon, Founder of Avidon Marketing Group suggests “psychographic mapping” to create accurate buyer personas. This involves “asking a series of questions about who our customers are, their feelings, opinions, and concerns.”
“You can actually create a pretend person that you can visualise speaking and communicating with. You can use this connection to fill in the blanks with how this person would think, feel, act, and believe,” says Jeremy Starke, Founder and Marketing Expert at Evergreen Growth Marketing.
To create accurate buyer personas, however, it helps to have a clear idea of the different segments that make up your audience. Instead of creating personas based on assumptions, make sure you narrow down on the specific characteristics of your target audience so you can better visualise who your ideal customers are.
Use a platform like Audiense Insights to segment groups of people based on how they’re interconnected. The platform then gives you in-depth insights about what each segment cares about and what topics or trends are holding them together.
Look at Behavioural and Demographics Insights
One of the best ways to understand your audience better is by looking at the data. Analytics insights on demographics, buying history, and online behaviour can tell you a lot about who your audience is and what they like/dislike.
According to Simon Elkjær, CMO of avXperten, you need to pay more attention to research and better analyse your data if you want to understand how your customers are feeling, what they’re going through, and how they’ll perceive your business and campaigns.
“From keyword research to semantic search research, I use every tool I have to listen clearly to the audience of our clients and respond to their search rather than the words they use,” says Digital Business Strategist Donna Rougeau.
“You may see tremendous benefits in marketing by combining analytics with customer empathy. You have the ability to develop something that is very focused and significant,” explains Thilo Huellmann, CTO of Levity.ai.
For Ann Young, Co-Inventor & CEO of Fix The Photo, it’s all about knowing where your target audience hangs out and what brands they’re buying from. Once you have an idea of their data (e.g. sites visited, types of brands purchased from) you can analyse this information against data about your brand (e.g. mission statements, financials, company website content) to add value to the conversation.
“You have to get data that drives them to your product: habits, lifestyles, behaviours, and preferences are the biggest influences you need to gather in order to tailor-fit solutions for your audience,” according to Courtney Quigley, a Business Reputation Consultant at Rize Reviews. “Your end goal is to produce something that will help them and consistently resonate with your audience.”
Polly Kay, Senior Marketing Manager at English Blinds adds, “You need to move further into the intangible or harder to pinpoint keys like purchasing behaviour/ethics, language choices and educational level, unmet needs, and points of alienation/deal breakers.”
Jon Buchan, CEO of Charm Offensive believes, “Behaviour and preferences are key pieces of information that help you be empathetic.”
According to Catherine Cooke, Founder of Upskillwise, detailed information about buying habits can help you map out customer motivation. “You need to know which platforms are generating the most interest in your brand to tell you what kind of consumer is looking for your product,” she adds.
“This hard, objective information needs to be married with a subjective, empathetic approach. Put yourself in a customer's shoes using the data you have on hand to tell you why people are coming back, and what you can do to bring in more customers.”
Christie & Co., a specialist business property adviser uses its proprietary brand architecture, a document compiling relevant market research, to discover the emotional needs and priorities of a client’s audience. According to Co-Founder and CEO, Gillian Christie, this helps them to effectively target that audience’s emotional hot buttons, its needs, and its preferred channels of communication.
Sandeepan Jindal, Co-Founder of BidFortune also recommends using tools like Google Analytics or Mixpanel to understand where the customer is spending time or dropping off. “We can build/fix and market the newly launched/fixed features,” he says.
Additionally, you should also consider collecting insights from the people who work directly with your customers.
Tatiana Gavrilina, Content Marketing Writer for DDI Development says she asks sales representatives for information about what kind of requests customers have and what phrases they use to describe their problem or task.
On the other hand, Shakun Bansal, CMO of Mercer Mettl doesn’t just stop at sales; but also extends that research to the customer success department. He says, “We start with directly connecting with our customers through our customer success teams to know what challenges the customers are facing with our products, what improvements they seek, and their expectations from our features.”
You can learn a lot about your audience just by paying attention to their subtle and not-so-subtle hints.
“If there’s one place I would recommend starting to show empathy in marketing, it wouldn’t involve writing a word,” says Content Marketing Strategist, Lauren Lang. “It would be actively listening to what your customers are already telling you—in customer support requests, in social groups in your industry, in the interactions that your product team has with users early on in the building process,” she explains.
“Empathy comes from understanding, and understanding comes from data. And data is something that companies are drowning in—for better or worse.”
Personally Engage with Them
Many of the experts we spoke to believe in personally engaging with your customers to get to know them better. While this in itself is empathy in action, it also gives you a better understanding of who your audience really is.
“By personally engaging with others, you may learn a lot about how they think and what values they hold. Having a chat with someone, whether it's a formal interview or casual banter, may be quite beneficial in gaining new insights,” says Charles McMillan, Founder of Stand with Main Street. “People's tales and the actions they take while telling them are powerful markers of their deep-seated ideas and ideas.”
“Communication is the key,” according to Olivia Tan, co-founder of CocoFax, “Stay in contact with them to know better what they think about your products and if you need to act according to their recommendations.”
Danavir Sarria, an eCommerce growth strategist says that one-on-one conversations with potential customers are a great way to understand your audience. This could be social media, live chat, email, or even a phone call.
For entrepreneurs like Amie Thompson, President & CEO of Creative Allies, their target audience also comprises mainly of entrepreneurs. To begin establishing a relationship, she starts by asking a lot of questions. “This helps me understand the person and their business,” she explains. “It also helps them to get a lot of information out of their head. I stress that it doesn't need to be pretty or polished, just tell me what's going on with your business.”
Melitta Campbell, a business and communication coach suggests asking them what their challenges are, what problems this causes in their life, and what it would mean for them to solve these issues.
Sumanth, the blogger behind Zero Avatar, practices this saying that he speaks directly to his audience as much as possible. “I don't ask how my service is, but I ask them what kind of problems they face which is stopping them,” he says.
Aaron Agius Co-Founder of Louder.Online also talks to his customers one-on-one, listens to their feedback, and offers actionable advice. “Building strong relationships will help you develop empathy more than anything else. Remember that one happy customer can reveal so much about your audience,” he says.
Corey Pattakos, Founder and CEO of three successful companies – Blkdiamond.co, Corey Michael Skin Care, and Brand & Scale – also attributes his success to personal interactions. “I’m always in touch with my customer base, sometimes by phone – which is fun – and often by email or message,” he says. “I like to know what they’re struggling with, what they want, what’s new, and how we can serve them better. I like to think that my customer connection is what sets up apart from many other brands.”
But remember that even if you ask questions, their answers may deviate from the original question and that’s okay, according to David Cusick, Chief Strategy Officer at House Method. “Have candid conversations with your audience and build a connection with them. Listen to their stories and observe how they view the world and interact with their environment,” he suggests.
While personally engaging with each and every customer can be challenging for larger businesses, Luke Genoyer, Head of Marketing for United World Telecom suggests speaking with as many of your good customers as possible. And make sure you record the conversations (with their permission, of course).
The Super Purposes team used a similar strategy to develop their online course for military spouses. They personally met with 20 military spouses to understand the unique challenges they face when getting a job. This helped them discover the high rates of unemployment and underemployment that military spouses experience.
“Once we understood the pigeonholes that MilSpouses get placed into, it was easy for us to create an online course that spoke directly to their specific problems,” says Valentina Sanchez, Communications Specialist for Super Purposes.
For businesses that operate from brick-and-mortar locations, like Rent-a-Wheel, in-person observation is also an effective way to personally engage. President, Matt Seaburn says that this helps them better understand what kinds of people their customers are and why they’re coming into their stores.
Chris Von Wilpert, Founder of Content Mavericks, even suggests talking to your family and friends to gather information. After all, they are consumers, too.
For Paulina Szydlo, VP of Product at Rene Health, a travel insurance company, interviews helped her reach the company’s potential market. This allowed her to pivot their product and grow their business even during the pandemic.
OneNine5, an eco-conscious and unisex travel goods brand, uses different touch points to enable two-way interactions with their customers. “Social channels have been the best channel to enable two-way communication with our customers to understand their sentiment towards travelling,” says Founder Alex Stewart.
On the other hand, companies like Motivosity take it one step further by organising weekly events with partners and prospects to connect over a game of pickleball. “By having real-life conversations and building a relationship with them we're better able to understand their concerns and what's important to them,” says Vice President, Logan Mallory.
Collect Audience Intelligence through Social Listening
With people spending a large amount of their free time on social media, it’s where most conversations and socialising take place. This makes social media a crucial piece of the puzzle for collecting audience intelligence.
Business and Communication Coach Melitta Campbell believes it’s easier than ever to listen to your audience with social media and online forums.
“The best way to know your target audience is through social listening,” explains Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging. “For instance, read the comments on your site. Read the questions people ask on Quora. Read the comments people make in Reddit communities,” she suggests.
“Mining these sources are all great ways to know what’s top of mind for your audience, what problems they’re looking to solve, and the language they use,” adds Emma Cimolini, Marketing Director of Routific. “Leveraging these insights, and checking in on these channels on a regular basis, is key to being an empathetic marketer and making your marketing campaigns more successful.”
Daniel Foley, CMO at Scooter Guide suggests paying close attention to how many people are responding to your work, how they’re responding, and how often they’re responding. “You can use this information to discover what content topics your audience values or what types of messages don’t appeal to them. Gauge these metrics over time to establish patterns and learn more about your audience.”
Alina Clark, Growth Manager and Co-Founder of CocoDoc agrees, saying that monitoring these social insights over time will help you identify trends and better understand your audience.
This is a strategy that the Munn Digital team applies for their audience research. Founder, Tracey Munn explains that the team “regularly exports reviews and comments from social media, export these into spreadsheets, and filter by similar keywords and themes.” She says that this provides them with incredible insight direct from the consumer.
Yurii Brown, Founder of Coffee Geek Lab also does the same for his blog, saying, “I collect their feedback from different social media platforms and consider the points they raised in my next reviews.”
Avidon Marketing Group applies the same strategy that implements social listening insights. “We find out what our customers are saying, what they like about our marketing and brand, and what they want us to change,” says Founder, Igor Avidon.
Forum threads are the perfect place to find unfiltered thoughts and accurately gauge customer needs and wants, according to Umair Hussain, a Digital Marketer for Cloudways. “I read forum threads and engaging comments that depict the audience's needs and wants,” he explains. “For instance, to understand the user’s complexity and to see the most asked questions related to hosting, I often go through the r/webhosting subreddit, which currently has over 67k members.”
“Ultimately, you want to understand not just the problems they face, but the situations that led them to that problem in the first place. It's hard to find this type of data, but I like to start in Reddit forums where people share their real thoughts about their problems,” explains Ecommerce Growth Strategist, Danavir Sarria.
Hear It Directly from Them
Sometimes, the best way to learn about your audience is by hearing it directly from them. For larger companies, however, personally engaging with thousands of customers is no longer a viable option. But they can still hear directly from their customers through surveys, reviews, feedback, and even social media polls.
According to Andrea McFarland of 61 Marketing, the best way to understand your audience is to ask the right questions through market research. “I have a detailed market research system I use. I find my target audience, ask a series of questions a few different ways, analyse the responses looking for themes and keywords, then craft my perfect message by mirroring the same verbiage back to my audience,” she explains.
“My market research system gives me insight into what they truly need and allows me to speak to them in a way that demonstrates I'm the one who can help them.”
Chloe Sisson, Outreach Coordinator for Zen Media says, “Asking for feedback on previous campaigns, current trends, competitors' products, etc. can be beneficial information when starting a marketing campaign.” She believes you need to give your audience space to be honest about their beliefs, values, and feelings.
“Without this data, there is nothing but assumptions,” says Ann Young, Co-Inventor & CEO of Fix The Photo.
“Surveys can work surprisingly well,” says Sandeepan Jindal, Co-Founder of BidFortune. Timing restrictions may prevent you from personally engaging with your audience through emails and phone calls. “Surveys allow the customer to give feedback when they feel like it,” he explains.
For Caroline Lee, Co-Founder of CocoSign, actively engaging with existing and prospective customers through emails and surveys is an effective strategy. “We do so to understand what challenges they are facing, what is working for them and what is not. Depending upon the responses, we alter our approaches to serve them,” she says.
Max Allegro, SEO & Content Strategist for Intuitive Digital agrees, saying, “There's no better way to understand your audience than by communicating with them. Collect customer testimonials, conduct surveys, and gather reviews to learn from their experiences with your products. Learn from this information and improve your products based on their feedback.”
“From time to time you can conduct surveys, asking questions that are related to general, industry, and your product topics, or just ask questions about opinion/ leaving feedback in the comments section under your social media posts,” adds Mia Naumoska, CMO of Chanty.
It could be as simple as asking a question in your posts, as Mia suggests. Tyler Garns, Founder & CEO of Box Out Marketing recommends adding a question and answer section in your posts, allowing customers to freely share their feelings and opinions on different matters that affect them. He believes this will give you “the most accurate answers that will help you produce content or products that can be a solution to their struggles, making them appreciate your brand more.”
Michael Knight, Co-Founder & Head of Marketing at Incorporation Insight, uses customer feedback to determine actionable solutions that work as it helps him determine how the consumer truly feels. He says, “It also allows me to gain valuable insights that can only come from me and not from my competitors, as my point of reference is my customers' feedback.”
Trevor Larson, CEO of Nectar says that they regularly conduct post-purchase surveys with customers. They also issue these surveys to people who might have been unwilling to make a purchase but were intrigued enough to want to sign up for an email newsletter during an exit-intent prompt as they leave the site.
“This way we know how to improve our offerings for people who already purchased, thereby retaining them as customers, and what tweaks to make to appeal to those who are on the fence,” he says.
Not only that; surveys can also inform your content strategy. Francesca Nicasio, a Content Marketer for Payment Depot says, “We survey our customers to find out why they needed our service, what it did for them, what was especially good or bad about it, etc. Then we analyse the feedback we receive and use it to craft content that speaks even better to our audience. It’s actually a constant evolution.”
To produce their featured articles, MuchNeeded collects in-depth insights about their audience through direct feedback. According to Head of Marketing, Salman Aslam, they ask questions like:
· Why are they visiting our site?
· What are they looking for when researching a product?
· Do they have a problem they need to solve?
· How do they differentiate between brands, products, and models?
· What are they leaving the site with? What have they gained from us?
Rahul Vij, CEO, WebSpero Solutions uses tools like SurveyMonkey to take customer surveys. “It hardly takes an hour to launch a survey. We send it to all our social followers and email subscribers with a reward to get them interested. And that’s how we get valuable insights,” he says.
“What companies must look into are the struggles the average target market is experiencing which they must address,” according to Marques Thomas, CEO & Founder of QuerySprout. And surveys help answer that question. He gave an example of how Realme asked people which phone panel they preferred – ones with a higher screen refresh rate or those boasting an OLED screen. They then implemented the results on the succeeding phones they manufactured.
That’s exactly what the team at VinPit does. According to Founder Miranda Yan, they voluntarily give away free samples to take the varied reactions of their audience from different backgrounds. “We also take help from social media to show what our plans are and take our audience’s responses to whether we should execute or not,” she says.
For Michael Humphreys of Z Grills Australia, his trust in data and statistics is combined with feedback and testimonials. He reviews every single one of them to understand how they can improve to further deliver what their customers want.
This is also an excellent strategy to learn more about the wants and interests of your audience before you launch a strategy. “We leverage social media quizzes and surveys to get a glimpse into their interests and preferences. Accordingly, we carve strategies that are tailor-made for their needs and it helps us earn a badge of a compassionate brand that cares for its customers,” says Jon Buchan, CEO of Charm Offensive.
“Ask questions and listen. When we understand all of the pitfalls, the obstacles, the ‘I can't do this because...,’ we go into problem-solving mode. We are an expert team of problem solvers,” suggests Valentina Sanchez, Communications Specialist at Super Purposes.
But to get more accurate insights you need to go beyond “yes or no” questions. “Write a short email survey. The goal is to get more in-depth information about what the customer needs, what keeps them up at night, what they like about your competitors' products and services, says Robin Brown, Director Marketing of Vivipins.
“Prepare some questions but expect the conversation to deviate from them. Keep the conversation loose and relaxed,” agrees Asmat Khan of Voyagers Travel.
Stephen Light, CMO & co-owner of Nolah Mattress adds that while the insights from your survey can help you understand how to empathise with the audience, empathy itself is also vital in the data-gathering process. “It tells people how to organise the survey structure and questions. The resulting data gathering method makes the survey recipient more vulnerable to sharing their inner thoughts, improving the data quality,” he explains. “This results in high-quality data that closely resembles the audience's inner thoughts.”
To make the process more efficient, Bryan Philips, Head of Marketing at In Motion Marketing recommends automating it. “We try to automate this process as much as possible using segmented email lists or lists developed from our social media campaigns,” he says.
“Automating the feedback process and making it 24/7 through chatbots, assessments, surveys, and polls is a key way for us to understand our audience better,” agrees Dr. Saksham Sharda, CIO of Outgrow.co. “All of these can be easily built on Outgrow's interactive content platform,” he adds.
According to Phil Crippen, CEO of John Adams IT, conducting polls on social media is the “secret weapon” for understanding who your audience is. “Polls function as windows into the minds of your customers and prospects,” he says.
Q&A sessions are also a great way to get direct feedback from your customers. Mira, a company that provides fertility tracking solutions, includes Q&A sessions in their webinars.
“We began hosting regular (monthly) webinars during the pandemic and they have been so valuable for us to not only gauge reactions on relevant topics, but also to field questions from real people when it comes to their fertility concerns,” says CEO, Sylvia Manman Kang. “These post-presentation Q&As often serve as inspiration when it comes to our marketing efforts and we have made big strides in terms of our targeting and copy thanks to them.”
For companies like QuickEmailVerification, there are five factors that prospects use to evaluate them and customers use to rate their service – accuracy, pricing, turnaround time, support, and data privacy. Mayank Batavia, Head of Marketing and Partnerships explains, “The challenge is to understand how they prioritise these factors: whether they place pricing above, say, turnaround time. The better understanding we can display as regards their priorities, the better our brand shapes up.”
Remember that it’s not enough to just listen. You also need to act on those insights to show your audience that you listened to them. “Most customers feel valued when someone asks their opinion and then makes changes based on those. It makes them feel powerful. And by validating that power, you create a loyal and engaged audience,” says professional writer Emily Matthews, who’s also an experienced dog trainer/handler for Gentle Dog Trainers.
Hear It from Experts and Thought Leaders
Additionally, you can even get direct feedback and insights from top experts and thought leaders in the field. This is a great option for larger companies with an audience base that comprises millions of people as it’s not always sustainable to manually sift through millions of conversations and survey responses.
Platforms like Currnt.com are the perfect way to tap into the voice-of-market and network with influential thought leaders and professionals in your industry. This will help you discover unmet needs, validate your hypotheses, and find ways to align your team according to the voice-of-market.
CEO Tom O'Malley explains that Schneider Electric uses their platform to bring together their voice-of-market (hospital facilities managers) to talk about how airflow needs have changed due to COVID. Johnson & Johnson even brings together product and ingredient sustainability experts to learn from firsthand.
Conduct Strategic Testing
You may be able to get some great insights from surveying your audience and studying their behaviour. But putting those insights to good use is a lot harder than you think. You can’t know for sure how your audience will respond unless you run tests to see what they like and what they don’t like.
So strategic testing is a crucial step to know your audience better for empathetic marketing.
Alex Magnin, CEO & Founder of Alex Magnin recommends running a strategic testing phase where you purposefully post messages that read in different ways, or use various styles of images such as infographic, photography, or illustration, and over a period of time get to know what is receiving the best interaction.
Madhav Goenka, Co-Founder & CMO of Frazile Media says that they also run digital ads to see who engages with them more. This helps gauge how their target audience is interacting with the ads and what kind of messaging resonates with them.
For ABF Creative, a multicultural podcast company, strategic testing allows them to dig deeper and ensure that they understand the unique cultural nuances of each group that they aim to connect with, and then reflect those nuances in the audio content that they offer to them.
“One of the ways that technology supports this endeavour is by using machine-assisted solutions in our production process,” explains Owner and Founder, Anthony Frasier. “By leveraging this technology to consistently test and refine the appeal of particular audio elements, musical beds, and host voices with our listeners, we can ensure that our portfolio of offerings keeps them enthusiastic, engaged, and entertained.”
Learn from the Competition
“You can also use an alternative form of market research – look at your competitors and analyse their audience. Maybe they will be interested in your offer, too,” says Richard Garvey, CEO of Different SEO.
Since your competitors are brands or companies that try to speak to the same kind of people as you, studying their approach and performance could give you some great insights about your target audience. What kind of people are they targeting? How is their audience responding to a particular message? Are there any consumer needs that they’re not meeting? How can you capitalise on these shortcomings?
According to Madhav Goenka of Frazile Media, this is a critical step for their business. “We try to learn from existing brands similar to us as well as our previous marketing campaigns,” he says.
Platforms like SEMrush can help you get a bigger picture of how your competitors are doing. The Social Media Tracker is particularly effective for monitoring their social media activities. This will help you uncover the audience interests that your competitors are trying to trigger, what strategies they’re using, and which content performs the best.
You can then use these insights to understand what your target audience is interested in and what kind of content resonates with them.
“Our strategy is through competitor research,” explains Tim Clarke, Director of Sales at SEOblog. “You'll be evaluating your competitor's brand, voice, marketing strategies, techniques, and promotions. Start picking out both positive and negative marketing and look at why it needs to improve. Consider how many people engage with their brand, how often they are interacting, and how they're responding.”
Think Like a Consumer
One of the best ways to understand your audience better is by thinking like a consumer yourself. Put yourself in their shoes to understand their values, motivations, and priorities. This will help you tap into the emotional triggers that inspire their behaviour since data can only tell you so much about the true feelings of consumers.
“You can perform all the technical measures you want to but ultimately, marketers need to be able to have a deep understanding of people and connect to their emotions in order to truly anticipate the needs of their audience,” says digital marketer and entrepreneur Kevin Miller. “Companies that only focus on data run the risk of falling flat with the real preferences of their audience.”
“To forge a truly human connection with your customer you need to know, above all else, their values. Values are a proxy for a lot of things – age, socioeconomic status, geographical location, education, family status – but they are also insight into how to position your product or service to a particular customer,” explains Trevor Larson, CEO of Nectar.
He believes that empathy is “the key to understanding how people use your product and the problem it solves for them.” He explains that you need to be able to put yourself into the shoes of your target market if you are going to satisfy a market need in a meaningful way.
“Until you feel confident walking a mile in your different buyer personas' shoes, you cannot expect to understand their daily reality,” stresses Evian Gutman, Founder & CEO of Ringcommend.
“You have to find a way to have commonality with the customer,” explains John Crossman, CEO of Crossman Career Builders. “On some level, the customer needs to feel that you truly understand them. If you don’t connect with them in this way, the result can be offending the client.”
According to Ecommerce Growth Strategist, Danavir Sarria, the key is to keep find out the “why” rather than the “what,” so you can understand the emotions and sequence of events that led them to you in the first place.
Daniela Baker, Community Manager at CreditDonkey explains that this is important because, “When you don't know someone's first-hand experiences or backstories, you tend to dehumanise them or judge them according to where they currently are. You judge how they react to a situation without knowing the why.”
“That's why if you want to bring empathy into your brand, you must extend your efforts to understand their stories and experiences,” she adds.
“To understand your audience you need to surround yourself, submerge yourself even, in their day-to-day conversations about their hopes and dreams; pains and fears,” explains Mitchel Harad, Marketing VP of Expert Opportunities.
To do this, he recommends deep-diving into forums like Reddit, Quora, Tumblr, and even unorthodox touchpoints like Amazon Book Reviews. “The reason these mediums are so valuable is because they offer unfiltered feedback on customer beliefs. You’ll know, in a customer’s own words, how they describe their problem and what solutions they dream of finding.”
For Ludovic Chung-Sao, Founder of Zen Soundproof, being in the consumer’s shoes helps him to better understand what his target audience expects and needs. “I'm writing for people who are willing to 1- improve their home, 2- do DIY tasks. Being a homeowner myself gives me more clues about what 1 and 2 imply,” he explains.
“Understanding the intent is one thing, then comes the format. Is the audience more likely to watch a 10-min video, or simply read a small paragraph? Do they plan to buy, or do they plan to gather information?” he adds. “Only after this reflection, you'll be able to identify the best way to provide value around the audience's intent.”
“We can dig deep within ourselves and talk to our ‘customer or consumer self’ (because surely, we are also consumers),” states David Stellini, Co-Founder of AllFront.io.
This hits close to home for OG YouTube vloggers like Daisy Jing, who has since founded a now multi-million beauty product line named Banish. “I have the same concerns as our customers. It is easy for me to empathise because their concerns are mine as well. If there are new issues, I purposely find it out by learning from the influencers and customers we interview monthly to share their stories,” she explains.
Samson Omamuzo, who is a Product Marketer at Curacel – an insurtech startup, says, “I always ask myself – Are we helping our customers get their jobs done as they should? When we have an answer, then we can start asking what else we can add or remove or do for a better customer experience.”
“You can only know these things when you are the customer,” he adds.
Andrew Taylor of Net Lawman recommends that you, “Work backwards from your goal. You have a product/service and you need to somehow find the right individuals to provide it to. By understanding what influences or causes their need for your product/service, then you are effectively empathising with them and understanding their needs.”
“Empathise with your customer's situation by immersing yourself in their world. Consider how your clients would approach a problem and what steps they might take to solve it,” suggests SEO Strategist, Kjeld S. Caballero.
Shiv Gupta, CEO of Incrementors SEO Services suggests using empathy mapping to better put yourself in your customers’ shoes. “For each buyer persona, generate queries you can claim as a team to help you see clients in a fresh rich. What does our customer feel, and why? When does he or she think that way? What do customers see or hear when they’re relating to our brand?” he says.
“The target of this exercise is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes so you’re making marketing results based on insight rather than guesses,” explains Shiv.
This is part 2 of our 3-part guide on “Empathy in Marketing: How Knowing Your Audience Helps Foster Empathy.” Stay tuned for part 3, where we discuss some practical ways to foster empathy in your marketing.
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