At one time, consumers were a captive audience. You sold it, they bought it, as long as it was a prestige brand, a household name, or was promoted by an influencer or by a really cool cartoon animal. Here is the importance of empathy-based marketing.
To stand out, you not only need to have a quality product or service, but you also need to show that you understand your audience—not even stellar content curation and content promotion can save you if your marketing isn’t hyper-targeted.
Enter empathy-based marketing.
Empathy-based marketing is a strategy that calls for you to walk in your customer’s shoes for a bit. Instead of using a hard-sell approach, you consider their experience and think about how your brand can help them get what they want, which could be:
Yes, you’re still out to make a profit, but with empathy-based marketing, your strategy is different. You need to connect with your audience on a deeper and more intuitive level by delivering an immense value that they never anticipated. In short, make them feel like you read their mind before going above and beyond.
A lot of businesses use buyer personas to direct their marketing. These personas are fictional characters that represent your ideal customers. Without them, your marketing efforts can be a bit like throwing snowballs in the dark and hoping that you blindly connect with something.
To be effective, your personas need to take customer emotions into account. Identify their wants and pain points, understand how these factors make them feel, and then plan your content accordingly. For example, customers who are constantly rushed for time will want a simplified usage guide while those who are buying to indulge themselves value things that make them feel extra-special, like a free gift with purchase.
Who are you marketing to? Is it busy parents? Small business owners? People who are passionate about the environment will pay attention. To communicate properly with them, you need to understand what they care about and how your product can give them what they want, whether it be more free time, a healthier body, or a new skill that they can use to climb the corporate ladder.
A detailed study by commerce experts SMITH identified eight different emotions that influence buying and shopping decisions. For example, it found that some people will only buy products that are ‘cool’ and state-of-the-art to make themselves stand out from the crowd while others are directed by opinions: they need validation from friends, family, and online testimonials before they buy.
So which emotions are guiding your customers when they shop? You can get the answer by:
Many businesses are even investing in artificial intelligence to collect and analyze customer data for info they can use for empathy-based marketing. This article by AI research and advisory company Emerj provides some real-life examples of how businesses like Walmart use business intelligence applications to understand their customers.
Empathetic content shows customers that you understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes. People feel positive about brands that can solve their problem, so send a message, using the right words, that shows how your products address issues that matter to them.
If your company website has a blog (and it should), use it to create a narrative that talks about these issues. For example:
Bonus points if you use video, especially if you’re marketing to millennials. Research presented by Google shows that when they want to learn something new, this age group is nearly three times more likely to watch a video than read a book. However, the highly visual nature of video makes it a great marketing tool for all customer types.
So, what are some practical examples of empathy-based marketing? Below are two cases of well-known consumer brands taking customer service to the next level.
Few situations are more frustrating than a delayed or canceled flight. Passenger reactions can be so extreme that they’ve been featured on countless reality TV shows.
In April 2017, Delta airlines provided a perfect illustration of brand empathy when it ordered hundreds of pizzas for Atlanta-area customers whose flights had been canceled or delayed due to extreme weather. The pizzas were distributed to passengers stuck on runways and waiting in surrounding airports.
This move was more than simply good customer service. It presented the Delta brand as one that understands and cares about its passengers, especially when they’re in one of the most stressful situations imaginable.
The LUSH beauty brand is all about natural products, so their customers are people who want fresh, homemade cosmetics. To assure its community that they really are getting 100% natural beauty products, LUSH has a video series called ‘How It’s Made.’
Each episode shows real LUSH employees at work, explaining how they make all the soaps, lotions, bath bombs, and other products. Depending on what they’re making, you’ll see mounds of sea salt, fresh citrus fruit, and dried flowers on the counter, confirming to viewers that they’re getting what they pay for.
Although we’ve got millions of years of evolution behind us and are capable of both critical thinking and abstract thought, emotions still guide a lot of our decisions, including what to buy.
To succeed at empathy-based marketing, you want to create a journey map or experience/outcome that your ideal buyer can relate to, and feel good about. When you start by understanding them and then create content that delivers your brand message in an impactful way (go ahead and use a cool cartoon animal if you want!), you’ll stand out and succeed.
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