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The One Crucial Ingredient For Marketing: Empathy

Updated: Jun 26, 2021

You’re trying to cook spaghetti Bolognese for dinner, but you don’t have any pasta. That will not work, you know that. You’ll only have tomato sauce with some meat — if you call that spaghetti Bolognese, my Italian friend will give you a red card.

There’s always one indispensable ingredient to make one recipe work. This applies to business as well. In marketing, the pasta is empathy. A lot of time, people forget about this important ingredient, hence, they missed out on converting valuable customers.

Why you need empathy to market your products?

Here’s a long definition of empathy by Merriam-Webster: “The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”

Let’s break it down. Empathy is the act of putting yourself into other people’s shoes. Think of it as a mirror, that reflects people’s feelings and thoughts to you. To make it practical, you can see empathy as role-playing. When you dive into your customer’s character, you’ll get a deep understanding of their behaviour. In order for you to sell your product well, you have to know who you’re selling it to. This advertising legend said it best:

“The Customer is not a Moron. She’s your Wife.” David Ogilvy

Know your customers thoroughly inside out, close and intimate, like you know your wife. Treat your customers like your lover, that makes you think critically about what they love and hate, so you know whether to get them a bouquet of flowers or a bar of chocolate for their birthday. So how do you adopt empathy as part of your marketing approach? Here’s a marketing technique that can make you embody your customer’s character like Heath Ledger embodied the Joker:

See the world through your customer’s eyes with Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping is a creative process of visualizing the journey of your customer from their first impression of your product to the point of sale, and finally, their post-purchase experience i.e. repeat purchase, customer’s support, product review etc. John Dewey identified these stages as Consumer Decision Processes:

  1. Problem or need recognition

  2. Information search

  3. Evaluation of alternatives

  4. Purchase

  5. Post-purchase behaviour

The common mistake that we do a lot is only taking a snapshot of our customer’s experience. We only focus on that one experience when the customer goes into the retail store and purchase the product, or landing on the website and put their product in the shopping cart.

Those are just snapshots at stage 4, ignoring the other stages. We often close our eyes to the crucial steps that the customers take before they end up in our retail stores or our websites, and their post-purchase valuation — whether their purchase of your products meet their needs or not.

Here’s a quick example to help you relate: Your customer’s first impression of your brand might have been through a word of mouth from his best friend at someone’s house party. His best friend’s found out about your brand when you posted a sad video about stray kittens and showed your customer the video. Since your customer is a cat lover, he looked up your brand name on Google when he got home. He landed on your website to find that your company provides delicious cat food delivery. You’re like Uber Eat, but for cats. You see , in order for the customer to finally buy your brand, you have to plant your brand into their brain throughout their journey, with stories that tune their heart like a guitar tuner. The big goal for mapping your customer’s journey is to clarify these two motives: a) What do you want to achieve for your business? b) How can your customers benefit from your product?

You can easily get confused between ‘a’ and ‘b’ when you don’t do this exercise before you start your marketing campaign.

There are a lot of brands out there that only talk about themselves, rather than telling a story that caters to the customer’s needs. You don’t want to be one of those brands with empty pockets and zero fans. This charming guy talks about the customer’s journey mapping in more detail, go learn more about it.

People buy with emotion, they justify it with evidence.

Yes, it’s important to have all the metrics and numbers to establish the legitimacy of your products. They serve as a side-kick, like Robin. All those lab tests you’ve done, and scientific research you’ve conducted to develop your product, they back up your Batman. Who’s your Batman? Your Batman is your story. Your story here doesn’t mean you brag about yourself. Your story is your customer’s story. A good brand is the one that gives you a nice feeling in your heart when you think about them. A great brand reminds you that you can be the best version of yourself when you identify yourself with the brand. What is the best version of yourself? The version of you that gets your pain relieved. The version of you that gets your wants satisfied. A great brand inspires people. Take the cat food delivery business as an example. Let’s change the role and say you’re the customer. Your pain points being addressed:

  • No more doubt on food quality for your beloved cats.

  • No more hassle to commute to the shop to get the food for your hungry cats.

Your wants being satisfied:

  • The convenience of having your cat food sent to your doorstep every week.

  • Delicious cat food that makes your cat loves you more.

Your marketing campaign and branding would touch people deeper when you put your customer’s needs first.

I’d like to sprinkle some brilliant words by one of the marketing geniuses of today:

“When humans make choices–that’s marketing. Marketing is the difficult work of telling a story that resonates, of bringing a consistent set of promises to people who want to hear them. If you want to change things, it helps to understand how humans make choices. And if you’ve got a change in mind, I hope you’ll spend the time and effort it takes to get better at bringing your story to the people who need to hear it.” Seth Godin

Now, empathise your customers. Think like how they would think, feel how they would feel. Then, you can make their story; your story. ——— Knock knock. I’m sending an owl to your bedroom window with a personal letter on how to deal with anxiety, self-development, and some light bulbs on marketing and entrepreneurship, every week. If you’re interested, then: Show the owl where to drop these letters.

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