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Why Empathy Marketing Is Your Future

Understanding customers—their likes, dislikes, concerns, and sources of joy—is paramount for marketing success but is often elusive. This type of customer centricity requires that marketers pay attention not just to what customers say, but also to their emotions across the customer experience journey. Marketing organizations that rely solely on demographics, life stages, or purchase channels miss an opportunity to build deeper connections with customers.

We’ve all seen the results of overlooking customers’ emotional intelligence: tone-deaf advertising that offends rather than endears, content that gets ignored, or worst of all, brands that take the brunt of social contempt.

Developing buyer personas is an important step in developing customer-centric marketing. Brands need to take the time to explore what resonates with customers by asking questions that reveal their daily habits, affinities, influences, emotions, aspirations, and behaviors. Think about what the customer wants your company, product, or service to do, and then brainstorm the possibilities. Qualitative market research can reveal key insights. Speaking with front-line employees or mining your CRM system can provide useful perspectives from which to develop a composite picture for a buyer persona. Unleash social evaluation tools to capture underlying emotions invoked by your product category, and listen for how real people describe their hopes, aspirations, and interests.

Know what job you are applying for.

Sounds pretty straightforward, but answering the question of what job you are applying for from a merely functional perspective may miss the mark. Smart brands employ empathy marketing: looking beyond the functional to the emotional to understand the role their product plays. For example, within the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, people have strong emotions about food, including its preparation, its provenance, their role in its preparation and consumption, and how it tastes. These elements all impact brand perception and affinity. Functionally, a baking mix saves time; however, a baking mix may be “hired” as a means to build family memories or as a confidence boost for the inexperienced cook.

Delving into the emotion behind the product’s selection and usage can reveal ways in which your brand can go beyond meeting customers’ functional requirements to inspiring loyalty by sparking delight with emotional marketing that is pitch perfect.

Align sales and marketing with a clearer view of your target.

At GLG, we like using an empathy map, a tool developed by XPLANE, to develop a composite picture of customers. Whether it is for a CPG or B2B technology client, we help brands develop rich personas that describe representative customers and their views of the world as they relate to our clients’ businesses. The resulting personas put faces and personalities on target audiences, help sharpen communication efforts, and help salespeople ask the right questions to uncover hidden objections and resolve them to advance sales.

By understanding how your audience defines success, you can develop marketing campaigns that tap into strong emotions. For a CPG brand, success could be the perfect family moment experienced as a leisurely breakfast, or it could be all about impressing the in-laws with baking prowess. For a business-to-business buyer, it could be about invoking certainty or being associated with a leader, or it could be about being ahead of the curve, forging new possibilities, or gaining advantage. We employ empathy marketing and persona development to identify emotions that resonate to help our clients find those moments that build brand momentum.

Tips for better empathy marketing

Go undercover. Become a mystery shopper, and observe people where your products are sold or used.

Lurk and learn. Use social listening to learn how people talk about the solution or product you offer.

Glean intelligence from the front lines. Ask your customer service people what drives customers crazy and what delights them.

Change your perspective. Think about what success looks like from your customer’s perspective.

Chart the experience. Consider customers’ emotions before, during, and after use of your product.