Recently, a lovely woman I knew passed away. She left behind six grown children and a devoted husband. Despite the fact that they were about as different as night and day, you could tell they absolutely adored each other. Of course, when we heard the news, everyone’s first thought was for her husband and his loss.
I’ve never been a widow, but does that mean that I’m completely clueless about what he must be going through? Does it mean I can’t anticipate the struggles he’ll be facing? Does it mean there is no way I can help? Of course not. While I wouldn’t pretend to understand completely – that would be presumptuous; I CAN utilize this amazing capability that we all possess – empathy.
What Place Does Empathy Have in Marketing?
On Dictionary defines empathy as, “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.”
Haven’t you ever said to someone, “I can only imagine what you are going through”? You were giving your friend the gift of empathy – and it is something our customers and readers appreciate and deserve as well.
We all long to be understood, which is why our oldest friendships and our family ties mean so much. Not having to explain why you think, feel, or act in a certain way because your companion has been around you long enough to understand without a word keeps bonds tight even when miles and years separate us (go call that person who always understands when you’re done reading!).
Isn’t that something we can attempt to do in all our business conversations and copy? Can’t we try to get inside the business minds of our customers and readers so that they feel understood and are thus inclined to seek out and maintain a working relationship with us?
Without true understanding and empathy, we are just the stereotypical salesperson – trying to get to people’s wallets with no concern for whether or not what we have to offer is a good fit for them. No one likes that kind of salesperson – not even the salespeople themselves. We can be better!!
How to Develop Empathy for the Businesses You Work With
So, if empathy is, as one person put it, “Your pain in my heart,” how can we show this in marketing? None of us think for a moment that writing and marketing is just about words and numbers. It’s about connection, finding what motivates, and turning that in to a business relationship. It can sound cold and calculating, but it really isn’t. If you connect with my way of messaging, you’ll probably really enjoy working with me. If you don’t, you won’t – and you’ll find someone else who would be a better fit. It’s really a great way to help potential customers screen you before they ever pick up the phone to speak with you. Just be you and empathize in your way.
The first step to showing empathy is the gaining of insight. In the case where a friend undergoes a huge personal loss, you can read about the process of grieving, you can imagine how you would feel in the situation, you can speak with others who have gone through something similar, and you can speak the person himself. Here’s how it translates to business:
- Read trade publications and news articles addressing business owners in a given industry. Which themes are recurring? What kinds of solutions are presented and what kind of feedback do they receive (look for blog post comments and LinkedIn discussions).
- Imagine you are this business owner. What needs and challenges would you face?
- Speak with other similar-business owners about their needs and challenges. Again, LinkedIn and Google+ industry groups can be helpful here, but this step involves asking questions yourself.
- Ask your readers, prospects, and customers this question, “If you could make one (specific) business challenge magically disappear – what would it be?”
That last one is incredibly open-ended, so you may have to start by simply empathizing – then guide the conversation to a point where you identify some way you can help them, all the while noting the insights they give you by their answers. Even something that sounds unrelated to anything you can do for them might, with a little thought later, be something you can indeed help with. Meantime, you are letting them know they are heard, understood, and that you are there to help their business succeed. You’re not simply interested in your own bottom line.
Using “Empathy Marketing” and Sales to Benefit Our Prospects and Ourselves
Giving some thought to my newly widowed friend and the life he shared with his wife, some friends and I have come up with some ideas for how to help in the weeks and months ahead. Betty was an amazing cook. Not that any of us can recreate the incredible spreads she would present, but we can anticipate that he might not know how to cook at all, and until he learns, he might appreciate having some food on hand. Beyond that, he might appreciate some of our favorite easy recipes.
Betty was an amazing gardener, and if her beautiful yard grows wild and forlorn next Spring, that would be so sad! So, we’ll enlist some of the green-thumbed among us and make sure that doesn’t happen. We know it won’t magically fix anything, but it will at least remove unnecessary sources of pain and stress, and he’ll know we care! Also, we’ll feel pretty good about it.
In the case of business, it’s fairly unlikely that we’ll be able to wave our magic wands and make their business problems disappear (if you have a wand like this, I would like to know about it). BUT, there is often a way we can help. While conversing, we might be able to offer a quick suggestion to improve things. When offering a proposal for services, we will be able to show how our solution will work because we understand the underlying issues and needs. While executing strategies, we’ll be totally informed of the big-picture struggles of the business owner and will be able to continue to improve our strategies AND our reporting based on this deep understanding.
Obviously, this will help your customers. But it will also help you deliver outstanding results and retain customers. Win-win! Beyond direct conversations, empathy is absolutely crucial for successful content marketing. Stay tuned.
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