Have you ever been locked in a conversation where the other person seems oblivious to what you are saying? They tend to announce what’s on their mind as though taking part in a soliloquy,  as opposed to opening up a chance for dialogue; refusing to let you get a word in edge-wise until you find yourself wondering where they breathe from, because it certainly couldn’t be their mouth!

Consider for a second what you would do in such a situation. Would you hang around and wait for your interest in what they are spouting  to sprout; or would you walk away at the first chance in the hopes of never interacting with them again?

Now, if that same person were to talk to you from a standpoint where they had considered your wants, needs, beliefs and virtues, you would probably enjoy the conversation; maybe even become friends.

Empathetic marketing works something like this; and while not exactly something new, it is largely ignored by brands all over the world. The truth is that the most successful companies out there tend to take an approach to marketing that focuses on the needs of their clients, rather than on the features of their brand.

But what exactly is empathetic marketing, why is it such an effective approach, and how can your content strategy put the needs of your audience first? Let’s explore these questions in a little more detail.

What is Empathetic Marketing?

At the face of it, empathetic marketing takes a client centric approach to its communications, focusing more on their needs than on the features of their brand. The social equivalent of it would be being spoken to, and not at, as demonstrated in the opening of this article.

It seeks to arrest the audience’s attention by putting the campaign in their shoes, to understand more clearly what a consumer is looking for; how their particular problems can be solved; and what facilitates, for them, a valuable conversation.

How it Compares to a Brand-Centred Approach

Brand centred marketing is the guy rehearsing a formulated set of lines in a play everyone has seen a hundred times; while empathetic marketing is the songster who gets the crowd to sing along because the music speaks to them.

By putting the client first in all of its communication efforts, an empathetic marketing approach focuses on the long-term relationship built with its audience; paying attention to retention strategies and methods of understanding what matters most to their customers, so that they can be placed at the core of the campaign.

An empathetic approach to marketing builds up better loyalty in a target audience than a brand-centred one, makes them connect with your brand more intimately, and paints a business as one that genuinely cares about their opinions and needs, while brand-centred marketing concentrates solely on the brand and its products as a means of benefiting its target audience’s life.

What are the Challenges of Implementing Empathetic Marketing?

As effective as it may be, empathetic marketing can be challenging for marketers because it requires a sound understanding of your target audience in order for the campaign to have any degree of success.

This means that marketers need to be able to do two things for empathetic marketing to work:

Firstly, they will need to be able to effectively and accurately identify and research their target audience. Much of a campaign’s success will depend on how well a target audience is understood in terms of their own needs, wants and challenges.

Secondly, the ideal marketer for empathetic campaigns will also need to be a good listener. They will need to be able to pick up on communicative trends, take an interest in them, and pinpoint which ones should viably be tagged on to. Additionally, they need to be able to effectively gauge the impact that their communicative efforts are having on their target audience, and by default their campaign.

This leads to a further challenge, one of communicating your brand to the audience, without it necessarily being about the brand. How does one market from a perspective where sales are not the concern?

The answer is actually relatively simple, you make it about the relationship between your brand and your audience, as though you form part of the same cohesive community.

Real-Life Success Stories

LUSH

UK cosmetics company, LUSH, understands that the largest part of their client-base is concerned with using products that are naturally made from organic materials that are ethically sourced. In short, their audience expects a certain amount of corporate responsibility from them, and also expects them to conduct business that has a ‘human face’.

To reinforce this, and to cater directly for this audience, their latest series of ‘How it’s made’ videos show ambassadors in the kitchen showing how their products are made from natural ingredients. Beyond reassuring their audience of the quality of their products, these ads also offer unprecedented levels of transparency to their audience; involving them more closely in the communicative process.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is essentially a marketing platform, and while much of their content is promotional in terms of the platform’s own benefits, a recent eBook published by them called ‘The Secret Sauce: Learn how LinkedIn uses LinkedIn for marketing’ seeks to educate its users as to the best and most effective ways to reach marketing goals using LinkedIn.

This handing out of their marketing processes might seem like an odd approach for some businesses, especially those that rely on brand-centred marketing. However, by being transparent with these ‘tips’, LinkedIn have created an effective empathetic marketing campaign that involves their audience in their internal processes, and provides them with solutions to their specific marketing challenges instead of just a one-size-fits-all marketing approach.

Additionally, the educational approach allows them to empower their audience to conduct better business through their own specific strategies, just one more way that it shows empathy.

Microsoft

In a bid to market its security products, Microsoft found a way to educate its audience about the severity and processes of data breaches in an interactive infographic entitled, the ‘Anatomy of a Data Breach’. It puts the consumer in a hacker’s shoes to show them exactly how data is stolen, alongside statistics about data security. By doing this, they can demonstrate to their customers exactly where their vulnerabilities lie, but that is not what makes the story an empathetic one.

Consider, for a moment, how wildly exciting information about data security is. That’s right, it isn’t. It must be one of the dullest topics out there, but still, it is no less important for a company’s security efforts.

By making the information captivating through the infographic, Microsoft has made it audience friendly, understanding that their clients don’t want to trawl through lines of statistics, but still need this crucial information to better understand why they need protective measures.

Creating Content for People; Not Brands

All of the abovementioned cases, as you will have noticed, takes an audience-centred approach to their communications. They understand that their end-user is a person with individual needs, likes and challenges. As such, they create content for people, and not for brands. But how can your communicative efforts take a similar approach? To do so, there are a few things you will need to master:

Create a Persona of Your Audience and Draw an Empathy Map

‘Think with Google’ author and founder of Schema Strategy, Santiago Castillo, talks about using marketing personas for empathetic marketing. He explains the importance of refining your audience at the start, since “having a target audience of everyone puts you in danger of appealing to no one.”

Even a very specific audience will have subdivisions in it. If, for instance, your audience are writers, how many of them are novelists, content writers, bloggers, poets, etc.? Since identifying the right one and their traits can be tough, Castillo recommends using personas to help you avoid falling back on generalisations. Here’s how he proposes you do that:

  • Start By Asking Questions

Once you have defined WHO your audience is, you will need to find out WHAT their interests are. As with the foundational phase of anything, this part will take a lot of work, and the more you put in, the easier everything else will be.

Use interviews, surveys and focus groups to find out more about their activities, interests, ambitions, personalities and attitudes. Find out about their average day, routine, what they eat, what they do in their spare time, and so on.

The most important thing you can find out from them, however, are the types of problems they face on a daily basis, so that your marketing approach can seek to solve them.

  • Find Patterns and Fill in Blanks

Next, begin grouping similar responses, and use each of these groups to create a fictional character that represents their most dominant trait. You might have a persona that is a business-starting millennial, another that is a third-year university student looking to move abroad, or one that has started their career as a freelancer.

Use the research gathered in the previous step to bring these characters to life, and give them a quote that sums them up, for easy reference later on.

For instance, our business-owner millennial might have a quote like: ‘Corporate responsibility and transparency are my greatest business tools.’ The university-student’s could be: ‘Just looking for a means to immigrate one day,’ while the freelancer’s could be that ‘Brick and mortar office spaces are dead.’

  • Create a Journey Map

This will map out the journey made by your personas as they interact with your campaign while they discover, buy and use your product or service. It must map out all of the key points where they will interact with your brand.

To demonstrate this, let’s say that we are running a campaign for a computer company, and will use the abovementioned millennial business-owner persona in our journey map.

This allows the business to map out and plan each step of their interactions with their audience; from search ads to landing pages, and from website to store interactions and after-sales services. They can all be tailored to your ideal audience, how they prefer to interact with a business, and how their daily lives dictate their decisions, depending on the journey of your personas.

  • Create an Empathy Map

An empathy map will chart out the challenges faced by your personas when interacting with your products and services, and when done properly, will allow you to understand their needs so that you can provide them with solutions.

To do it, put your personas into hypothetical situations. Write down how they might feel in these situations, what their needs might be at that specific point in time, and then brainstorm ways in which your brand can effectively meet them.

A computer store, for instance, could offer special deals for students, offer deliveries for businesses, or have offers on mobile solutions for freelancers.

Contact Right Click Media for Details

Leveraging the efforts of your communicative strategies off of the situational needs, opinions and challenges of your ideal audience may not be all too simple, but in the long-run, promises to empower your brand and your consumers, and in turn, will build greater brand loyalty in them.

To find out how to take a personalised approach to your business’s marketing, contact a representative from Right Click Media today, or visit our website for additional details.

John Ottolman

John Ottolman

John Ottolman: Keyword whisperer, content creator, researcher and OCD stricken editor. The imprints of keyboard letters have long-since embossed themselves on his finger-tips. Thirsty for knowledge and hungry to share it, he is here to provide insights from the digital industry.

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