What is the value of emotion? In marketing, it’s substantial, especially when you use empathy to appeal to your prospects in ways that have a lasting impact.


Many say empathy marketing is the way of the future, wherein consumers will demand that the brands they support show a true sensitivity to their struggles, concerns and issues.

In 2016, we’re moving ever faster towards completely customer-centric marketing. If you don’t know your customer, and you can’t identify with their issues, you’re going to be left behind.

So let’s dive into empathy marketing—and learn how empathy is your strongest ally when it comes to truly appealing to your customers.

What is Empathy?

It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot—but what does it actually mean?
Empathy is often convoluted with sympathy, but the two words mean different things and should be distinguished from one another:

According to Psychology Today, ‘empathy’ is defined as the “ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person.”

Empathy involves recognizing the other person’s position and identifying the emotions which that person is feeling.

Sympathy is different; while it does involve a transaction of compassion, it does not involve identifying with and sharing the emotions of another person. Sympathy doesn’t involve feeling what the other person is feeling. It’s simply an acknowledgement of their situation, combined with the good-natured hope that things get better.

Companies that rely solely on mass distribution and demographics to reach their audiences are missing a huge opportunity to build deeper relationships with their customers. Empathy is vital to those connections.

Customer Insight: Learn the Why, Not Just the What

Too many of us are task-oriented. We want to build the marketing plan, write the content and get it posted. We want to schedule our social posts for the month and rid the tasks from our list.

While tactical execution is great, it doesn’t take your customer’s emotions into consideration. It doesn’t infuse your posts, content and engagement with empathy.

Customer insight is one of the most important elements of placing empathy at the center of your marketing efforts.

Customer insight is far more convoluted and maze-like these days, with countless avenues to discover and quantify human behavior; many marketers and brands simply throw up their hands and head back to the demographics-based marketing they were doing before. This type of one-size-fits-all, mass marketing is dead, and companies who cling to it will either stagnate or disappear, as technology and social media continues to drive people’s purchasing decisions and emotional attachment to brands.

You have to start gathering customer insight now.

How Do You Do That?

  • Anthropologists and ethnographers have extensive insight into cultural behavior and decisions, lifestyle trends, and cultural context. They can help you understand your target audience, what motivates them, and how their culture plays into their decisions to purchase or not purchase.
  • Carefully-selected focus groups can help you understand how and why individuals choose to make a purchase. While the cost and logistics of a focus group may deter small companies with limited budgets, medium-sized companies might invest in focus groups frequently as a way of staying face-to-face with the consumer.
  • Build and constantly consult your buyer personas. A carefully fleshed-out buyer persona can give you amazing insight into your customer’s struggles and concerns, as well as different ways that your product or service could help them.

Using Empathy in Your Marketing

Now that you know a few ways to gain the customer insight you need, let’s talk about ways to actively use empathy in your marketing.

Targeted Ads

Social media ads are exploding in 2016, and are likely to stay on this upward trajectory throughout the year.

Brands who are invested in empathetic marketing can utilize the advanced targeting options available on a number of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

  • Custom Targeting: Allows you to target potential customers on Facebook through criteria like email address, phone number or Facebook app UIDs
  • Interest Targeting: Available on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, Interest Targeting allows you to target your ads by users’ interests. This helps you avoid reaching prospects who aren’t as likely to engage or connect with your message.
  • Sprout Social offers a unique tool to help brands schedule and utilize ad targeting in their social media posts

Empathetic, Not Egocentric, Marketing

It’s important to center your content and posts around the interests and concerns of your customer, not your company.

While you do benefit from a certain amount of brand recognition, your audience is going to grow weary and disinterested when all of your brand’s content focuses on your company, products, services and accomplishments.

  • We have to reiterate the importance of consulting your buyer personas when crafting targeted content. Know who you’re speaking to and be familiar with their struggles. Don’t allow tone-deaf, mass-marketing messages to reach valuable prospects.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your existing content and campaigns to reflect a more empathetic angle for your customer. Change the language on your web pages to address their concerns and answer their questions. Change the tenets of a campaign to put your customers at the center.
  • Take advantage of the information stored in your CRM. Your CRM tool can yield fascinating information about customer habits and tendencies. Use this information to craft more personal and effective messages.

Educating and persuading your prospects is much more involved than telling them what you do. Those deeper connections with your audience depend on you understanding them, and placing their concerns at the center of your message.

Don’t miss numerous opportunities to share your audience’s point of view; when you reach them on an emotional level, leveraging empathy and compassion in your interactions, you’ll inspire the types of engagement that truly matter: shares, word-of-mouth recommendations, and repeat purchases.


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