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Empathy in Marketing

How to implement empathetic marketing in your business

Six months ago, countless retail businesses faced a grim outlook: Determine how to transition into ecommerce or close permanently. In response to this immense, immediate need, ecommerce giant eBay® launched an accelerator program giving small businesses a free ecommerce platform to sell their products. By noticing a desperate need their ideal clients faced and responding with a specific solution that offered hope and relief, eBay® gave us a perfect example of what empathy in marketing can look like.

The need for customer empathy has been evident in marketing. According to Forrester’s 2019 Research, 65% of consumers said much of the marketing they received from brands was pointless. What’s more, consumers specifically said they gravitate toward “here’s how we can help” messages, rather than “we’re here for you.” Since COVID-19, the need to be empathetic to your customers’ needs is table stakes.

Yet, consumers are becoming even more weary of what they read and hear. In fact, the World Health Organization has dubbed this time as an “infodemic.” This infodemic carries over to marketing, where companies need first to establish trust before they can make a sale.

To become known as an empathetic brand that resonates with customers, your marketing should be about serving first and selling second. If you’re left wondering exactly how to create more empathetic marketing, these ideas may inspire you:

Proactively listen

Empathetic marketing starts with proactive listening. Customer support is often a reactive approach to questions and problems. Instead of being seen as an opportunity to build relationships, it’s too often used as a one-time fix for a one-time problem.

Rather than waiting for customers to reach out, find ways to truly hear their problems, needs and wants. Email a survey to seek feedback on their biggest concerns. Listen to what they’re saying on your social channels—or your competitors’ social channels. Train your customer service or sales team to look for opportunities to dig deeper when they’re interacting with customers.

Personalize your messages

When your sales team is limited in face-to-face interactions, expectations are high for marketing to fill that gap. The personalization once done by sales needs to be translated into your marketing messages. Start by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes—imagine the experience you would like your customer to have and then determine how to make that happen.

For example, empathy in marketing starts with having conversations with customers. Rather than trying to imagine what you think they need and basing your marketing on that, verify their needs and desires by checking in with them. Once you understand what they want from you—in their own words—you’ll be able to truly personalize your marketing messages to match. When you reflect their situations and desires back to them, it makes them feel like you get them.

Offer tailored solutions

Part of being empathetic is recognizing differences in your audience. A pain point for one group of customers may not be a pain point for another. As you talk with and listen to your customers, make note of separate concerns. Then, give a tailored solution for each, to the extent that is possible.

Also listen to audiences beyond your customers. Will your product or service be of value in other markets? For example, at the start of the pandemic, the hamburger chain Fuddruckers® addressed bread shortages in stores by baking and selling loaves directly to consumers. Consider how you might innovate or reach new customers with your product or service. Has the pandemic created new problems for your customers? If so, how can you help solve them? If you’ve already adapted a product or service to match the times, tell your customers how you’ve pivoted to help make their businesses better.

Build trust

Two-thirds of people say they will stop doing business with a company they don’t trust. With that truth, imagine how difficult it is to establish trust with new customers. Two things are on your side: authenticity and thought leadership.

As you develop messaging and content, make sure its authentic. Build authenticity through consistency. And showcase your brand values by instilling them in everything you say (written and spoken) and do. At the same time, improve your trustworthiness by being a thought leader. You can do that by providing customers and prospects information they truly need. How do you know what they need? Ask them. Then, do your research and develop content that answers their questions.

Thoughtfully respond to unhappy customers

No matter how hard you try, you may end up with unhappy customers who leave bad reviews or send angry emails. When you get negative feedback, first take a deep breath. Try not to get defensive. Then, carefully listen to what’s being said—what’s really being said—and ask yourself these questions:

  • What caused this person to react like this?
  • How would I feel if I were in their shoes?
  • Is there any way I can go above and beyond for them?

When you respond with grace and a willingness to go out of your way to help, you come closer to transforming an upset customer into a loyal brand evangelist.

Empathy isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a crucial practice that businesses need to hone. By showing empathy in marketing, you can create a fiercely loyal audience who feels you are truly listening.

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