Why Empathy in Marketing Is More Important Than Data

Data has revolutionized the world of marketing. It’s become an invaluable asset in targeting audiences and building personalized experiences for individuals.

While it’s an indispensable tool in company decision-making, it doesn’t necessarily lead to authentic connections. Understanding your customer does that. That’s why it’s critical to infuse empathy into marketing – to deliver a truly customer-centric approach.

Empathy is considered a key component of emotional intelligence, a crucial skill to have as a leader. After a year like 2020, empathy is also a fundamental emotion that marketers need to show in 2021 to do their jobs effectively.

Source: OptinMonster

This sentiment is echoed loudly in an article by Noah Fenn: “Despite All This Data, Empathy is Still the Greatest Tool in a Marketer’s Toolbox.”

While we may have more opportunities to connect with customers today (through social media, content channels, and technology), building trust can be more challenging than ever.

To become more empathetic, step into your customers’ shoes to better understand what they’re experiencing. Then you can give them exactly what they want or need to live better lives.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Empathy is a vital component of emotional intelligence – a skill every leader needs to succeed in today’s world.
  • Marketers can suffer from “collective amnesia” when attempting to connect with their target audiences.
  • Data is essential and highly valuable, but marketers must balance it with empathy.
  • Data can never replace real human connections.
  • We should use empathy in marketing to drive success.

What is Empathy-Based Marketing?

Empathy-based marketing involves seeing through the eyes of your customers. To be truly customer-centric, marketers must gain a deep understanding of who their customers are, the challenges they’re facing, and what motivates them to act.

We must learn to think like our customers and walk the steps they’ll take to make a decision that improves their lives. After you understand what motivates them, you can give them what they want or need to solve a real problem they’re facing.

Provide them with content, advice, educational resources, and tools to directly address their situation and give them clarity. To incorporate empathy into your marketing strategy, follow these tips.

  • Always focus on your customer. Put them first. Help them find a solution to their problem by first understanding what they desire. Show your interest in helping and listening. Speak to their emotions to create authentic connections and build stronger relationships.
  • Have conversations. Rather than pushing your brand on someone and telling them why they need you, show them how you’ll help them achieve a desired goal or outcome. Listen as well as speak.
  • Give your leads the content they’re seeking. Don’t guess. Get to know your potential and current customers so well that you know without a doubt that they crave the content you create and offer. If your content isn’t helpful, it will be useless.
  • Be a good listener. Understanding buyer intent involves seeing past what’s spoken. It involves empathetically listening for cues and motivations behind what someone says or does. This will help give you more context and understand why people are communicating certain emotions. Paying attention to emotional triggers – like guilt, fear, or trust – can help you craft compelling marketing messages that get to the heart of an issue.

Your Audience is Made Up of Real Humans, Not Data Points

I won’t lie to you. I love analyzing data, but I don’t love math. Yes, there’s a difference.

However, I recognize that information isn’t the only thing that matters in marketing. Being overly data-centric can create a disconnect, which Fenn also emphasizes in his article.

It’s easy for marketers to start seeing their audience as numbers – or data points – instead of individuals with real names and needs. Fenn dubs this concept “collective amnesia.” In other words, marketers often lose the proper perspective, which hinders their ability to empathize and build connections.

Fortunately, Collective Amnesia is Curable

When you put your marketer’s hat on, ensure you don’t ditch your “human” hat. While you can learn a considerable amount about your customers by analyzing data – their preferences, motivations, demographics, etc. – being customer-centric requires a special ingredient. Can you guess what it is?

Why You Need Empathy in Marketing

Fenn was in charge of video strategy and sales at AOL. In his article, he describes the complexities of video content marketing. Many industries suffer from the same challenges he discusses. But the truth is, the way you deliver content to your audience should be simple, not overly complex.

You could spend enormous amounts of time trying to design the perfect campaigns based on your data. That doesn’t mean it will resonate with your audience. Depending too much on your data could leave you with blind spots that prevent you from developing new, innovative ideas.

By coupling data with customer empathy in marketing, you could see massive results. You can create something highly targeted and meaningful.

We learn how to empathize with others as children, but it’s easy to lose this skill as an adult. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about others. Nor does it mean we’re born with a compassion gene that eventually fades away or goes dormant as we face harsh realities throughout our lives.

Empathy is a skill we can acquire, so there’s hope for us all. While it’s true that social factors can impact our ability to attain this skill, we can learn to overcome our environments – even when they’re full of mean people who suck.

Relearn how to be empathetic by implementing key elements into your marketing tactics. Let’s face it—most marketing sucks. It’s not exciting, relevant, or beneficial. It’s often full of a lot of BS that avoids empathizing with customers. Your job is to turn things around and stand out from the crowd.

How to Become an Empathetic Marketer

Empathy-based marketing is built on trust. Do your customers trust your brand? Does it even matter?

It absolutely does. We used a brand trust survey, The Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust, to gather some interesting tidbits on the importance of trust in marketing.

  • Trust is nearly as valuable as quality and value. Consumers ranked it as a critical factor in making a purchase decision.
  • Most people somewhat distrust brands they buy from. 53% of respondents claim they can spot when a company is being dishonest.
  • Consumers place more trust in influencers who are relatable than those who are the most popular.
  • Organizations that care about having a social impact resonate more with buyers than those that don’t. 53% of respondents said they expect brands to engage in at least one social issue.

Source: Edelman

Each of these findings brings us back to empathy in marketing. To build trust and provide transparency for your customers, look at things from their perspective. Then you can start connecting with them from a sincere and authentic place. Ultimately, how you make people feel will either encourage or discourage them from buying from you.

Top Tips for Empathy-Based Marketing

Here are some ways to build empathy into your marketing strategy for better connections and more significant results.

Help Instead of Sell

Trying to push a sale by leading with hooks in your messaging won’t help you build trust. Instead, try focusing your content marketing efforts on helping your audience by delivering content consistently that solves relevant problems.

Get in Touch with Your Customers’ Feelings

Empathetic storytelling can help you create a meaningful bond with readers. Creating narratives around real challenges and situations helps customers see themselves in your story.

Source: OptinMonster

Think Like Your Customer

Step into their shoes and walk through the path they may take when researching and finding a solution to their problem. Doing this will help remove any bias you may have and see from a different perspective.

Focus on How You Can Make Your Customer’s Life Better

Regardless of what you market, it serves a need (or you wouldn’t have a business). Focus on the benefits of your content rather than product or service features. You can develop a brand story to show how your product or service will save a customer time or money, make their process more efficient, or make their life easier.

Be Clear, Not Confusing

Have you ever seen a brand promotion and thought, “What the heck was that?” If your message confuses people, it will also repel them. Even if you’re selling the most complex service or product on the market, your message must be clear and easy for non-experts to understand.

Listen Closely to Your Customers, and Be Willing to Evolve

Listening may be the most vital part of being an empathetic marketer. You’ll learn a lot from your customers – both the happy and unhappy ones. Take time to listen to their frustrations, desires, and constructive criticism. Implement changes as necessary.

Ready to Incorporate Empathy into Your Marketing Efforts for Greater Success?

Consider picking up a copy of Mean People Suck and get the bonus visual companion guide along with it. Also check out our services, including training, consulting, keynotes, and workshops that can help you transform your work culture, become a better leader, and build a more purpose-driven company. I would also be thrilled to present to your team the power of empathy in business.

Learn more about how to use empathy to improve your work culture and increase profits.

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.