Role of Empathy

Role of Empathy

During a strategy meeting with a long-standing client-partner, an EVP on the team offered me a compliment in the form of a question. “How do you do it?” she asked. “How do you think and write in such a way that you’re in the mind and the heart of our customers?”

My response was relatively simple. I said, “the biggest thing that most marketing and brand strategy misses is real and authentic empathy.” The CEO sitting next to me nodded in agreement. “Caring costs nothing, yet people run past it all the time.”

Empathy eats data for lunch.

Empathy eats technology for lunch.

Empathy eats design for lunch.

I’m not putting down data, technology, or design, here. Each plays an important part in understanding the past and bringing new innovations to life. I know first-hand how important each of these tools are and use all of them regularly.

However, without empathy—really feeling with your customer—data, design, technology, and all marketing will always fall short.

You’ve seen it happen over and over.

A brand talks about how great they are. They tell you how the product specs and features are painstakingly crafted. They tell you about the gazillion hours of engineering required to create the product, but they forget that it’s not about them. The often overlooked yet vital guidance system in a business is right there in front of you: your customer. It’s about your customer. Always.

“What’s in it for them?” is a question all marketers, designers, innovators, and business leaders should come back to, over and over. If you don’t answer this, don’t bother wasting the gobs of marketing, data tracking, or technology investment dollars. Further, you can (and should) weave this question into how you shape your market research, design, and technology approaches.

Here are the wires that some businesses cross-up: instead of finding customers for your products and services, you should be shaping your products and services for your customers.

Picture this, your ideal customer.

Who are they? What does their life look like? Envision their world, their loves, their fears, their challenges, their aspirations. Walk in their shoes for a while, for more than a mile. Then go deeper. What does the story of their life look like? Imagine their dreams, wishes, fears, and desires. Imagine them considering your product against your competitors. Imagine what motivations they would have to consider and ultimately commit to your product or service. Imagine how their life or work is affected by your product or service. Imagine every step of them engaging with, exploring and using your products or services. Imagine how their life improves or doesn’t by what you offer them. Have you made it for them, or have you made it for you?

Enter empathy mapping.

Initially developed by XPlane co-founder Dave Gray, Empathy Mapping is a potent visualization tool designed to help teams use to gain insight into a target audience or customer persona.

The tool provides a string of questions and stimuli to identify a target group’s thoughts, feelings, motivations, desires, fear, and needs. The process funnels the exploration of a team to home in on the drivers and requirements that serve the customer.

A brand building team, product development team, UX team, or CX team, would use empathy mapping to consider how people might respond to the brand, the product, the interface or the customer services approach. From there, each team would be informed by the insight outcomes in order to shape or create the offering at hand.

Empathy Maps are easily shared and understood visual representations that clearly identify knowledge gaps or inconsistencies in research. Furnished with these insights, a wide variety of teams can shape and deliver effective solutions or develop products that people are driven to invest in.

And, empathy should happen everyday and all the time in your business.

How are you weaving empathy questions and approaches…

  • …in your innovation processes?
  • …in your culture and leadership?
  • …in your employee engagement?
  • …in your new hire processes?
  • …in your marketing approaches?
  • …in your marketing messages?
  • …in your brand strategy?

By constantly reminding yourself and your team to employ empathy in your work, you’re much more likely to attract more of the right people for the right reasons.

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