10 Tips for Effective Empathetic Content Marketing
More than ever before, empathy marketing is a crucial skill for brands to master. And now, also more than ever before, the globe’s largest brands are more or less failing at it.
When it comes to industries that deal in topics of a more sensitive nature, marketing can be a tricky thing to navigate. Brands know they have valuable products and services that truly help people and they genuinely care about their customers, but the last thing they want to do is be perceived as “ambulance chasers” when they reach out to prospects.
The same goes for marketing during times of crisis or in response to community tragedy. Companies that find the most success are those who employ empathy marketing techniques and are genuine in their outreach.
Empathy marketing is showing the true personality of a brand and becoming a trusted source by thinking in a customer-centric way.
Empathy marketing tips and tricks
As a concept, empathy marketing makes sense, but it tends to get flubbed in execution. Practice makes perfect, but having an effective strategy can help you stay on good terms with your audience.
1. Provide an authentic solution
Let’s get one thing straight: empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is about feeling sorry for someone without truly knowing how they feel. Empathy is knowing how they feel and acting with genuine care and compassion. If you don’t have an authentic solution to provide, don’t say anything at all. The last thing someone in crisis needs is an underhanded sales pitch.
2. It’s not immediately about your bottom line
Empathy marketing is vulnerable work, meaning it’s not meant to hard sell. You’re essentially putting in work with no guarantee of immediate ROI, and you have to be okay with that. The slightest misstep can ruin any sense of authenticity, and rightfully so. If your audience senses in any way, shape or form that you’re trying to sneakily sell to them, you aren’t using empathy marketing. Bottom line: If you feel sleazy about what you’re doing, you’re definitely doing it wrong.
3. But it IS about empowerment
With empathy marketing, you’re working to put the power in the hands of the consumer and give them the information, tools and resources they need to make their own decision. Don’t hit them with a hard call to action. Present the information and let it sit with them. If it’s authentic and your solution will truly help, your communication will work.
4. Know thy audience
There is virtually no way to develop an empathetic message if you don’t know what your customers are thinking or what they need. Why would anyone care what you have to say? Want your product or service? Make a purchase decision? Read your content? Put yourself in their shoes however you can. Collect insights in a survey or pull data from organic social media comments and customer service reviews. Whatever it takes to know them better.
5. Understand logical triggers
Marketers often assume that people buy based almost solely on emotion, but this isn’t always the case. Consider a B2B workplace. We aren’t saying your high-budget video of a blue-collar worker keeping America running was a bad idea, but a message with logical triggers may be more appropriate.
Helping these workers do their jobs more efficiently and providing them with the right knowledge without the smoke and mirrors can be an excellent empathy marketing tactic. Personalize your message for their case and create a desire for them to engage with you because of your expertise. Emotional triggers are a classic messaging technique, but don’t forget that logic definitely has its place in a crisis.
6. Tell a story
Oftentimes, empathy marketing is based on a story, and real people always tell it better than an animation or a talking head. Think of the Google Super Bowl commercial from 2020. The narrator was a real person, the grandfather of a Google employee. That commercial won awards and stayed on the hearts and minds of the audience long after the final touchdown. Showing people whose stories resonate with your customer can be key when it comes to personalizing your message.
7. Use empathy mapping
How can a company truly understand their customers? With proper planning and research, brands can start mapping their customers’ pain points, needs and values by answering a simple formula, “Our customers need a better way to ____ because ____.”
There are many resources available to help brands build a literal empathy map that can be used during a team exercise after customer interviews and surveys have taken place. Separate a large poster or whiteboard into four quadrants: Thinking, Saying, Doing and Feeling. Use primary research to understand the emotions customers exhibit before, during and after using your product or service. This will help to communicate effectively from a customer-centric approach. (For more information on this, check out the empathy marketing chapter in Marketing Trends vol. 12.)
8. One goal is plenty
This one is difficult for marketers who want to please a lot of people. Are you selling your product, building customer loyalty or working to reach a new audience? You can’t have it all! Unite your content’s message around your one goal directed at one audience and try not to veer off course.
9. But one ad won’t do it
Despite what the current advertising climate may suggest, one ad does not equal empathy marketing! You can pour billions into a nice video with soft piano in the background, but if that's the only vehicle for your message you’re bound to come off as inauthentic.
Carry over your message to your organic social media, blogs, print pieces and even your phone answering script. Keep things as connected as possible and present a united front at every touch point.
10. Check your facts (then check them again)
In empathetic communication, information sharing is paramount. Were you comforted by any of the COVID-19 emails you got in your inbox that said “We are closely monitoring the situation” and nothing else? Probably not. Information is valuable currency in a crisis.
Because of this inherent value, the most important thing you can do is double check your sources before sending that email, tweet or push notification. Insert extra measures into your process to ensure that everything you say is 100% true and not misleading. Your reputation as an effective, empathetic marketer is built on your audience’s trust. One wrong move and you can easily lose that confidence for good.
True empathy marketing is understanding that the last thing that the customer wants to hear is how they need to help you. You cannot put in effort with the expectation that your ROI will skyrocket because you made a video letting the customer know your business is still around in “uncertain times.”
Practice, do your research and double check your work! The moment you start to listen to your customers rather than talk is the moment you start to master the art of empathy marketing.
Learn more about the art of empathy marketing in Marketing Trends vol. 12, an expedition into the latest tactics and topics that can elevate your brand in 2020. Get your free copy here.
About the Author
Anthony is a Senior Manager on the Performance Marketing team. Ask him about paid search, programmatic advertising, even SEO if you'd like. When you're inevetiably satisfied with his response, be ready to turn the conversation to classic movies and music from the 70s.