If you really care about people, and you want to help them, the best way to do that is to understand them. In the world of marketing, many marketers are overly focused on trying to sell. To sell their products. To sell their ideas. To sell their reputations or brands or “solutions.” But they do this without making the effort to know what their potential customers really need or want.
Other marketers have learned the value of knowing their target market’s needs, desires, interests, activities, etc. So they conduct research. They study shopping patterns. They gather data on search behavior. They build complicated decision models and run statistical analyses that they hope will predict which products will sell and which will fail.
But only a few the truly great marketers know that empathy is the key to long-term successful marketing. People often define empathy as being able to understand the feelings of another person. But being empathetic means that you’re not only able to understand how someone is feeling, but also able to understand and share their perspective. In fact, empathy is the driving force in how humans connect with other humans. Without empathy, marketers can eventually end up seeing customers, target audiences, clients, patrons, consumers as numbers in a spreadsheet or lines on a graph or merely another few dollars in the bank.
How do you build empathy? First, pay attention to other people. Not just casually, but really watch and listen and make an effort to understand not just what they do, but why they do what they do.
Second, discover and explore your own biases. We all have our tendencies to favor or disfavor particular ideas or individuals or groups, not necessarily based on a true understanding of them, but perhaps because of some aspect of our experiences and perceptions that have shaped our worldview. The more we understand our particular biases, the more we can put them aside to have empathy for other people.
Finally, communicate. Ask people how they feel about particular activities and ideas and attitudes and beliefs. When it’s appropriate, dig deeper and find out about their experiences that may have led them to have these feelings.
As a marketer, I’m a huge proponent of gaining a thorough knowledge of marketing analytics to be able to analyze marketing data. In fact, one of the strengths of our digital marketplace is the ability to measure audience behaviors and forecast where those behaviors are leading. Innovations such as responsive advertising and predictive communication allow marketers to seemingly outwit the marketplace and supposedly to satisfy their customers. But metrics and algorithms are necessarily limited by their sterile nature. In the end, marketers need to empathize with their audiences if they truly want to connect with them and serve them.
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