Do you understand your audience? Can you connect with them on a deep, intuitive level? Do you really know what they want and need – and why? You're probably thinking, 'of course I can!' Now ask yourself, 'Do my marketing efforts strongly project an innate understanding of my customer?' Will your perfect client/customer come to your website and say, 'Hey this guy is talking to me?'
There was a time when strong, sexy ad campaigns would move people to buy from their ego place. But today, most consumers have to be careful with their spending and only a strongly demonstrated understanding of their feelings and life/business circumstances will inspire them to pull out the wallet. As businesses learn to embrace these right-brained, empathy-driven marketing tactics consumers are also learning; they keep their eyes open for the brand that understands them the best.
For instance, Hyundai increased sales in 2009 when they introduced their empathy-driven Assurance Benefit: If you can't afford the payments on your new Hyundai-financed Hyundai within the first year of purchase, just drop it off and walk away. Whether or not you bother to read the fine print, this example of empathy marketing stood out among the rest.
The goal of empathy marketing is to establish an emotional connection with the 'brand' and embed the message in the mind of the consumer. Neuroscientific studies show that humans are hard wired for empathy and consumer behavior is determined by the emotional stimuli that a marketing message delivers. Marketing firms have gone so far as to employ psychological testing methods in focus groups to pinpoint exactly how and where companies should project the most value to their customers. These tests include things like, eye tracking, heart rate tests, a study of facial expressions and brain waves. Wow! So how can the 'little guy' employ similar methods to create powerful, connecting language and tactics for marketing? Here are a few ideas.
See the global perspective. Keep your own background or biases from getting in the way of seeing other perspectives. Look deep into the effect that your product or service has on individuals from all walks of life in various circumstances. How does it impact the economy, ecology, and the future of your industry, society, the earth, or whatever is applicable?
Organize focus groups of your own. These studies don't have to be reserved for large, spendy marketing firms. What can you do on a smaller scale to better understand your audience? Interview a group of 8-12 people asking specific questions about what compels them to buy, how they perceive your offering, and what your product or service can 'fix' or change in their life or business. Try different messages out on them to see which ones push the 'buy' button.
Bring empathy to customer service. Empathy reaches the consumer at a deeper level when it is carried into your guarantee and customer service policies. Statements like '100% guarantee' don't hack it anymore. What does that really mean? What results can your customer expect and how does your guarantee back them? Also, when dealing with an unsatisfied customer, remember to use language that shows them that you understand and care. Use connector statements, like 'I can hear how disappointed (angry, frustrated, etc.) you are and I'm sorry. Let's take care of this.' Acknowledge how they feel instead of defending yourself.
Learn from the big guys. When advertising their Assurance Benefit, Hyundai struck a chord with consumers on many levels. Many large brands do a great job at marketing more than their product; they market a mindset. With more and more people losing jobs, Hyundai marketed to the 'that could happen to me' mindset. A sad message, but nonetheless effective. I'm not suggesting that you go to the negative side here, just dig deeper to understand your customer's mindset.
Popular e-tailer, Zappos.com claims that they are 'powered by service' and addresses the issue that most concerns consumers when purchasing shoes and clothing on line; what if it doesn't fit or looks terrible on me? Consumers worry about being out the cost of round trip shipping and the hassle of standing in line at the post office to return their purchase. Wisely, Zappos includes a free shipping return label with all of their products. They also offer a 365 day return policy; who needs longer than that to get to the post office? Zappos discovered and addressed the issue head on and is taking the results to the bank.
How do you connect? How are you employing empathy marketing tactics? Where are you missing the boat? Remember that your product or service is about THEM, not you; let your audience know that you understand.
Last updated: Feb 28, 2011
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka