6 Ways to Bring Empathy Into Your Marketing Strategy (in 2021 and Beyond)

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

The events of 2020 have shown us just how important empathetic marketing is for businesses both large and small. The world has changed and businesses need to adapt to the new needs of their customers if they want to grow. The best way to do that is through empathy.

What is empathetic marketing?

Empathy is the ability to see events and situations from another’s perspective — to put yourself in their shoes. For brands, empathetic marketing is about seeing the world through the user’s point of view. It helps you place the customer at the center of your marketing strategy and work outwards.

But it’s important to remember that being empathetic also means being genuine — you can’t create emotional marketing campaigns for the sole purpose of manipulating customers.

Empathy is believable when it creates authentic connections between brands and users. You have to build trust and organic relationships throughout the customer journey.

Source: Venngage

Yes, increasing conversion rates is the ultimate goal of every marketing campaign, but brands need to change their mindset about how to achieve those conversions.

If your marketing strategy is focused on the hard-sell approach, it’s time to rethink your campaigns for 2021.

Why is empathy important in marketing?

We’ve outlined how empathy works in marketing, but there are numerous reasons why it’s important, especially in 2021 and beyond.

Emotion and connection are more necessary now than ever before. The way we live and work has changed in ways we couldn’t have imagined. “Business as usual” is a thing of the past, because a lot of emotion is being generated about the future — and these emotions impact how consumers react to marketing campaigns.

The range of human emotion is massive, from positive emotions like joy, interest, and amazement, to the more negative, such as fear, anger, or sadness (anger, especially, can be a powerful motivator for sharing content). Campaigns need to be geared towards evoking and connecting with these real emotions.

While brands still want to sell products and services and bring in revenue, the way they move users through the funnel has to change. And this approach needs to be from the ground up.

Adapt your content marketing, re-examine the customer journey, and educate your employees about the benefits of evoking emotion across marketing channels.

How to use empathy in marketing (+examples)

Brand marketing has been on one trajectory for a long time: sell products and amplify your brand image by emphasizing the characteristics of your company.

This mindset is ingrained in us, which makes it difficult to understand how to use empathy in marketing. But the world of marketing has had to adapt before, and we can do it again. Here are the best ways to switch to an empathetic marketing mindset.

1. Understand your audience’s pain points

We’ve mentioned the importance of walking in your audience’s shoes to get a feel for what they need right now. This is the time to update your buyer personas to reflect the new realities your customers are experiencing.

Source: Venngage

How can you do this? By understanding that customer empathy works in two ways:

  • What are the customer pain points in the real world?
  • What are the customer pain points regarding your business?

The real world, at the moment, is still reeling from the pandemic. That means your audience is missing out on traveling and meeting people, and is dealing with loneliness and uncertainty.

If your brand can step in to help with these feelings — such as offering virtual classes or providing entertainment — you’ll be able to make a powerful connection with your audience.

JetBlue has done a good job of understanding customers’ current pain points — how to travel safely in the pandemic in an emergency — and created videos addressing those issues:

When it comes to customers’ pain points with regards to your brand, you need to do a bit more digging.

Analyze your traffic and conversions each week and note the biggest movers, up and down. This is a great way to find out what aspects of your brand are attracting customers.

Use social listening to understand the sentiment around your brand. But don’t engage in every conversation, even if you’re feeling defensive. If customers aren’t happy with your brand, you should be learning why that is and how you can fix it.

Of course, nothing beats talking to your customers directly. Schedule a call or send out a short survey and ask them a few questions:

  • Are they happy with your brand?
  • What product/service has benefited them the most?
  • What would they like to see improved?

Don’t make any promises, but use this as a learning exercise to improve your customer interactions.

Once you’ve collated this information, you can design a customer traffic report that will help you adapt the direction of your marketing.

Source: Venngage

Another important component that brands need to keep in mind: avoiding confusion.

This goes hand-in-hand with marketing strategies, but clarity often goes out the door when you’re trying out a new mindset. If you’re selling a complex service that will eventually help customers, you don’t want to lose them in jargon or multi-step process.

Share comprehensive guides that they can follow during the user onboarding process. Make it as visual as possible by sharing screenshots, video walkthroughs, or use a timeline template.

Onboarding guides are a good way to show customers that you care about them and are willing to take them through every step of the process. This will help to build trust and strengthen connections between customers and brands.

2. Adapt to audience needs

Now that you know what your audience needs from the world and from your brand, you need to adapt your business model.

eBay’s Up & Running program is a good example of this adaptation:

With so many small businesses struggling during the pandemic, eBay scaled back fees, made some services free, and offered more support to sellers.

There are lessons here that brands can take into their own campaigns. You may not be able to offer discounts, but how about opening up your premium tier to all audiences?

Take smaller steps, like adapting how front-facing employees handle customers. Design job aids, like this example, to remind teams how to display empathetic behavior towards customers.

Source: Venngage

It’s also worth looking into your current customer service process to ensure your wording and tone are more empathetic.

3. Capture everyday life

A key component of using empathy in marketing is capturing the wonders of everyday life. Major life moments are on hold for the foreseeable future, so why aren’t more businesses incorporating the little moments into their content strategies?

Brands can showcase their empathy by creating content around simple scenarios: the joy of a video call with a loved one, baking a great pie, or replicating an outdoor experience inside. For example, people aren’t going to movie theaters right now, so a video about recreating the theater experience at home would successfully tap into customer empathy.

That’s exactly what Verizon did with their short video on responsive lighting:

The video is instructional and fun, and it features a real person from the company who loves the movie theater experience enough to want to recreate it at home. Human connection, right there.

Brands sometimes believe that content marketing means high-definition video quality and expansive stories. But you have to take the world as it currently is into account. Consumers aren’t living high-end lives, so the brand message needs to reflect that. Customers are home, and will be working remotely for a while longer. Choose the home as a setting when sharing your brand story to create that real-world connection.

4. Take a visually engaging, educational approach

Your content needs to be valuable to customers if it’s going to enhance their brand experience, so an educational approach might be necessary.

Audit your existing content to find pieces that are relevant to your audience. You can also update older pieces that may have outdated information, but can evoke the right emotions.

Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of data-focused content being shared. Marketers can design content around key data to educate audiences. In fact, according to Venngage’s study into data marketing, most marketers are comfortable with data design.

This is the time to tap into data visualization skills and create data-related content to educate audiences. Customers want content that isn’t just attractive, but that also increases their understanding of the world around them.

Another way to educate audiences is to find the sweet spot between your business’ expertise and what your customers are interested in learning. That’s what Lush is doing with their “How It’s Made” YouTube series. It takes an educational and empathetic approach to showcasing their products:

This series works because customers want to know what’s going into the products they use. Lush has their experts explain the ingredients, and the overlap makes for great content.

When sharing educational content, create visuals that help tell your story. As a design solution, we’ve seen that visual storytelling can increase connections and conversions.

5. Add interactivity

Interactive marketing has been taking off over the past few years, since rapidly advancing technology (especially within social media) has made it more attainable for brands.

In the current global climate, adding interactivity in marketing content can be a great way to generate empathy in business models. As we have mentioned, consumers have had to give up on going out, meeting people, and traveling the world. If your brand can offer them solutions to these problems, then showcasing those solutions in your marketing should be a top priority.

And if you can make it interactive, like this BBC Scotland video, so much the better: 

The video works because of how simple the interactivity is. Users just need to use their touchpad to click through for more information and to change the direction of the video. Since people can’t travel right now and take in these sights in person, it has a great chance of engaging consumers.

According to recent video marketing research, YouTube not only draws in billions of monthly users, but it’s also the top purchase-driver among social media channels. So, if you have the resources to create interactive YouTube videos, you can showcase more brand empathy in your marketing efforts.

6. Utilize user-generated content

User-generated content has been a mainstay of social media marketing for a while now. But it’s also a strong tool for building brand connections with consumers.

What makes UGC stand out from other marketing strategies is how it bridges the gap between brands and customers. Users create content, either for their channels or for a brand contest, and that content is amplified on a company’s social media platform, website, or newsletters.

There are numerous benefits to UGC, the primary one being that your brand doesn’t need to create this content (though you will need to sort through entries to choose brand-appropriate content). Additionally, by showcasing users’ content, you can tap into their networks. People will feel happy about appearing on your brand’s platform and share the post or page with their circles.

Marketers should spend some time looking at the kind of content users are generating, as this will help them create a contest strategy that will appeal to their demographic, like Petco did.

Petco collected content from their customers about the little moments they share with their pets to create this video collage:

And there’s another benefit of UGC that is exemplified by Petco’s video: this kind of content acts as testimonials for the company. UGC shows that customers believe in a brand enough to send them their content. This proves to prospective customers that this brand is worth engaging with and purchasing from.

Conclusion: Use empathetic marketing to connect with customers in 2021 and beyond

The global situation has made empathetic marketing a top priority for businesses. It isn’t enough to talk about your product or the benefits of buying from your brand anymore. Brands now need to connect with customers on a deeper, more empathetic level. Show your audience that you understand their needs and are ready to adapt to them.

Including empathy in marketing campaigns is more of a mindset than a technique. And to instill that way of thinking in marketing teams, you need to follow these steps:

  • Understand your audience’s current pain points
  • Adapt to their needs
  • Take an educational approach in your marketing
  • Capture everyday life in campaigns
  • Add interactive elements
  • Utilize user-generated content

Each step is vital because the changes we’re seeing now will have long-lasting effects. Taking an empathetic approach can take a bit of time to get used to, but it isn’t impossible.

Have other tips for incorporating empathy in marketing? Let me know in the comments.

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