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How Empathy Mapping Helps Create a Story That Connects

Feb 5, 2016
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Emapthy Mapping - Buyer PesonaDo you know your customers? Like really understand them. In order to effectively market your business to the right audience, you have to step outside your worldview and enter theirs. Empathy is a powerful tool when it comes to developing the story you want to share about your business online. The old adage, “The customer is always right” is 100% percent true. In a world filled with noise, it’s more essential than ever to know your audience so that your message gets heard.  

When it comes to marketing online, a majority of business owners go for what they like themselves or what they see their competition doing. This, in my opinion, is a dangerous move. Being who you are is essential to sharing an authentic story online but you have to think about your audience. Your story has to connect with your audience and help them move toward your business to solve their problems. This is where empathy, understanding your buyers, plays a huge role in crafting a message that gets to the heart of your audience. 

The information below comes from an awesome tool called the Empathy Map, which was developed by visual thinking company XPLANE.  What I plan to do is walk you through the steps to help you understand how to use the Empathy Map to give you a better understanding of your buyer personas. (Download your Empathy Map from XPLANE here)

What Does She See?

This first question dives into what your customer or prospect sees in their environment. Force yourself to step into her world and see what she is experiencing. This will allow you to get a better idea of not only the type of marketing she is exposed to but also who are the others influencing her life. Understanding what she sees and what attracts her, can give you ideas on how to frame your story to better fit her visual reality.

Some Questions to Ask Are:

  • What does it look like?
  • Who surrounds her?
  • Who are her friends?
  • What types of offers is she exposed to on a day-to-day basis?
  • What are the problems she encounters?

What Does She Hear?

People are influenced by what those around them say. Each of us have people in our lives that when they speak, we listen. But they aren’t the only ones who have access to our ears. Everything communicates. From the music she listens to the the types of media channels she exposes herself too, everyone of them says something about her and to her.

Some Questions to Ask Are:

  • What do her friends say? Partner? Spouse?
  • Who really influences her and how?
  • Which media channels are influential?

What Does She Think and Feel? 

Here is where really tapping into empathy is key. These are the thoughts and feelings she’s afraid to share. The things that are really going on inside her head. The truth is, we all have these. So taking a moment to connect with yourself is a good idea before jumping into this. This is the place where your customer or prospect will ultimately decided whether or not to trust and engage with your business. So take some time and don’t rush this part.

Some Questions to Ask Are:

  • What is really important to her? The stuff she won’t say out loud.
  • Imagine her emotions. What moves her?
  • What keeps her up at night?
  • Try describing her dreams and aspirations. What are they?

What Does She Say and Do?

The key here is to look at what she says and the compare it to what she does. Many of us have the tendency to say things that we really don’t mean or back up with our actions. By better understanding what she says and how she acts, you can frame your message to speak to the “real her”.

Some Questions to Ask Are:

  • What is her attitude?
  • What could she be telling others?
  • What are the conflicts between what she says and what she may truly feel or think? 

The next two things to consider are the pain and the gain. Here we can establish the main issues that our persona is facing and the possible solutions we can provide to them

What is the Customer's Pain?

Pain causes change. As humans we can only deal with pain for so long until we start to look for a solution. Identifying, understanding and empathizing with their pain is essential when creating a story that resonates with your audience. Try to feel their pain. Place yourselves in their situation and image what it’s like to experience their frustration.

Some Questions to Ask Are:

  • What are her biggest frustrations?
  • What obstacles stand between her and what she needs or wants to achieve?
  • What risks might she fear taking?

What Does the Customer Gain?

Now that you understand the pain, you can begin to present the solution. Remember, success is measured on the customer’s terms, not yours. They have to be convinced that your solution will meet their desired outcome. As business owners, it's not our job to force our solution, but rather expose the pain and offer a solution that meets the customer's desired outcome.

Some Questions to Ask Are:

  • What does she truly want or need to achieve?
  • How does she measure success?
  • What strategies might she use to achieve her goals?

By asking yourself these questions you can harness the power of empathy to help you better understand your customers' wants and needs. This will help you to create an online marketing message that resonates and adds value to your audience and help attract the right type of customer. Then you will be able to create better solutions that actually meet their needs. As Seth Godin says, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

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Developing buyer personas for your business will help you segment your audience and ensure your message is focused around your ideal customer. Need more help defining your target audience? Check out our free buyer persona template here.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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