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How Empathy Mapping Helps Create Better Marketing Stories

Jul 27, 2020
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Some of the biggest and most trusted brands in the world were started during times of economic and social unrest. One thing these brands have in common was their ability to empathize and connect with their audience naturally and authentically.

Many brands and marketers today chase after trends in hopes of "going viral." This narrow approach comes at a high cost. As trends fade, so will they.

In this video, I'll share how developing empathy and leveraging empathy mapping can help a brand build trust and create marketing stories that stand the test of time.

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Video Transcript: 

As I said in the opener, we're going to be talking about the role that empathy plays in creating a marketing strategy that works regardless of what's going on in the world around us.

Empathy Mapping Creates Marketing That Lasts

In the year 2020, it's been a little bit crazy. We've seen a lot of different things happen, a lot of unpredictable things happen and we've seen some good responses with marketing and we've seen some, well not so good responses. How can we leverage empathy mapping to better understand how to approach our customers and create marketing that lasts and that engages and really builds our business in the right way long term?

Customer Feelings Matter

The importance of empathy is understanding our customers, not just what they do and what they say, but understanding how they feel. What are the things that move them into action. For most people, we're drawn by feelings. We're drawn by emotions. We're drawn by how things make our lives better. How they make our lives feel the way that we want them to feel. Do they match our blueprint?

We have to understand the mindset that our customers are in. What are the worries that they have in their minds? What are they thinking about on a daily basis? What are the things that their friends are saying? What are they saying to themselves? What's the community saying? What are all the voices that are coming into their lives? What are they saying about the world and how do they interpret those actions? What are they seeing? What are the experiences that they're seeing? What do they say about those experiences?

Empathy Builds Trust

What happens a lot of times is we put trends over trust. Now trends can be helpful if you get on it in the right time and you can actually build that trend into something sustainable. But if you lead just with the trend and you forget about the trust, you're not really going to have something that lasts because you might see a spike for a time then it comes down.

For instance, a lot of businesses that were early on the COVID-19 epidemic and started to create content around how their businesses are helping others during this time or how their businesses have a solution that can support, they saw a huge increase of traffic. But what's happened as the pandemic has gone on and on and on and we've kind of hit this critical mass, that traffic is starting to drop off. People will either settle into their new normal, they've decided on a solution they have or what happens a lot, people just get burned out. They get tired of what's happening, especially when we're in a time period like we are. We're just experiencing a lot of chaos.

If we're not careful as marketers, we can jump ahead of a trend, but then that trend will burnout and with that burnout, maybe we didn't take that time to build trust and promote something that's going to have a lasting effect and a long term effect, whether that be with our SEO, our content strategy, our branding strategy, or our products as a whole. It's really important that we take a step back and make sure that we leverage trust and we only do that once we empathize and really understand the people that we're marketing to as a whole.

Marketing to Human Beings

This is a really important concept for us to get, that behind the videos, behind the screens, behind all that data, are human beings. Human beings that have thoughts, that have feelings, that have desires, that have needs, and people tend to pull themselves or get drawn to some normalcy, something that they're used to, things that are familiar. We don't like change as a species a lot. We like things to be comfortable, things that are going to build or affirm our beliefs that we already have.

As marketers, we have to understand that. We've got to understand that as business owners, how people behave and how they act and then make sure that we approach them in the right way because if we're asking them to change, if we're asking them to choose something different, we have to unseat something in them that is normal or familiar and the only way you can do that is through creating leverage. But if you don't have empathy, you'll never create leverage because you won't be able to understand what they're going through and how they formulate and build their decisions.

This will influence everything that you do online, from the technical aspects, to the marketing aspects, to the products you build, having this deep understanding of those customers is going to help start you on the right foot.

Empathy Leads to Good Stories

What empathy will do is it will lead you into story and good stories can change and motivate people and move them forward. Bad stories can create distrust and can cause people to say, "Do you actually care?"

During this time we've seen a lot of uses of the words: uncommon, unprecedented, unfamiliar. We've got these messages over and over again and for a lot of us, I think we've kind of hit the point where we're just sick of that type of marketing. We're sick of that type of message. We keep hearing it. We're ready for something different. We don't want things to be unfamiliar. We want things to be normal.

Messaging Done Well

A company that's used this messaging pretty well is USAA, which is an insurance company for the United States Armed Forces. What they've done is they've acknowledged that during this time, in the pandemic, that people have lost their jobs. They've been unable to pay some of their bills and because of that, they may have been worried about losing their insurance coverage.

This is a real pain. This is a real fear that a lot of people are experiencing right now. Instead of pushing in on that fear and making some gimmick, they said, "Hey, if you're our customer and you've lost your job, or you can't make a payment, don't worry. We're not going to drop you. What we can do is work with you to spread out those payments over your future bills."

What they did is they listened to what was happening in the community. They understood what their customers were experiencing. And they said, "You know what? We want to help you. We want to build trust with you. We want to let you know that we have your back," and their message was we've gotten you. So don't worry if you've missed. Call us, let us know, let us work through this together to make sure that you have what you need. It's a powerful message, especially in a time of turbulence when people are unsure of what to expect next.

Messaging That Misses the Mark

There's been the other side of this messaging that seems to me is either going too far or it just doesn't seem real. There's another company that I see their videos all the time, especially in streaming channels is Carvana and Carvana has a cool product. They're one of these companies who you can buy a car at a vending machine, or buy a car online and you can do this whole purchasing of an automobile without ever interacting with a human being, which is kind of interesting in and of itself.

But what they did is they started with a very similar commercial with the piano playing and the sad times and we don't know what's going on. Then their tagline was "Because we know that buying a car can't wait." This commercial came out in the midst of when many states were finding themselves in maybe what we'd call a lockdown or a quarantine, where people weren't going anywhere, people weren't doing anything. Only essential workers were going to their jobs, yet they were saying, sometimes you just can't wait to buy a car. Well, if people don't have jobs, people aren't going to work. They're probably not concerned with buying an automobile at this moment. I know they need to move cars, but that message to me didn't resonate because it didn't seem realistic. It didn't seem like a lot of people were like, what do I need right now? A brand new car.

Look at the Bigger Picture

We have to really step back and look at these and understand what is going on in culture. What is going on in the minds and the feelings of the people we're talking to and then work from there to build a strategy that's going to build long-term trust and be able to help us grow our businesses in the right way.

I think that's an important concept for us to understand. Instead of jumping into things, take a moment and just look, listen, and understand where the people we want to reach are coming from and the things that they're experiencing in their lives. As we've seen this thing play out, we've seen a lot of businesses do it well. We've seen probably more of those commercials that we're just sick of, with the overuses of words, or everything's starting to look the same.

I'd like to challenge you as you're looking at content, as you're looking at creating videos for your business, as you're looking at optimizing your search strategy, don't just focus on the trends. Focus on empathy and how you can use that to build trust, which will result in long-term, sustainable growth for your business.

If you have any questions, please comment below. We'd love to continue the conversation with you and until next time, Happy Marketing.

Ideal Buyer Persona

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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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