Why Empathy is the Most Valuable Marketing Skill

You might have the most convincing sales pitch, the highest quality product, and the lowest price in town, but if you don’t have empathy, your business could be in trouble. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Here’s why empathy is the most valuable marketing skill right now. 

What is Empathy?

a customer empathy icon, emphasizing two people understanding and empathizing with each otherPut simply, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. From a business standpoint, without authentic empathy, you won’t be able to understand your customers’ frustrations or goals, or more importantly, how to craft your brand messaging around alleviating those concerns and adding value. 

To really delve into empathy, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about how their interaction with your brand is more than a business transaction; it’s an experience. What parts of that experience or journey could be improved and how? Is it a journey you would make again or would you seek alternatives?

It’s important not to try to answer these questions from your own perspective. 

Try to see things from a variety of different points of view to glean further insight on how to appeal to different segments of your audience, not just your target market. The more people to whom you can provide value, the better the bottom line will be for your business. The important caveat of that equation, however, is understanding-and empathizing-with all those different customer profiles. 

Why Does it Matter?

In March 2020, a survey from Episerver found over half of businesses reported strained customer relationships, with a further 71% admitting to a gap between identifying and fulfilling customer needs. Put simply, the customer experience is changing dramatically in virtually all industries. The reason some brands are having a tough time keeping up? They don’t understand their customers’ needs. 

a graph illustrating more profit with happier customersUnderstandably, the two most valuable tactics for bridging that gap are first, figuring out who exactly your customers are, and secondly, how to develop a personalized approach to building relationships with them. The most successful brands have a few things in common: they understand their customers, they’re always trying to enhance the customer experience, and they have fostered a sufficient relationship with their audience to such a degree that they have access to valuable feedback loops. 

Your goal as a business owner should always be to put the customer first. Without understanding who that customer is and what he or she wants, you can’t develop a strategy to fit their needs. Empathy is your most valuable tool to gaining insight into your audience.

How to Start Practicing Empathy Today

What can you do today to start practicing empathy more effectively? 

an icon illustrating customer feedbackFirst, start listening to your customers. Observe how they interact with your business; are they coming into your retail location frustrated, neutral, or upbeat? Do they seem to enjoy interaction with your business, or is it a necessary evil? Pay attention to the nuances and you’ll start to see patterns. Use those patterns to tweak your approach to provide the most value. 

Second, encourage your customers to provide feedback. Incentivize them to leave you reviews, when applicable, and work on building robust, interactive social media channels. Remember, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers, so understanding how all customers see your brand is crucial to keeping up with their demands. 

Third, and most importantly, treat your customers like they matter. Let them know their time is valuable. Reward your most loyal customers with loyalty programs and go above and beyond whenever and wherever applicable. Your customers will notice the subtle things you do to make their experience more enjoyable, and those efforts will go a long way. 

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