Opinion: Why marketers need to be empathetic now than ever

By Thanzyl Thajudeen

As leading marketers, we have lately been focusing much of our efforts towards data, digital and the metaverse. We have more channels, content, and technology we need today to reach our potential customers, but this has unfortunately led us to cultivate a mindset of treating them as mere numbers and transactions rather than human beings. This is also the case with customers who think businesses are made up of profits and processes instead of people.

Whilst data is highly essential and valuable, this should never come at the expense of replacing real human connections. The former can never replace the latter. We must find a middle ground and balance between the two.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that despite the numerous opportunities available to connect with our desired audiences, building trust has and will always continue to be the leading goal and KPI. I have come across many clients and projects who have embraced all the best industry practices, tools, automation and what not but somehow keeps falling short. The reason is simply- it is because there is no empathy in their approach and strategy. This is often also similar when it comes to leading their very own people. So, an effective marketing leader not only looks at achieving sales and publicity but rather one who is super-focused on building relationships and reputation- both externally as well as internally.

All our decisions are based on emotions

We can all agree- according to renowned psychologists and neuroscientists- that every decision we make is based around emotions. Before drilling much of your time and effort into customer behaviors and conversions, identifying and understanding emotional connections is crucial. Dive deep into knowing their motivators and influencers. Building an empathetic mindset can help achieve this. So, what really is empathy-based marketing? Well, it’s about walking in your customer’s shoes to better understand their experience and to continuously keep achieving what they really desire and want. There is a great misconception in this when one says, ‘think like the customer’. No instead ‘be the customer’.

As marketers we need to know the human psychology and everything that relates to it. It is quite sad to see that most of the qualifications and training out there does not incorporate this important aspect.

Trust leads the world of emotions

If your marketing has not achieved and fostered the trust factor, you have quite literally achieved nothing. Empathy in business and marketing is all about trust. Begin with asking the questions ‘Does your team trust your brand? and ‘Do your customers trust your brand? Many global findings concluded that trust is the most critical factor when making a purchase decision, and that many consumers can today easily gauge and spot if a brand is being dishonest. Consumers are increasingly placing more trust in their circles and influencers who can relate rather than those who are popular, and often expect brands to have the caring factor that bring about social impact.

Making it empathetically personalized

We saw many brands and businesses incorporating empathy into their internal and external marketing activities in view of one of the most unprecedented and challenging years we faced. Undoubtedly, the past two years has brought about various social and psychological issues that has impacted our lives both mentally and financially. We all feel the burnout, and at times like this coming across a rather irrelevant marketing message with an irrelevant product or service can be a disaster to your brand. Marketers need to be more mindful and considerate than ever before and be able to put forth the sensitive needs of their customers and not just their departmental or business needs. 

Personalization is without a doubt the key to achieve empathy. Since the earliest times of trade, this has always existed but somehow as we went on with industrial revolution and so on, we have tended to forget this mantra. I have always stressed on the need to engage with audiences on a much deeper level. People often interact with people they like, any successful marketer knows the importance of translating actions and messages that gives an authentic, consistent, and likeable impression. Leverage your data and metric to best personalize this aspect.

Shifting your perspectives towards empathy

To be successful in incorporating empathy into your day-to-day marketing, it’s critical to look at things differently. For instance, instead of being very pushy with your messages, focus your content and activities on helping your customers that could solve their problems. Instead of developing materials that are just technical or corporate, focus on creating meaningful bonds through empathetic stories and narratives around challenges and situations where your customers may see themselves in your story. Instead of those fancy dashboards and boardroom conversations, walk a mile in your customer’s shoes and see the various problems they face. Instead of making your lives better by just fulfilling your superior’s targets, make your customer’s life better and easier. Instead of listening to your own self, your superiors, or consultants, listen more closely to your customers- to their desires, expectations, frustrations, and criticisms. And most importantly be able to adapt and embrace everything that comes about by doing these. Listening is one of the simplest yet the most ignored skills among marketers today.

Set yourself as an example Before jumping on any of the above, it is important to practice empathy yourself. Your first customers are your own employees and teams. There is simply no point doing many things on the outside that shouts out empathy when nothing of such is being reflected or carried out on the inside. I would say that one of the most important skills a marketer needs to have within their emotional intelligence competency is empathy towards their coworkers. The ability to sallow your own ego and pride is a must. Even if it’s a simply greeting, a facial expression, a micro-moment, an email, or a response, how you carry yourself around others says everything about you. And especially at moments where your coworkers need the human connection the most in a world full of uncertainty and chaos, being empathetic even in its smallest forms goes a long way. And whilst we do all this, remember to not misuse empathy in a way where you begin to manipulate others, and try to always have a balanced approach towards empathy and not go in excess to a stage where you will be emotionally drained trying to help everyone except yourself, forcing yourself into a zone where you don’t ask help and often end up alone or in depression.

(By Thanzyl Thajudeen CMktr MCIM MSLIM MCPM, a professional marketing and strategy consultant and founder of Mark and Comm Ltd. He can be reached via https://www.linkedin.com/in/thanzyl/)

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