I’ve written about empathy before. It’s something I feel strongly about. Empathy (alongside things like creativity, commercial-nous and salesmanship*) is one of those core ingredients that makes the difference between a marketing communicator and a brilliant marketing communicator. It’s possibly the most important ingredient. The way I figure it, how can you know what products and services to build if you don’t know what your customers really need or want? If you don’t know what will really help them survive and thrive? The same goes when you’re hoping to sell those products and services. How can you communicate the benefits you bring in a way that truly resonates with customers if you don’t know what really makes them tick?
Understanding your clients – as in properly understanding what the world looks like through their eyes – is pretty much essential. Let’s not kid ourselves, as a marketer, you’re guessing or playing on hunches if you don’t have that customer insight. Customer research, open listening and then developing empathy are they only solution to that. And here’s the really key point – your rivals will be developing those insights and seeking that empathy too. The marketer with the richest insights will always have a competitive advantage. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
A first-hand example of that
To illustrate that in a very basic way, I had an eye-opening empathetic experience this week…
I’ve started wearing reading glasses in the last year or so. Distant things are pin sharp. Small things in front of me are now, alas, a bit marshmallowy*. C’est la vie. No problem.
Until it was a problem, of course. Until I lost my glasses for the first time. And here was the striking revelation (to me at least) – how the bloody hell do you spot lost glasses if you can’t see anything properly? An absolutely obvious problem, in hindsight, but absolutely not something that had ever occurred to me before. It was an absolute sod of a half hour, but it brought two lessons:
- Always have a spare pair of glasses in a convenient location; and
- Seeing the world as other people see it creates a great insight into what it is like to be them, and that creates opportunity for you as a marketing communicator.
In tribute to those two points, and to fuel my advertising addiction, I created this ad for a well-known opticians:
*Salesmanship: Perhaps salespersonship would be more accurate and inclusive a word, although I’m not sure it’s an actual word!? Unlike *Marshmallowy, which is definitely a real word as of now 🙂