the benefits of empathy based marketing

Empathy based marketing is growing in popularity, and it is doing so for an excellent reason. It delivers a range of benefits – from improved sales and margins to lower marketing costs.

  1. Walk a mile in their shoes – then you might understand them

According to the National Autistic Society, 99% of people in the UK have heard of autism, but only 16% understand the condition in a meaningful way. I suspect it is no different in Australia.

To increase the understanding of autism among the broader population, The National Autism Society developed a VR-driven campaign. The campaign and resulting VR experience enabled users to experience what it is like for a child with autism to navigate a busy shopping centre. Showing flickering lights and overwhelming sound – the video effectively highlights the sensory overload in busy and stressful environments.

Unlike other charity strategies that raise sympathy or compassion, this approach puts the viewer in someone else’s shoes – shocking them with the disarming reality of dealing with autism. It enables the consumer to gain a greater insight into how the autistic child feels in a shopping centre. This, in turn, creates a more profound sense of connection. Even watching somebody else have the VR experience provides enough insight to evoke genuine empathy and emotion.

Empathy is all about connection, getting closer to an audience, feeling what it feels and enabling a more informed reaction. While this example is different from that facing most businesses, the point is clear. If businesspeople can better understand their customers and walk a mile in their shoes – they will be better able and more inclined to develop products they engage with.

Walk a mile in the shoes of your customers and try to feel what they feel.

  1. Establish the empathy required to build the trust that builds loyalty.

Research suggests that 81% of consumers need to trust a brand before buying it. Other research suggests that the factors driving trust in a brand include:

  • The customer experience.
  • Social media commentary.
  • Brand authenticity.
  • Brand transparency.
  • Social responsibility.
  • Brand consistency.

This same research suggests that central to addressing these factors and being in a position to build trust, there is a requirement for businesses to:

  • Understand customer sentiment.
  • Understand customer behaviour.

Understanding customer sentiment and behaviour is enhanced by getting as close as possible to the customer. The capacity to build trust in a brand is facilitated by having the empathy for customers and potential customers that delivers an understanding of their sentiment and behaviour – and this, in turn, can facilitate building trust in the brand and, therefore, sales and loyalty.

Get close to your customers and develop the empathy required to facilitate trust. 

  1. Establish the empathy required to define the quality that delivers brand loyalty. 

Research suggests that the three most important considerations for consumers buying a brand for the first time are:

  • Quality – 85%
  • Convenience – 84%
  • Value – 84%

There would be no surprises here for many readers, although many would want to add price to the list. My concern about this list relates not so much to the absence of price as a factor nominated in the top 3, but rather the three big questions begged by this list. They are:

  • What constitutes quality?
  • What delivers convenience?
  • What delivers value?

While many readers might think they know the answers to these questions, my research over 30 years suggests that most don’t. Indeed, my research suggests that few consumers can articulate a definition of quality. Quality, convenience, and value are emotive, subjective and very hard to define. They are rarely defined well-using intuition or market research. The only way to reliably answer these questions is to get very close to customers and develop the empathy required to determine precisely how customers feel and what they want.

It is essential to truly understand the customer and how they feel to define quality, convenience, and value. This, in turn, requires empathy, an empathy that can only be achieved by getting close to customers utilising gathering insights and engaging in co-creation.

Get close enough to customers and potential customers to maximise brand loyalty.

  1. Stop focusing on sales and start focusing on customers.

Convert a prospect, and you will achieve a sale. Convert a human being and deliver as promised (or perhaps even exceed expectations), and you will almost certainly achieve multiple sales. Stop looking at sales and start looking at the lifetime value of each customer. Consider:

  • Repeat customers spend67% more in months 31-36 of their relationship than they do in months 0-6.
  • Repeat customers spend 300 timesmore than first-time customers.
  • Referred customers are four timesmore likely to purchase.
  • Referred customers have a 37%higher retention rate.

Central to maximising the lifetime value of a customer is establishing a solid relationship with each customer. According to recent articles in Forbes, developing long-term solid relationships requires:

  • Being a credible resource and source of information.
  • Being seen to be open, honest and transparent.
  • Delivering as promised at every touchpoint.
  • Eliminating surprises and delivering certainty.

This article goes on to highlight the importance of:

  • Treating clients as ‘more than clients.’
  • Rewarding loyalty.
  • Delivering the vision of a partnership.

The last three factors are all about empathy. Getting close enough to the customer to deliver these three factors will go a long way towards delivering the other antecedents of a long-term relationship. Developing a long-term relationship with each customer is central to maximising the lifetime value of each customer.

Develop the empathy required to establish the relationship required to maximise the lifetime value of each customer.

  1. Use empathy as a low-cost tool for reducing marketing costs.

Recent research found that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer. Another study found that while the profitability of a new customer is 5 – 20% on average, the profitability of an existing customer is 60 – 70% – and a big part of the additional profitability is related to a lower cost of sales. Returning customers require less effort and a smaller investment.

This highlights the link between customer loyalty and marketing costs. In contrast, the previous missive in this series has highlighted the link between customer loyalty and relationships inspired by empath- based marketing. The greater the level of empathy, the better the relationship and as a result, the better the relationship and the higher the customer’s lifetime value.

Empathy can reduce the cost of marketing.

Empathy can also reduce the cost of research and development, and production. A powerful approach to empathy-based marketing involves a co-creation approach to product development and the development of the optimal customer experience. Co-creation involves – business insiders (staff and consultants) working together with business outsiders (customers and stakeholders) to develop the optimum product and or customer experience.

Co-creation is a form of collaboration and innovation that can effectively develop products and customer experiences that will minimise failures and the cost of production and marketing – while maximising conversion rates, margins, and the average sales per customer.

Use co-creation to develop an empathy that reduces the cost of production and marketing. 

An empathy-based approach to marketing can deliver significant benefits. The best strategies for establishing empathy are addressed in the remainder of this article.

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