Marketing with empathy is where connection and compassion meet.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to market with empathy in mind
  • Stats and data showing this type of marketing is effective
  • Tips for creating an empathy marketing plan
  • Missteps to avoid

Empathy is defined as the capacity to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s a way to express that you care about how someone feels, whether or not you can relate to their experience.

Empathy is always a worthwhile skill to leverage, but it feels especially important right now. And as we continue to refine and hone our digital marketing strategies, injecting a dose of empathy into them can only bring about good things.

If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to marketing with empathy, read on.

72% of Americans say they feel it’s more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Center your customers, not your company

To put it bluntly: when it comes to marketing with empathy, resist the urge to make things about you. 

Your customers should feel like they’re at the center of your mission and your message. That means communicating with them about their needs and problems, not going on and on about how great your company and its offerings are.

To that end, put yourself in their shoes. What might they be feeling right now? If you’re not sure, take the time to ask them, whether on social media, via an email campaign, or by reaching out individually, depending on your bandwidth.

As MarTech reports, “empathy isn’t important simply because it’s good to care about others in their unique situations. It can serve as the foundation for better customer recommendations and offerings at touchpoints, which can have a major impact on revenue growth.”

Once you know how your audience feels, you can craft content and other messaging reflecting that you understand where they’re coming from. 

2. Highlight how you’re helping

This second point may seem incompatible with the first one, but stick with me here.

People may not want to hear your company brag about itself, but they do want to hear how you’re helping. That could be in the form of how you’re giving back, paying it forward, or going the extra mile.

Data show that people are more likely to purchase from or partner with companies that align with their beliefs. In fact, 72% of Americans say they feel it’s more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values. 

Whether that’s volunteering, working with a local nonprofit organization, or pivoting a strategy to combat a brand-new issue your customers are facing, showing that there are actions behind your words will give your credibility a serious boost.

3. Keep messaging authentic and transparent

Sure, your messaging should always be authentic and transparent. But when you’re marketing with empathy in mind, it’s even more crucial. 

Whether you’re apologizing for a company or team member misstep, reacting to a pivotal cultural moment, or just expressing a sentiment of solidarity, avoid relying on platitudes or vague, ultimately empty statements.

People want specifics. If you’ve made a mistake as a company, don’t be afraid to own it, apologize for it, then clearly state that you plan to do better in the future (and how). 

Think of how you’d want a friend to apologize: would you rather them say “I’m sorry if you didn’t like what I said,” or “I’m sorry I said that. I see that it was hurtful and I’m going to be better moving forward”? Probably the latter.

4. Humanize your brand

Humanizing your brand means showing your audience that there are people behind your company, not just AI robots. This is particularly important when it comes to those E-A-T standards we’ve mentioned before: expertise, authority, and trust.

Attributing statements, marketing, emails and other materials to a person vs. your company will help strengthen your E-A-T, which helps your overall SEO. Plus, people are more likely to trust marketing that comes from a person

Add a human touch to your empathy marketing by adding bylines and bios to your blogs, for example, and having email marketing come from a person’s email address.

hawksem blog: marketing with empathy

See where else you can add empathy to your company practices, from your sales and hiring processes to your company’s overall mission statement. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Avoid hard-selling and competitor bashing

The worst thing you can do when marketing with empathy is use your message as a thinly-veiled hard sell. 

Of course, there’s a time and place to do that, but capitalizing on a challenging or ostensibly sincere moment isn’t it. This can make your company come off as inauthentic and opportunistic — two words you definitely don’t want to be associated with.

It’s also not a time to bash your competition or call them out. Trying to build your business up by knocking others down not only lacks empathy, but it’s very likely to backfire. 

Even if your competitors have tried to disparage you, taking the high road is always the best option. It might not seem as fun or satisfying, but in the long run, you’ll look back on the decision and be glad you operated with integrity and professionalism.

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6. Have a plan to follow through

Intentions are great, but they don’t hold much weight unless they’re paired with action. That means you can’t just talk about marketing with empathy — you’ve also got to put it into practice. Otherwise, your message could be (rightfully) dismissed as lip service. 

If you want to implement more sustainable or inclusive practices as a company, create an action plan to make it happen. 

Pivoting to more empathetic marketing doesn’t just happen overnight, but deciding how you’re going to do it is a great first step. See where else you can add more empathy to your company practices, from your sales and hiring processes to your company’s overall mission statement.

Pro tip: If you make a pledge for a cause, make sure you deliver. In recent years, people have kept an especially watchful eye on companies that have made good on their public promises — and those that haven’t.

The takeaway

Marketing with empathy is a true win-win. It shows your audience that you care about them, and it can make you stand out from others in your industry. 

By being thoughtful about how you help your clients and prospects, and offering them something that’s valuable and authentic, you can turn leads into customers, and turn customers into evangelists.

Moreover, you can build and maintain a reputation as a brand with strong values, an inclusive culture, and a purpose greater than your bottom line. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.

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