In Content marketing

Data is critical in informing our business decisions. However, the importance of connecting with customers cannot be understated, and this is where empathy comes in. The article below shares why employing empathy in marketing is perhaps even more important than data. CK

Article written by Michael Brenner originally appeared in Marketing Insider Group on June 29, 2020.

Data has revolutionized marketing and become a valuable asset in improving targeting and personalization. It’s a key tool in decision making for any company, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to connections.

Understanding your customer does. That’s why it’s critical to infuse empathy in marketing, delivering a true customer-centric approach. That sentiment is echoed loudly in an article by Noah Fenn, “Despite All this Data, Empathy Is the Greatest Tool in a Marketer’s Toolbox.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Marketers suffer from “collective amnesia” when attempting to connect with audiences.
  • Data is valuable and essential but needs to be balanced with empathy.
  • All the data in the world can’t replace human connection.
  • Empathy in marketing can drive success.

Your Audience Is Human, Not Some “Data Points”

I won’t lie. I love analyzing data (But I don’t love math! There’s a difference.).

However, I realize it’s not the only thing that matters in marketing. Being too data-centric can actually cause a disconnect, which Fenn argues in his article. We begin to see our audience as data points, not real people. Fenn calls this “collective amnesia,” describing that marketers often lose perspective, impacting their ability to create connections.

Collective Amnesia Is Curable

When you put your marketer hat on, don’t ditch your “human” hat. While you can learn a tremendous amount about your customers from data—preferences, demographics, motivations, etc.—being customer-centric requires a special ingredient—empathy.

Why You Need Empathy in Marketing

In Fenn’s article, he talks about video content marketing and its complexities, as he was the head of video sales and strategy for AOL. Many industries suffer from the same challenges, but the way you deliver content to your audience shouldn’t be complicated.

You can spend your time designing perfect campaigns around your data, but that doesn’t mean it will resonate. An over-reliance on data could leave you with many blind spots and hinder you from seeking innovative and new ideas.

When you couple data with customer empathy, the results can be extremely successful. You can now create something targeted and meaningful. But it’s easy to lose sight of empathy.

As children, we learn empathy, but then lose it. It doesn’t mean we’re bad people who don’t care. It also doesn’t mean we’re born with a compassion gene that fades away as the realities of life become more apparent.

Empathy is an acquired skill. So, there’s hope for all of us. Social factors certainly impact our ability to attain this skill, but we can overcome our environments even when they are full of mean people who suck.

You can relearn how to be empathetic by practicing in your marketing tactics. Let’s face it—most marketing sucks. It’s not exciting or relevant or beneficial. It’s just a lot of BS that does not focus on customer empathy. But you can turn things around.

How to Be an Empathetic Marketer

Empathy-based marketing relies on trust. Do you think your customers trust your brand? Does it matter?

Yes, it does. A brand trust survey, The Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, delivered some interesting tidbits on trust and marketing.

  • Trust is nearly as important as quality and value, and consumers ranked it as one of the most important factors in purchasing decisions.
  • Most people somewhat distrust the brands they buy, with 53 percent of respondents being able to spot when companies aren’t being completely truthful.
  • Consumers put more trust in influencers who are relatable, not the most popular ones.
  • Those organizations that have a social impact resonate more with buyers (53 percent of respondents said they expect brands to be involved in at least one social issue).

All these findings bring us back to empathy in marketing. To build trust and deliver transparency, you must look at things from the customer perspective. You have to start from a place of being genuine and sincere.

How you make people feel is ultimately going to guide their decision on whether or not to be your customer. While this all sounds good on paper, how do you do it?

Top Tips for Empathy-Based Marketing

Don’t sell, help.

Leading with hooks in your messaging that push a sale won’t do much for driving trust. Instead, focus your content marketing efforts on helping your audience. Deliver consistent content that helps solve problems.

Get in touch with their feelings.

Empathetic storytelling creates a bond between you and the reader. Creating narratives around challenges and situations allows the customer to see themselves in the story.


Think like your customers do when they need to solve a problem.

Put yourself in their shoes and go through the steps they might take to research and find a resolution to a problem. When you do this, you can remove the bias you have and see a new perspective.

Focus on how you can make someone’s life better.

No matter what you market, it serves a need. That’s why you need to focus on benefits in your content, not features. Develop a story where they suddenly aren’t hampered by a challenge and what that would look like. Maybe you save them time or money, make processes more efficient, or simply have a product that makes their life easier. That’s the story to tell.

Deliver clarity, not confusion.

Have you ever read or viewed something promoting a brand, and thought what the heck was that? We all have, and it’s a surefire way to repel people. Even if you sell the most complex service or product, what you say needs to be clear, not confusing. And it has to be clear to your buyer, who
likely doesn’t have the same inside knowledge as you.

Listen to customers and evolve.

This may be the most important thing you do as an empathetic marketer. You can learn a lot from your customers—both happy and unhappy ones. Take the time to listen and make changes.

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