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The Importance of Empathy in Marketing

In the world of marketing, it's easy to get caught up in showcasing the merits of our products and services, believing they are the center of our audience's universe. However, the truth is, our target audience has a multitude of concerns, challenges, and aspirations beyond our offerings. 

Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) who recognize and embrace this reality can forge deeper connections with their audience through empathetic content. Let's embark on a journey to discover the power of empathy in marketing and learn how CMOs can lead their teams in creating content that truly resonates.


The Missing Ingredient: Empathy

"To understand someone, you must walk a mile in their shoes."  This old adage holds true for marketers as well. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is a potent tool in our arsenal. It's the secret sauce that transforms content from self-serving to audience-centric. When CMOs and their teams truly grasp their target audience's challenges, aspirations, and pain points of their target audience, they can craft narratives that inform, touch hearts, and incite action.


Embracing the Empathy Mindset

Legendary marketer Seth Godin once remarked in his book, This is Marketing

Empathy is at the heart of marketing

People don’t believe what you believe.
They don’t know what you know.
They don’t want what you want.
It’s true, but we’d rather not accept this.

If we can accept that people have embraced who they have become, it gets a lot easier to dance with them. Not to transform them, not to get them to admit they are wrong. Simply to dance with them, to have the chance to connect with them.”

As CMOs, it's imperative to foster an empathy-driven culture within our teams. Start by encouraging regular interactions with the audience – whether through surveys, focus groups, or social media engagement. By actively listening, we uncover the unspoken needs that can spark content ideas with a genuine emotional resonance.


The Art of Storytelling

At the heart of empathy-driven content lies the art of storytelling. Storytelling guru Ann Handley reminds us,  "Make the customer the hero of your story."  This means shifting the spotlight away from our brand and onto our audience. Narratives that highlight real-life challenges and victories of our target audience not only captivate their attention but also validate their experiences. CMOs can lead their teams in curating and sharing these stories across various channels, creating a bridge of empathy that connects the brand and the audience.


Building Bridges with Empathy

"The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing."  This wisdom from Tom Fishburne underscores the essence of empathetic content. By addressing the genuine concerns of our audience, we forge a bond of trust. Whether it's addressing their pain points through insightful blog posts, sharing relatable success stories, or offering educational resources that empower, CMOs can guide their teams to produce content that genuinely enriches the lives of their audience.

In my upcoming book, Unfair Mindhsare: A CMO’s journey to community-led marketing in a product-led world, I wrote extensively on this topic. Empathy plays just as important of a role in community-led marketing as it does in product- and brandled marketing.

In the book, I share:

Community-led marketers are in the motion of ‘always be connecting’ and ‘always be helping.’ They focus on what the community needs and help them attain it. They might create content themselves that moves the community forward. They might introduce community members to others who have specific expertise. And they might collaborate with community members to build something that benefits others.

The community-led marketer improves your business’ brand equity by serving the community, not promoting your company or product. Helpfulness builds connections and trust, while self-promotion weakens connections and erodes trust.

This approach to community-led marketing centers around empathy.




In the book, I continue:

The more relationships you build in the market, the more success your company will enjoy. While executives and sales teams build relationships with potential clients and existing customers, they are not building key relationships with community leaders who can influence market consideration for your products and services. Those deeper relationships are built from the hallway and back-office talk in the community that tells others, ‘They are trustworthy,’ ‘You should consider doing business with them,’ or ‘I would stay away from that company. They are not good people.’

This is where community-led marketing can play a key role. It’s why many businesses have hired well-known influencers in their markets: to accelerate the formation of those relationships.

By comparison, traditional B2B product-led marketing is more transactional. It does not attempt to build relationships; it leaves that responsibility to the sales organization. Instead, product-led organizations focus where they are measured: the number of incoming engagements triggered and the number that convert into meaningful business this quarter and next.


Empathy as a Transformative Force

As CMOs, we possess the unique opportunity to harness empathy as a transformative force in our marketing strategies. By embracing the experiences and emotions of our audience, we transcend the transactional and enter the realm of meaningful connection. By prioritizing empathy in our content creation, we not only drive engagement and conversion and foster a community of loyal advocates who resonate with our brand's authentic understanding of their lives.

In the words of Brian Solis,  "Individuals online are empowered and as such, their attention focuses on those who can demonstrate an awareness and understanding of their interests, challenges and options. Empathy is detectable and contagious."  It's time for CMOs to champion empathy as a cornerstone of their marketing strategy. By walking alongside our audience, feeling their joys and struggles, we create compelling content and foster a movement of human-centric marketing that leaves a lasting impact.

As a Chief Marketing Officer or marketing leader, embark on a journey of empathy that guides your teams to create content that doesn't just sell but deeply connects, resonates, and transforms. When you master this approach, your teams will evolve from building content that sells to delivering content that makes people want to buy from you.