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The Role of Empathy in Marketing and Communications

I recently read an article posted by my graduate business school, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, about the expected impact on jobs as the capabilities and usage of artificial intelligence (AI) is expanding.

In the article, Finance Professor Raghuram Rajan remarked that jobs requiring human empathy and creativity will be safe from AI.

Everyone is born with some level of creativity and empathy, but not everyone has to use those skills in performing their job. Those who work in a marketing and/or communications professional capacity, however, require both skills to be highly effective, whether promoting a product or service to a consumer or to a business.

While creativity is widely acknowledged as an essential ingredient for marketing success, people don’t always think as much or as often about the role of empathy.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation”.

I recognized early on (in grade school) that I have great empathy for others. I believe my empathy is one of the reasons for my award-winning success and achievement throughout my career, whether serving in a public relations, marketing and/or sales enablement capacity for B2C and B2B companies alike.

Beyond examining statistical data available on target customers through market research, empathy can enable you to think more intuitively about what target audiences most likely want or perhaps what motivates and inspires them. All this simply by imagining what it might be like to be in their shoes and understanding what personal needs or perhaps business pressures they may be under.

Having such insight brings me to a place where I can fine tune the message or create an event to delight the target audience. The test of whether the insight has been effective is determined by the level of target audience response.

In the high tech B2B marketing world, for instance, this would mean a target customer does something like request the white paper offered in an email or a paid digital ad, register for a webinar, sign up for a special event, or make a purchase. (To get a B2B customer to the point of being ready to make a purchase, it is generally acknowledged that the target likely needs five to ten marketing touches like the examples mentioned here before they become “marketing qualified” leads ready to pass to the direct or channel partner sales teams for pursuit. The goal in marketing, of course, is to reach your target audience at precisely the moment they are ready to make a purchase and the offer you have crafted is exactly what they need.)

Since starting my freelance strategic marketing and communications business, my mission has been helping clients get better connected to target audiences. I value the power of connection, bolstered by empathetic understanding of and appreciation for the nuances of the wants and needs of my clients’ target customers.

I have seen tremendous results and success when you are able to show your target audience that you understand their wants and needs and can meet them. It isn’t easy to describe how to utilize empathy because it is highly personal, and it varies from person to person. Empathy is an inherent talent and an ability that becomes greater over time as a person gains more positive experience using it.

With a powerful combination of empathy and creative, there is the potential for much greater success for companies wanting to better connect with their target customers, gain more loyal customers, and ultimately generate more sales.

Janice Cain, MBA provides Strategic Marketing, Branding and Public Relations counsel and deliverables to 1010 Marketing clients. To learn how Janice can elevate your marketing and communications results to raise your company's market profile, attract more customers, and drive more sales, call 858-999-7419 or send an email at Follow her on Twitter, @JaniceCain_1010.

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