Why Marketers Fail at Customer Empathy and How to Fix it

No one will ever say “we don’t focus on the customer.”

Here’s why (even empathetic) marketers fail at customer empathy and how to fix it.

Let me explain:

Dr. Johannes Huttula did research with 480 experienced marketing managers.

They asked marketers to step into their customer’s shoes and predict what they would reply in a market test.

BTW – The scientists already knew what the customers would say because they captured the customer’s preferences before the test.

Surprisingly, the more empathetic the marketers felt, the worse they did on predicting customer preferences and motivations. They utterly failed.

The reason marketers fail at empathy

According to Huttula, the marketers used their own biases and personal preferences (thinking it’s empathy) to predict what will appeal to customers.

I know, crazy right?

Huttula found that telling marketers about their bias helped the correct marketers course. Develop awareness about your own preferences to help you step back and apply customer empathy better.

Why customer empathy is essential

Dr. Antonio Damasio said, we not thinking machines that feel rather, we’re feeling machines that think.

Damasio discovered that we make our decisions emotionally. His research showed every decision we make grounded in emotion every single one. This is huge.

As marketers, we’re almost self-centered to a fault when we approach customers.

Today we have more ways of reaching our customers, we have more channels and more content than ever before. But, connecting with our customers (really connecting with them and building trust) has never been harder.

That’s why I believe empathy is a superpower. It’s a superpower for sellers and marketers to connect – to understand another person’s feeling and experience. If we can do that we can relate.

In sum, our personal assumptions kill empathy. And we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Our personal assumptions kill empathy. And we don't even realize we're doing it.Click To Tweet

What you can do to fix the customer empathy gap

Here’s what you I’ve found we can do to fix the customer empathy gap:

  • Focus on building a connection before you focus on conversion.
  • Consider your assumptions and biases before you do any more new marketing
  • Ask yourself, is what you’re communicating really grounded in customer insights?
  • Understand the core emotional motivators of your customers
  • Design messages and experiences that resonate with these core emotional drivers
  • Use agile testing to get actionable customer motivation insights
  • Transfer customer insights to different channels and scale up results

Share your thoughts. What did I miss or what else would you add?

You may also like:

HBR: Putting Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes Doesn’t Work: An Interview with Johannes Hattula

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

Empathetic Marketing: How To Connect With Your Customers

Growing B2B relationships with trust and empathy

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