Product-oriented marketing in the digital era doesn’t work as well as before, it’s a simple fact. But what’s wrong with the Client-centric approach? The problem is not with the idea, but rather execution.

Nothing repels clients right away like the lack of empathy in marketing. We know it perfectly. Yet, it’s exactly what we miss out in the midst of our ever-busy corporate world. “Client-centric” is often a misunderstood concept that drowns in statistics, estimates, and reports.

Customer-centric marketing comics

So what is empathy, anyway? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary – it’s “the action of understanding,.. vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another… experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”.

To understand how empathy (or the lack of it) may impact marketing, let’s look at the following two situations:

1) A newly married couple starts receiving coupons from a baby-goods retailer right after their honeymoon ends.
2) Same people, same brand, same offer, but the coupons are sent a year later when the couple might actually start thinking about kids.

Both cases use customer-centric approach, but only in the second case, the brand uses emphatic marketing – expressing understanding and genuine caring. The difference between the two is really whether the couple will eventually become customers or simply get annoyed by the brand. The first case is a real story and you can already guess the outcome.

Empathy goes beyond digits

Army of lego man clones

How often do you see ads that pretend to know you better than you know yourself? Or even the right kind of advertisement, but simply not at the right time? It’s easy to understand why this happens – brands trust data, data is not always accurate.

The case that we mentioned above is a good example of that. The brand has probably conducted some research, mapped out the touchpoints, and discovered that many couples conceive soon in the first months of marriage. However, what the data didn’t include is the emotions of couples who don’t make any plans about children right during their honeymoon.

Of course, emphatic marketing doesn’t deny the need for data to make better decisions. This simply means that marketing which relies solely on numbers is at a high risk of surrendering revenue.

The How-To

Alright, now when we understand the need for empathy in marketing, how can we express it?

Time is money, and timing is especially valuable when it comes to a nice first pitch. Here are the 3 steps for getting right on time with your offer:

  1. Pitch when you see customer readiness
  2. Show, don’t sell
  3. Give something to get something

Now, let’s dive in a little deeper to review each point in particular.

Pitcher, be patient!

A baseball laying on a gaming field

A perfect offer comes when the client is ready. Search for signs of readiness, wait for them, and pitch when they appear. Remember, no-one likes to be interrupted in the middle of a talk with a “quick fix” for his problem.

Marketers can be intrusive like an overeager friend. Yes, we have good intentions and want to help. We even have (as we think) the right solution. But we pitch too soon, and this often annoys buyers.

Therefore, step one is timing your pitch with the green light.

Show, don’t sell

Businessman giving a presentation

People react better when you explain the benefits before pushing them towards a decision. And this is actually proven by psychological studies.

Nobel-prize winner and behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman called this “the framing effect”. In essence, it means that the benefits empower your argument more than highlighting the cost of an alternative decision.

Therefore, in order to help your clients make the right decision, it is wiser to focus on the advantages of what you offer, rather than on the urgency to buy. Explaining the benefits shows that you understand your target audience, and trust is more valuable than quick deals.

If your business relies on a high-touch sales process, try using vendor comparison on the first stage of the funnel. Build trust by providing an accurate information of what you do better, and why.

Give something to get something

A person giving flowers

Finally, remember the reciprocity principle – psychologically we feel compelled to pay back the good someone is doing for us.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, calls it one of the six principles of influence. Giving away a portion of something good without demanding anything in return is very powerful.

Free simplified versions of paid services are one of the most common examples of smart reciprocity application. Freebies ease the suffering that always accompanies the process of buying, which makes them one of the key tools in the empathic marketing kit.

Do you invest in your prospective clients this way? Maybe you can provide a free personalized report, a limited trial, or even a dinner at a fancy restaurant? Think what would be valuable in the eyes of your target audience, and try sharing it a little.

Careful and caring use of the reciprocity principle not only makes the world a better place but also helps win more clients. Even if it’s not obvious immediately (like in case with this blog post).

Speaking of reciprocity, if you find this article useful – share it using the social buttons below. Let’s help others see and believe that marketing can be less intrusive and more pleasant both to corporations and people behind them.