The Power of Empathy

Have you wondered why...

a) People aren't talking about your products - online or offline?

b) Nobody's interested in your marketing messages?

c) Customer's aren't beating a path to your door?

d) Your employees are making a hasty exit?

e) Shareholders are pulling out their funds?

f) All of the crap above are happening- at the same time?

What on Earth could have gone wrong? After all, you have invested in the latest technologies available, hired the best talents money can buy, and worked with the greatest creative brains this side of the planet.

Why aren't they enchanted by the scintillating brilliance of your brand?

Well, let's shift our perspectives a little. Instead of focusing on what we feel, let us don the cloak of empathy and anticipate the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of our stakeholders.

Imagine that you are your own brand's potential customers. Throw away all preconceptions or bias which you may have about your brand. Then ask yourself a series of questions.

How would you react if you came across this piece of advertising? Is it relevant to you? Does it interrupt and disturb you? Can you understand what its trying to say (in 5 seconds or less)?

What about this Facebook update or Tweet? Would this Instagram photo appeal to you? Will it help you to solve a problem or fulfill a latent desire? Does it provide an enticing escape from the mundanity of your life?

Next, envisage how you'd feel when you chance upon this package. Does its look appeal to you? Are you teased by its blend of colours, designs and patterns? What about the words on the cover? Do they mean anything to you? Are you attracted by them?

When you, the imaginary customer of your own product, reach home, open up the box, and use the product, what is the first thing that you would do? Will you tell everybody at home that you've got this cool new thingamajig? Are you going to snap a photo and upload it on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook? Does it make you wanna brag about it to your friends?

The same approach of empathy applies to your employees.

How would you like sitting there and doing that job, Monday to Friday? What challenges would she face? What would be the highlight of her work day? Under what circumstances would her work be "magical"? Similarly, how would you define a "hellish" day?

Naturally, you can also apply the same approach to your funders and investors.

What would you be looking out for when you invest in this company? What would give you confidence in the organisation's future? What are the rewards (beyond a fat payout) you are looking for? How could you help the business to grow? What would motivate you to do so?

Unfortunately, not many of us are gifted in empathy. Often we are so mired in our own selfish little world that we fail to recognise the unspoken needs, wants and desires of others.

Without empathy, marketing becomes a self-serving exercise of finding "targets" to conquer. Without empathy, advertising becomes an endless series of self-trumpeting boasts. Without empathy, sales becomes an act of deceit and psychological manipulation. Without empathy, staff are made to follow rules and regulations without regard to their intelligence, feelings and aspirations.

To strengthen our "empathy quotient", consider how we can live vicariously through the experiences of our stakeholders.

Spend more time with your customers. Eat, live and breathe like them. Engage in casual and undirected chatter. Make it a regular part of your workday. Feel their pain. Experience their pleasure.

If you're a manager, find a way to do the stuff which your staff does. Volunteer to handle the hottest hotline, face the sternest customers, or weather the stormiest investors. Be exemplary in servant leadership, and work alongside your subordinates rather than boss them around.

Similarly, hob nob with your investors and be proactive in engaging them. Treat them like your mentors. If their schedules permit, offer to buy them lunches. Encourage them to share their experiences, worries, dreams and wishes. Nudge them to candidly share what they feel may be weaknesses in your organisation.

Ultimately, the most successful marketers and managers are those who can distill the essence of empathy. By connecting intellectually and emotionally with their stakeholders, they are able to build thriving enterprises which continually meet and exceed those needs.

Are there other ways to strengthen our empathy? I've love to hear your ideas. Meanwhile, let me end with a quote from one of my favourite actresses.

"The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other." - Meryl Streep

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