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Why Marketers Should Start with Empathy

Why Marketers Should Start with Empathy. We Hear You.

Student Marketer Insights.


We're so bombarded with the tactical side of marketing that it's easy to forget the underlying reason for everything we do. Numbers. Data. Optimisation. They're crucial, but they're not the starting point.

The starting point is people. Your audience, your potential customers – they aren't just a faceless mass. These are individuals with hopes, fears, and a complex range of problems they're hoping to solve. As marketers, we get caught up in our strategies and forget that we're ultimately in the business of connecting with human beings.

This is where empathy makes the difference. When we cultivate the ability to sense and understand the world through another person's eyes, we stop selling at people and start speaking with them. There's a subtle, yet seismic shift when your mindset changes this way.

Beyond the Data: Understanding Your Customers

We talk a lot about customer personas. Building out those fictional archetypes of your ideal buyers helps, but even the most intricate persona is still a shadow, a hypothesis of a living person. True empathy means digging beneath the demographics and the purchase behaviour.

We need to ask the deeper 'why' questions:

  • Why do they struggle with this specific problem?

  • Why are the current solutions out there not meeting their needs?

  • Why would they believe anything we say?

Getting to these questions means embracing active listening. It's about paying full attention to what customers are communicating. Whether it's social media comments, user testing sessions, or those precious in-person conversations – it's in these moments that we get glimpses into the emotional and practical lives of the people we serve.

Marketing Messages that Strike a Chord

This understanding doesn't just make us more informed – it makes us better communicators. When we craft messaging that truly resonates, it's not about manipulation or trickery. It's about demonstrating a clear understanding of our audience's world.

Imagine your email subject line acknowledging a pain point that usually gets overlooked. It demonstrates from the very start that you see them as an individual, not a target. This type of empathy-infused messaging builds trust before they've even clicked 'open'.

Building Lasting Relationships

The goal isn't conversion alone; it's about building the foundation for lasting loyalty. Empathy throughout the customer journey keeps communication channels open. Your customers should feel that they can genuinely reach out, that their voices are valued by your brand.

This means responding thoughtfully to feedback, even (and especially) when it's negative. Those critical moments can become opportunities when handled with empathy. It's a chance to showcase that you're not only interested in selling, but actively listening and striving to provide solutions they genuinely need.

Cultivate Empathy

The good news is that empathy isn't a fixed trait you either have or lack. It's a skill we can all intentionally cultivate – and our future success depends on it. According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2023, having these types of interpersonal skills is increasingly critical in the coming years. It's no longer just 'nice to have'; it's what can make the difference between getting noticed and being lost in the noise.

So, here's your call to action. Next time you're stuck on a campaign strategy:

  • Instead of brainstorming features, try brainstorming your customer's frustrations.

  • Swap out the sales pitch with a sincere offer to help understand their problems.

  • Listen more, sell less.

That's where great marketing begins.

World Economic Forum // Empathy

Empathy, identified by the World Economic Forum as one of the Top Skills required in the workplace 2023-2027, is a crucial skill for university marketing students as they prepare for their future careers. By developing Empathy you can become a marketing innovator, capable of developing ground-breaking campaigns and leaving a lasting mark on the industry.


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