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When it comes to empathy in marketing, no one explains it better than marketing guru Seth Godin.

"Empathy is the essence of modern marketing," he said. "It’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes that might not know what you know or think the way you think."

How often do you or your company's marketing team do that when you're promoting and selling your products or services to customers or clients?

Putting Yourself in Their Shoes

To put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself, "What do my customers or clients want that will make their jobs easier, their business prosper, and/or serve their customers better? What matters to them in their work that is meaningful, motivational, and fulfilling?"

While you may think you know the answers to these questions, the best way to find out is to ask your customers or clients. You can do this yourself, but I recommend hiring a consultant who can be "neutral" -- one who can ask probing questions that give you the most honest, useful information.

You will always learn things about your customers or clients that you didn't know.

(By the way, this approach works with other types of people affiliated with your company or organization who you want to reach, which might be salespeople,  members, or volunteers.)

Empathy in Marketing

While many in the healthcare design industry are taking an empathetic approach to design projects or products, but most of you aren't really taking an empathetic approach to market your products or services.

Take websites, for example.

Your websites have great pictures of your projects or products, which is important when someone is shopping for a certain look or features.

But if you assume that most people who come to your website already know they want a product like yours or that they want to hire an architect or designer with your type of expertise, then the conversation changes.

Why Choose Us?

Besides writing your copy in a way that shows empathy, the most important message on your website should be why choose us? What is it about your company or firm that is different than your competitors?

  • Have you won more awards?
  • Do you provide unbelievable customer service?
  • What is unique about your products or services?
  • What matters to you?
  • How do your customers feel about you?
  • Who are your people and why are they special?

One More Thing About Empathy

Isn't empathy also the essence of modern healthcare design?

It's essential to creating good experiences for patients in healthcare facilities or residents in senior living communities. It's essential to recruiting and retaining staff and attracting new patients or residents.

So, finding out what matters to them and what they want is as important to good design as it is to good marketing.

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Photo credit: ID 107718725 © Tixtis | Dreamstime.com

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Leave a comment

Kurt Neubek, FAIA, EDAC

4 years ago

Good points Sara. The first phase of Design Thinking is Empathy--really understanding your customer's or the users' perspective. That's why a thorough pre-design phase is essential to good design. By "good design" I don't mean just trendy colors and finishes; rather, I mean responsive design that solves problems, eases burdens, and does its small part to make the world a better place.

Kevin Sink

4 years ago

This is so important for life in general. Empathy takes courage & effort. Courage because true empathy will challenge your assumptions. In design, how could this not be time well spent?? Any insight into the real motivations behind the clients needs should improve the outcome. It takes time, and you have to slow your mind down to do it right. Maybe that's why it's underutilized?

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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