“Our brand understands you.” This simple phrase is at the core of creating brand empathy. If you were to look at your own brand’s overall digital experience from a consumer’s point of view — new or returning — does that sentiment come across in your content? Or another way of thinking about it, does your content make your audience feel they can trust your brand — in the short term and long term?
If your answer is not immediately “yes” or you don’t know the answer, you’re definitely not alone, especially since empathy is regarded as a critical quality that brand content tends to lack in B2B. So creating empathy in your content is valuable for your brand as we revealed in our recent survey with Content Marketing Institute (CMI). The top factor contributing to content strategy success was the ability to understand and connect with the audience’s values, interests, and pain points.
We’ve compiled five ways you can create empathy in your content and incorporate a more customer-aware content strategy that complements your efforts around personalization, aligning to audience behavior data, and fostering long-lasting connections with customers.
Why is empathy important in content marketing?
A customer-aware content strategy benefits customers and your brand by building a relationship founded on trust. As your customers navigate their buyer journey, emotion (how they feel about your brand) plays a big role in their decisions on everything from purchase to loyalty, Forrester Principal Analyst Ryan Skinner shared during his keynote at Sitecore Experience Europe in early March 2020. Because of this, brand leaders in CX boast 5x more revenue and can command a higher price premium. Serving up content that puts your customers first and showing you care about their emotional connection to your brand is a win-win strategy that elevates KPIs and brand reputation.
So, how do you put this into action?
5 ways to create empathy in your content
1. It’s less about you, and more about them
Have you ever met someone who only talked about themselves and then tried to hand you a business card? Is it safe to say you weren’t impressed? The feeling is no different for people who come across brands that do the same in their digital content. As marketers, we tend to be very skilled at explaining how great our products and solutions are. But we also need to treat our audience as participants in the interactions. Your content is like a digital handshake. To keep your audience engaged, look for ways to make the experience more about their motivations, needs, and intent, and less about your desire to promote your brand.
To do this effectively, take a customer-first approach to your content. Build your content strategy around solving a problem. Does your content provide helpful next steps? Does your content help your audience expand their knowledge on a topic? From a content performance standpoint, think about content marketing metrics that help you “read the room”. What are people searching for on your website? Where are they dropping off? What’s converting versus not converting?
2. Focus on value – not volume
The quality versus quantity debate is nothing new, but when you’re shaping a content strategy based on brand empathy, quality always wins. This also goes hand-in-hand with the concept that less is more. Remember, it’s all about the value your audience finds in your content, not what you think is valuable to include for your brand.
Be intentional with your content; have a clear focus, provide easy-to-navigate next steps for your audience, and trim the excess. This mindset can be applied to all types of content in your digital experience, including downloadable assets, webpage layouts, product descriptions, and promotions.
3. Be inclusive
As marketers, we spend a lot of time and resources developing personas and capturing behavior data on visitors with the goal of tailoring our messaging to the individual. These are key to developing content that gives your audience the feeling you understand their wants and needs. Knowing more about your customers or new visitors, and what’s important to them, allows you to create content that can make them feel proud to be associated with your brand or community.
Look for opportunities to humanize your brand’s digital interactions through your content. Experiment with more conversational tones. Explore ways to create a collective experience for similar individuals, while incorporating language and image diversity.
4. Keep it simple
All too often, we have to squeeze a lot of information into limited space and must get to the point quickly. So, we often face a choice between sacrificing user experience (UX) or important brand messaging. We run into this at Sitecore from time to time. Although the intention may to be helpful, it is possible to create friction points in your customer journey by doing this.
Our advice is to prioritize the user’s experience. Create content with the intention of helping the user move smoothly through the digital experience by eliminating elements that make the journey harder to navigate, like large blocks of text, multiple clicks, and too many calls-to-action.
5. Ask for customer feedback – and take action
Even if you’re an industry leader, there’s always room for improvement. Asking your users for feedback helps you keep a pulse on what is relevant and important or where you might be missing the mark. It also gives you an opportunity to course correct or show your customers you are listening. It all helps reinforce the trust that you’ve worked so hard to build with your customers and improve your overall digital experience.
Incorporate a customer feedback cycle as part of your content strategy, not an afterthought. First, ensure you’ve worked in a plan on when and where you’ll ask your audience to provide feedback, and then have a process in place to put the feedback into action. Keep the experience frictionless to your audience, and frame your messaging so that it shows you value your audience’s opinions and that it matters to you.
For a more in-depth brand empathy checklist, download our practical guide: “Why your content strategy needs empathy”.