“I empathize with you.”
That is a short, yet powerful sentence. Why is that?
“Empathy,” while a word rarely used in everyday language, is a profound word. Empathy is something beyond understanding, as it implies an emotional connection between two people.
And emotional connections are exactly what professional services practitioners are aiming for in their client relationships.
Empathy is a hot topic among business researchers. A common trait among many modern successful business leaders is a capacity for demonstrating empathy. Empathy is also one of the key traits WHITEBOOT encourages professional services providers to emphasize as part of their content marketing.
Professional services providers understand the value of empathy. They do try to empathize with clients, typically by finding a personal connection, such as children of the same age or a shared passion. Once the conversation turns to business, however, many advisors drop the empathetic touch.
The same is true of much professional services marketing content. Many practitioners want to use content to build relationships but take a “just the facts” approach to their marketing content. Why?
In fact, written content can be an excellent medium through which to demonstrate empathy. However, it requires a change in how to write copy.
Advising vs. Empathizing
The usual reflex among professional services providers is to advise. Professional service providers are trained to fire answers quickly to provide a solution for every problem.
While there are appropriate times to be in advisor mode, this is not always the correct approach. Sometimes, the solution to the problem is to listen and to demonstrate a deep understanding of the situation that a person is facing.
Here is an example of an advising approach vs. an empathizing approach.
“Professional services practitioners should display more empathy to clients. Doing so will likely have a positive effect on practitioners’ client relationships.”
“Building strong client-advisor relationships is very challenging today. It is hard in the limited meeting time clients provide to develop trust. Have you thought about using empathy to deepen your relationships and understand your client’s core challenges?”
The difference is obvious, but in the heat of a client meeting, it can be very hard to focus on empathy. Fortunately, as part of content marketing, you can take a more methodical approach.
You Need to Define an Audience to Empathize with It
The first step in demonstrating empathy with your audience is to actually define your audience. If you do not have a firm understanding of the profile of person you are speaking to, how can you create empathetic content?
With a defined audience, you can achieve a deep understanding of that audience’s everyday problems. As an advisor, you may not be able to address all of your clients’ business challenges, but you should identify some you can speak to.
Here are some tests to help you determine whether your content demonstrates empathy for the client.
- Is the content about you or the audience? You are not going to demonstrate much empathy to the client by talking about yourself. In fact, research has shown that talking about your own personal experiences may not necessarily be the best approach for getting someone to feel your empathy.
- Are you speaking to a core challenge that your target audience faces? Here’s the key test…are you identifying a problem that is likely to lead to vigorous head nodding by the target audience? If yes, that is a good topic to probe.
- Are you jumping to solutions? Take your time discussing the client’s challenge. This is how you get more head nodding and a stronger personal connection.
- Are you communicating in a relatable way? The exact words do matter – avoid talking like a professor and speak as a friend.
- Does the content lead to a conversation? The most effective communication is that which encourages a dialogue. More personal interaction means a stronger personal connection.
What Do You Think?
Don’t overdo it with empathy as part of your content marketing. Sometimes you should be just presenting the facts. And if you always come off empathetic in your content, you can start to sound wishy-washy.
But as a change of pace, consider taking an empathetic approach to a piece of content. The goal for this type of content is not to prove how smart you are but to start a dialogue going with the client. After all, getting a conversation going is the best way to build a relationship. Don’t you agree?