Empathy In Marketing To Boost Retention

Posted by Sarah Procopio on Dec 6, 2019 1:15:25 PM

Win Loyalty. Use Empathy—The Hidden Business Success Secret.


Most companies are more focused on customer acquisition than on customer retention. Is that your company? This is a financially dangerous approach when you consider that research shows acquiring a new customer costs at least five times more than keeping an existing one. Find out how to keep your current customers by winning their loyalty now.

You get loyalty by earning it. People are smart. They can sense when you, as a business, have their best interests at heart versus when you’re solely out to maximize profit. If you truly put your customer first and focus on providing them with the best possible experience while balancing that with the sometimes-conflicting mission of hitting your company’s profit goals, the tone will permeate all your team’s interactions with customers, and your business will win. The result? That elusive customer loyalty all businesses seek. Empathy is power, and it is the hidden secret in business that not many people talk about.

Empathy? Yes, empathy. The power of empathy is usually missed in business because it flies in the face of the shrewd-business-person stereotype: the picture of someone sitting behind a desk, methodically plotting how to cut corners and their customers short to pocket more profit. The truth is, real and lasting business success comes first by identifying a pain point in the marketplace that is not being addressed (or not being addressed well), then figuring out how to resolve that source of pain via a high-value solution. The only way this can happen is by seeing things through a customer’s perspective and empathizing with that customer – not plotting against them.


Here are three tips to turn empathy into customer loyalty and skyrocket your profit:


Make Sure You Really Know. Most people think they know what empathizing with a customer means, but they don’t. It doesn’t just apply to interactions in customer service when challenges arise. Your core business model should genuinely be focused on solving pain points and catering to the desires of your customers in the best way possible. Ironically, this goal and running a profitable business are sometimes in direct opposition to each other, which creates a challenge: how do you provide the best possible customer experience while still turning the highest profit? To help you with this, you can map it! Empathy mapping is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain deeper insights into their customers. It is a formalized way of walking through the customer experience while focusing on the emotions—such as frustration, relief, and happiness—that customers feel every step along the way. Empathy mapping will help you spot current challenges and opportunities your customers are having with your company and ways to elevate their experience and loyalty while providing fertile ground for additional revenue stream identification. To learn more, I highly suggest Empathy Maps: Walk In Your Cusomer’s Shoes by Robert Curedale.


Tell Them—Directly. I always see a sense of peace come over my clients’ faces when I say out loud, “This is about you and what you want.” It immediately diffuses any brewing power struggles by reminding the client that they are in control. And it often results in them handing over the wheel and letting you drive because they feel safe. There is magic in telling your customers directly that their positive experience your company is the most important thing to you. In order to do this in the most effective way possible, developing a deep understanding of their buyer persona is crucial. What is a buyer persona? A buyer persona is a representation of your various customer types based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Buyer personas include customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better. For the purpose of telling your customer how important they are, the motivations and goals elements are the most important part of the buyer persona. For example, if you own an auto repair shop, and man names Steve comes in who is bringing his wife’s care in, instead of saying something generic like, “Your positive experience here is really important to me,” you might say something like, “I know safety and quick turnaround time are important to you, and I will ensure you have peace of mind by taking care of both.” The latter is much more effective. Why? Because you understand the key motivations and goals of the specific customer type that Steve represents, and you focus on them when you tell him directly how important they are to you. In contrast, if a man in his early 20s brought in his car and his core goal was souping up is car for higher performance, the mention of safety and quick turnaround time that you used for Steve wouldn’t resonate as powerfully to the guy in his early 20s. You may understand your current buyer personas now anecdotally but formalizing them by writing them up, making sure your team understand them and ensuring that all of your communication with clients is executed with each persona in mind can help you win the heart, mind and loyalty of your customers.  


Show them. With such an emphasis on being customer centric these days, you’d think most businesses would have figured out that the most important thing is communicating to customers that they are the priority. But many haven’t. This presents a big opportunity for you and your business that can result in a major competitive advantage. Walking the talk is imperative. Case in point:


A live music loyalty startup, Sonotize, identified a major opportunity that other ticketing apps—such as Bandsintown and Songkick—missed by being overly focused on business goals and not paying enough attention to customer needs. We have all purchased concert tickets, been hit with exorbitant fees—some necessary, some not—and walked away from the experience with our excitement about going to the concert overshadowed by feeling financially taken advantage of. Enter Sonotize. They see things from the customer’s perspective, feel their pain, and empathize. Yes, they charge the same fees and enjoy the profit that comes along with them, but, to counteract their customer’s pain, they provide loyalty points in exchange for those fees. The points can be redeemed for event-focused rewards that excite their customers—drinks, rooms, transportation, and more. Brilliant! Why didn’t any of their competitors spot this opportunity? They were narrowly concerned with business goals and not concerned enough about their customers’ experience. Sonotize saw the ticket-buying experience through a customer’s eyes and spotted an opportunity that their very large, high-revenue-generating competitors missed. They are currently rushing in to satisfy that market need.


Boost loyalty by truly having your customers’ best interests at heart, and you will be on your way to increasing your company’s profits. It is a win-win for your business and your customer. Success!

Sarah Procopio, President of Thrive Marketing Science, a business intelligence and driven marketing firm. Sarah specializes in loyalty program development and turning around flailing companies and marketing programs quickly. She can be reached at or 949.230.7873. This article was original published in the Colorado Business Magazine and can be found at