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Do you really know how to satisfy your customers' emotional needs? Just as you seek to discover what your customers want, it's essential to also identify the deeper emotion-based needs of specific audiences.

Addressing Customers' Emotional Needs

Talk about emotional needs isn't new to the design community. It's why the interior of an IKEA store is designed to inspire customers to imagine ways the furniture would improve their life at home or why people respond favorably to the type face Helvetica. Humans like to feel good about what they wear, how they live and what they buy. According to Donald Norman, author of Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, emotional design is why attractive things are more appealing. 

If we can apply elements of emotional design to marketing, it's not unreasonable to think that it could have the potential to win the hearts and minds of consumers. Yet you'd be surprised how little companies know or understand about what drives customers to the point of purchase and beyond.

Sure, we may know where to engage them or what messages may persuade them, but most companies aren't aware of how their marketing message makes customer feel. 

The Need for Empathetic Marketing

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In his book, Empathetic Marketing, Mark Ingwer explores how to satisfy the six core emotional needs -- control, self-expression, growth, recognition, belonging and care -- of your customers. Ingwer writes: 

"After decades of formally documenting the stages of successful and failed interpersonal and business-customer relationships, we've learned that many companies become complacent in their endeavor to understand, satisfy, and embrace the deeper emotion-based needs of consumers. Companies understand the meaning of 'relationships,' but they rarely consider what it takes to make their audiences' needs a priority." 

As companies are behooved to become more customer-obsessed, it makes sense that empathetic marketing must be a part of their endeavor. But doing so requires more than just asking if customers are satisfied or not. Here are a just a few of the ways Ingwer recommends incorporating empathetic marketing into your campaigns. 

  • Ask Why: Business must not only ask "what will this product do for the customer" but also "what will this product do for the customer's emotional self and identity?"
  • Identify the Core Emotional Need: When addressing customers or prospects, businesses should understand which emotional need its product or service addresses and then tailor its marketing and product development accordingly. 
  • Help Customers Take Charge: From customer experiences to the after sales process, it's essential that feel in control and never as if they are at the mercy of a company or product. 
  • Leverage Customers' Self-Expression: Like user generated content before it, give customers a voice. Let them name a new product or flavor. Co-production can help your company develop deeper customer relationships while giving them a sense of identify. 

Even if you don't feel as if you're connected to your customers' emotional needs, chances are you're doing something that could help you get there. Whether you're working to streamline the customer journey or crowdsourcing the voice of customer through feedback and reviews, you can easily incorporate elements of empathetic marketing, provided you are prepared to adapt and align accordingly. 

If empathetic marketing still seems too hippy-dippy for you, consider how advertisers might already be using it to target you. Recently, women 18 and older across the US were surveyed to determine when they felt most vulnerable about their appearance to choose the best time to advertise beauty products. And it doesn't stop there. The next time you have a case of the feelings, take a look around to see what brands are around you and what role they played. It could be just a commercial about eating cereal with your late grandmother or it could be a deliberate attempt to relate to you on a deeper level.