"You must be able to recognize that customers often don’t fully understand their own needs simply because they don’t know that alternative products and procedures exist."
By Craig Miller
In today’s competitive marketplace, we’re all fighting over a finite set of customer-driven specifications: “I want X, made on X, displayed on X.” And because we’re all working under strict specs provided by our customers, and because we’re all working with essentially the same technology and offering basically the same end product, it’s easy to think that the only competitive edge we can have over each another is price. “I will sell that 13-ounce banner vinyl for a nickel-a-square-foot cheaper than they will,” often becomes the weapon of choice.
But, there is an under-used secret weapon that can help your company set itself apart from the rest of the pack: empathy marketing – striving to know the customers so completely that you begin to predict and to know their needs even better than they do. I believe empathy is one of humankind’s greatest and most underutilized attributes. Most often associated with the “helping professions,” empathy is equally as essential to the success of for-profit entrepreneurs and is a surefire way to trump your competition.
To effectively compete in today’s market, you must be able to recognize that customers often don’t fully understand their own needs simply because they don’t know that alternative products and procedures exist – that’s your job.
What the customer really wants
The empathy marketing approach requires two things: First, studying your customer’s business model – what is the client’s ultimate goal? Second, it’s about knowing our industry and its evolving technology, products, and services. In most cases, we tend to let the customer take the driver’s seat. But if the customer doesn’t have an in-depth knowledge of our technology and capabilities, how should they know how to best have their graphics needs met? Traditionally, customers determine what they buy; in empathy marketing, however, we believe they shouldn’t always be the ones making those decisions.
Empathy marketing puts a burden on us to offer our customers innovative and custom tailored solutions. To meet their needs, you must anticipate their objectives, meet with your vendors to try out new products and services, buy versatile equipment, and maintain a staff with developed, diverse skills.