Why empathy also marks the start of new opportunities in the new year

This year, I wish you all the empathy you need to achieve your goals.
Regardless of whether you are expanding a business model for your new company, outlining a digital marketing strategy to achieve you company's strategic objectives or writing a page for your company's website, it all starts with empathy. 

Empathy as a source of inspiration for your new company

When you are working on a business model, one of the first things you do is to empathise until you find a problem that is so aggravating that enough people would be willing to put down a considerable amount of cash to have this problem solved.

The typifying characteristics of aggravating problems like these are that

  • people are already trying to solve the problem by themselves,
  • people are having heated discussions about the problem,
  • people are willing to pay you for the solution right away; or
  • people listen closely when you talk about the problem.

With a bit of luck, you will find a homogeneous segment in the market that wants to have the problem solved with clear similarities to which you can respond or – even better – homogeneous segments with sufficient heterogeneity between the segments to allow you to address each group with a message tailored specifically to their situation.

Once you have found these segments, you can start estimating the size of the market. In turn, this will allow you to decide whether to start building a “minimal viable product” (MVP) or a prototype of this product. Based on the use and behaviour of a group of test subjects, the MVP will then allow you to start validating whether you have empathised sufficiently with your future clients to move on to the next stage of your new business: "the stickiness stage".1

Empathy for an outstanding marketing strategy

However, it is not just thinking up a new business model that requires a hefty dose of empathy. Finding the best route to your clients and developing an outstanding marketing strategy also demands a great deal of empathy, besides a great deal of knowledge.

As a marketing professional, perhaps you want more in this new year than the vanity metric ‘number of visitors to your site’ and are planning to expand a multi-channel digital solution that will allow you to:

  • reach your clients in the right way via their preferred channel; and
  • more or less automatically demonstrate to your company's work council how every marketing initiative contributes to achieving your company's strategic objectives.2

With regard to the second point, you will need to hold a workshop to:

  1. map out your company's strategic objectives
    ("increase the profit", "increase the lifetime value of the client" etc.),
  2. translate thse into marketing objectives
    ("increase the number of leads", "increase the quality of the lead", "increase repeat business" etc.) and
  3. then into digital objectives
    ("complete a purchase", "register on the website", etc.). 

You will then need to assign a value (known as the “engagement value”) to these digital objectives according to a relative scale.

Each time a client performs an online action on your site, the respective engagement values are added up. This means that you are constantly aware of the impact of each page or campaign, not to mention the value of each visit. As you have established a link between the digital objectives and the strategic objectives, you will also know how each initiative helps to achieve the strategic objectives: a lot better than the “number of visitors”, wouldn’t you agree?

That all sounds quite analytical, you might be thinking. What has this got to do with empathy?
Well, to ensure that you reach your clients and have them carry out specific digital actions (and achieve the specified digital objectives), you need to chart which information the various client segments need to see during the various steps of their decision-making process in order to convince them to carry out these actions.

When outlining this required information (in a "Digital Relevancy Map")3, empathy pops up again. After all, you need to ensure that: :

  • you present the right information at the right time in order to establish the necessary trust; and
  • you adjust the level of engagement required from your clients to their current phase in the decision-making process. 

To summarise: for each campaign, app or page which you are creating for your website, the inspiration is primarily derived from empathising with the various client segments during the different phases of their decision-making process.

Empathy ensures fantastic content on your website

It is not just writing content that encourages clients to carry out specific digital actions that requires empathy; writing good explanations does too.

What does listing facts or telling people how to do something have to do with empathy?
If you ask visitors to look at a page or listen to your explanation, you are asking them to put in the necessary effort or level of engagement.
The first question you need to answer is: ‘Why should they give you this engagement?’.

  • Why is this relevant to me?
  • Why do I need to understand this?

If you fail to do so, it is very unlikely that your visitor will stay on your website.
The art of a good explanation lies not in the facts and details but in presenting these facts in such a way that they are relevant to the visitor when placed within his or her context.4

In order to answer this question, you will once again need to put yourself in the shoes of your visitor or audience. This isn’t always easy because, as an expert, you have been weighed down with “the curse of knowledge”. This makes it very difficult to imagine what it would be like not to have this knowledge (I will also write more about this in a later blog post).

The best empathy wishes for 2017

I wish you all the empathy you need this year to ensure a profitable business, an outstanding marketing strategy and fantastic content which surprises your users and keeps them coming back for more.

Need some empathy?

Looking for a great team with the empathy required to make your next company, marketing strategy or website the perfect fit for your clients? Talk to us!

What else?
Second to empathy, the ‘stickiness’ of the solution you offer is also very important, whether you are starting a new business, working out your marketing strategy or writing content for your website. I will write more about making visitors stick and converting visitors and clients in one of my next blog posts.



1. See Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster (Lean O'Reilly)
2.If you wish to expand the system that enables your multi-channel context-sensitive marketing strategy to run smoothly or need help with the expansion of this strategy, The Reference is the right partner for you.
3. See also:


  • SBOS (Sitecore Business Optimization Strategies) e-book "The Context Marketing Workbook: A Practical Guide for Modern Marketers"
  • "Connect: How to Use Data and Experience Marketing to Create Lifetime Customers" van Lars Birkholm Petersen en Ron Person

4. See “The Art of Explanation: Making Your Ideas, Products and Services Easier to Understand” by Lee LeFever

Don't miss out

It's more than digital, it's your business
The Reference is nothing without its customers. Carglass is the car window repair and replacement specialist for whom we've built a fully responsive Sitecore website. Read more about this client.