It’s exciting to be a content marketer. If you’re responsible for managing blog posts, infographics, eBooks, case studies, and all your other great content, you have a lot of resources at your fingertips. From research tools to analytics and project management software, you have a lot of options for building a solid marketing stack.

But often, as marketers, we get so obsessed with our craft that we forget about the needs of our customers. Because we’re sitting behind computer screens, not conversing with customers and prospects on a regular basis, we can run into messaging challenges. The tools can get in the way of us remembering that content is, at its basic level, a human communicating a piece of information over a medium. The best content experiences are ones that provide educational, entertaining, and informative experiences. It’s the same experience as reading a book or having a conversation.

Empathy is your biggest asset in content marketing.

But you may not have ever met your customers. You may not regularly have time to. How can you develop empathy without contact?

Many successful companies make persona research a priority. Intuit, for example, relies on user research across its product development areas. The business has found that this level of customer research yields products that (1) customers prefer and (2) are on-point from a positioning perspective. Empathy, built through research, is a strategic advantage for the company.

Research Provides Understanding and Value

User research techniques can help put you in the shoes of your customer. With this perspective, customers can learn from the more effective resources you begin creating. As Albert Einstein is known for saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” This perspective is so valuable to companies that collectively, the market research industry in the United States is worth tens of billions of dollars.

Empathy is valuable. And here are three easy-to-follow practices to incorporate into your routine.

1. Immerse Yourself in Customer Communities

Don’t be a marketer trying to sell. Hang out. Understand the perspectives from which your audience is coming from. Gain an understanding of what your audience wants to learn about by reading questions they ask, articles they share, etc.

The more you focus on listening and understanding what your audience needs, the more you can create content that offers solutions. For example, take a look at the content that the Intuit QuickBooks team is creating and compare it with the company’s Follow Me Home program.

One area where you can start your research is through LinkedIn discussion groups, forums, Facebook groups, and membership websites (i.e., Innovation Leader) where your target customer spends time.

2. Talk to Customers

Conversations with customers can be eye-opening. Consider devoting a few 30-minute sessions per week to phone or video conversations. For instance, if you live in a city near a bunch of your customers, try to meet up for coffee or a conversation. Ask the following questions:

  • What are you interested in learning about in your industry?
  • What have been your favorite pieces of content from companies that you follow lately?
  • What types of education or training resources would be helpful for you?
  • What points of product clarification might be helpful?
  • What’s been confusing about your industry?

Answers to these questions will help you come up with content ideas that connect the dots between human interest and revenue. You’ll create content that fits naturally into conversations.

If you’d like to run these conversations like formal research interviews, you’ll need a process. Take a look at this step-by-step plan as a guided resource.

3. Collect Feedback about Your Content

In business, empathy means keeping yourself honest. You need to understand where your customer or prospect is coming from. One of the most impactful steps that you can take to make your content more effective is to conduct surveys. You can use a tool to ask some basic questions:

  • Was this content helpful?
  • How likely are you to recommend this article to a friend?
  • Did this content influence your decision to make a purchase?

Companies need to understand that it’s impossible to fully calculate the ROI of content from an analytics perspective. That’s why it’s important to think of your content as a product and collect feedback on what you’re publishing. Content inspires ideas for more resources that your content marketing team can create. This information-loop can help you keep a close eye on what your customers need.

Final Thoughts

As you deepen your research and get to know your customers and prospects better, you’ll create stronger empathy. Establishing routines and habits around feedback can help you create content that solves more problems in your business. The more value you offer your prospects and customers through content, the more feedback loops you’ll generate through sales.

Empathy means being creative, not having assumptions, listening, and being willing to admit that you’re wrong. With the right research frameworks in place, you’ll be able to use the tools you need with ease. Empathy means harnessing your marketing left and right brains.

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Ritika Puri

About Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is an entrepreneur who founded Storyhackers, a company that helps business create impactful and inspiring content programs. She enjoys writing about data, teaching others things that she’s learning, and helping other business owners succeed. In past lives, she built enterprise analytics programs and created revenue streams for an ad tech company. She is also an advisor to a mobile app startup, Sortly.