Empathy maps are often underused by marketers. In a discipline where success depends on being able to appeal to your customers’ needs, wants and desires, marketing departments should be doing all they can to get inside the heads of consumers. Most create customer personas. Few go any further.

Empathy maps are what make customer profiles feel genuinely human.

Ready to begin? Start by reading our introduction to empathy mapping if you haven’t already. Then, read on to find out how your marketing team can level up its efforts with empathy mapping.

Extract As Much As You Can From Your Mapping Session

It’s best to start with a team-wide brainstorm if you want to get the most from your efforts. Sure, you can do it alone, but you’ll miss insights from other team members and the ideas that only come from a lively debate.

Lindsay Munro, a social strategist at Adobe, recommends team members write their comments individually, but discuss them out loud with the rest of the group as they had them to the map. “By asking questions, it’s possible to reach more profound insights — such as why team members really think the way they do — which can be valuable for the rest of the team,” she writes.

But why not go even further and ask the opinions of other departments? After all, you’re not the only team that thinks about or speaks to customers.

Each department sees the customer from a different angle, writes Nick Nelson, content marketing manager at TopRank Marketing. It’s only by coordinating with other departments that you can turn disparate information into a meaningful picture.

By working across the company, you’ll pull useful information out of department siloes, says Jonathon Hensley, co-founder and CEO at Emerge Interactive. Certain insights might be unique to a certain point in the customer journey, but that doesn’t mean they won’t prove valuable to marketing efforts.

Further, don’t be afraid to shape the map to your specific needs. The template empathy maps that you can find online are a great place to start, but the quadrants may not fit your needs, says the team at NX Creative. They offer one four-quadrant version of the map that contains a section for pain points, a section for goals and a section for benefits.

You needn’t worry about messing it up, either. There’s plenty of time to check and refine your map. In fact, Causevox’s Rob Wu recommends testing whether your map accurately reflects your real customers as soon as you’ve finished creating it. Interviewing a cross-section of customers is a great way to see whether you’ve hit the key points.

Remember, you can always adjust your map if needed.

empathy mapping tips

Use Your Map to Add Depth to Customer Personas

There’s a problem with traditional customer personas.

They typically lack empathy, says Katie McKenna, director of content at Portent. “Companies using personas to craft marketing and sales tactics develop a clearer understanding of their buyers, but this method can backfire,” she writes. “Even small audiences contain vastly different individuals, and traditional personas don’t embrace every person in that sampling.”

The beauty of empathy mapping is that it allows you to take your customer personas even further — essentially turning them from 2D pictures to 3D sculptures.

Where customer profiles are focused on the superficial, empathy mapping goes deeper, writes Advanced Web Ranking’s Lia Boangiu. “An empathy map goes beyond the interests, skills, or lifestyle of your customers, and into what they see, feel and think – allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be them,” she says.

Combine them, and you’ll have customer personas that begin to resemble genuine human customers, not faceless data points.

empathy mapping tips

Apply Your Empathy Map Across All Marketing Efforts

With a better understanding of your customers and what their pain points are, you can create content that helps customers overcome those hurdles, says Serenity Gibbons, writer and former assistant editor at The Wall Street Journal.

Don’t stop there, though. Seek customer feedback to understand whether your content marketing really is striking that empathetic note. Gibbons recommends surveying your audience to see whether your content is helpful and whether they’ve bought from you as a result of that content.

The more you use your empathy map to tell a story, the more successful you’ll be, says Big Leap’s Stephen Porritt. When you understand what customers want to hear, creating engaging content gets that much easier — so long as you continue to speak to the reader’s needs.

Revisit Your Empathy Map in the Future

Your empathy map is only useful if you continue to refer to it every time you write a blog post or launch a new campaign. UX and content strategist Jennifer Leigh Brown recommends hanging your map in a public spot or designing a poster around it

Alternatively, Demian Farnworth at Copyblogger recommends turning your map into a shareable document if you work remotely (or if there’s nowhere good to hang it).

Wherever you put your empathy map, make sure to keep returning to it and updating it in the future. As products change and consumers change, your empathy map will need to change with them. That’s how you continue to add value to your marketing efforts.

Images by: You X Ventures, Headway, Green Chameleon