Apr 22, 2021

Written by Sara
Put yourself in their shoes

Why your copy needs a customer advocate

No matter what you’re writing, the words are not the most important thing.

The reader is.

You can have the best brand story in the world, but if nobody’s listening you’re just talking to yourself.

And you’ve already convinced yourself. You’re sold. You wrote the words, and you understand what you’re trying to say.

Persuasive copy needs to do just one thing. It needs to get inside the reader’s head and convince them it’s worth their while to make a change. Change their brand preference, change the way they do things, change their mind.

That’s why empathy is such an important, yet under-rated, skill for communicators. Effective copywriting connects the need to change with something your reader cares about. As the audience advocate for all our clients, our starting point for any brief is to ask, what’s in it for your reader? Why should they care? How does this solve a problem for them?

And empathy has become absolutely essential in 2020. In a year where it’s never been easier to sound tone-deaf, and where many audiences have far more important things to worry about than your service upgrade or shiny new API.

Salesforce’s latest global study, the 4th edition of the State of the Connected Customer report, uncovered a noticeable empathy gap. 68% of customers now expect brands to show empathy, but only 37% of brands actually do. In an era of personalisation, customers believe we should know their needs and expectations intimately – and reflect that knowledge in what we say to them, and how we say it.

When we worked with endota on last year’s Mother’s Day comms, we needed to acknowledge the very real impact of Covid social distancing requirements on traditional family gatherings. Their Motherkind campaign talked about how Mother’s Day is a little different for all of us this year, and shared love and kindness, from our mothers to yours.

In the following months, endota’s regular content focused on rituals its customers could enjoy at home to sustain their emotional and physical wellbeing, including a new wellness retreat. The ideas shared are generally positive and problem-solving (rather than product-pushing), and the tone has always been compassionate and inclusive.

But being empathetic is not just for a targeted consumer audience like endota’s. In fact, it’s even more important (and often a bit more challenging) in the B2B space.

Business buyers are human beings too – and according to that Salesforce research, 73% of them expect brands to show empathy.

At the 2020 B2B Marketing Leaders Virtual Forum, Atlassian’s Robert Chatwani explained how empathy was the source for their decision to make Atlassian products free during lockdown, while people quickly adapted to working from home. Being thoughtful at this time also meant sending fewer emails, and evaluating their tone and targeting strategy.

Writing with empathy starts with what you say – how clear, relevant and helpful your message is for your intended reader. But it also encompasses the way you say it – how your tone of voice makes the reader feel.

So how can you do this? Here are three ideas to get you started.

 

1. Listen to your audience

A good writer is naturally curious. We’re always asking questions – and our favourite people to ask are your customers. We listen to the language they use and the way they talk about their problems and needs. And then we repeat that back in a way that makes them think, ‘oh that business really gets me.’

You probably have a wealth of insights available in your call centre transcripts, social comments, reviews or CRM systems. If not, try asking a group of customers a few simple questions – such as ‘what problem do we solve for you?’ Collate all these responses and look for patterns. They may hold the key to the elusive ‘pains and gains’ you need for a good empathy map – and an awesome creative brief.

> For more ideas on how to better understand your customers, download our brand communications eBook here.

 

2. Stay focused

There are two things you need to decide before you start writing. What is the one thing you want your reader to remember, and what is the one feeling you want them to have?

The easiest way to make sure your audience remembers anything is to make it relevant to them – so challenge yourself to flip the core message from product features to end benefits.

And the two most persuasive feelings are the fear of missing out, and the anticipation of pleasure.
A small paint by numbers business in Queensland tapped into that second emotion nicely with my favourite email of 2020.

3. Make it personal

I often smile when I’m writing. I’m picturing my ideal reader in my mind, and imagine I’m having a conversation with them. As I write, I can anticipate the question they might ask next. And then I’ll answer it.

Along with reading your writing out loud, this is an easy hack to help you sound more natural, conversational – and empathetic.

You might think of an anecdote you could share, to help create that sense of connection. As we read we make a ‘mental movie’ of the words we absorb – and we are hard-wired as human beings to remember stories.

And finally, there is one very simple rule for making your writing feel personal: use you more than we. It forces you to focus on what’s important to your reader.

Empathy plays an increasingly vital role in every aspect of comms and content planning, research, writing and editing. So if you don’t have a strong audience perspective within your own teams, get an outside perspective. Find someone to be your customer advocate – to challenge that default inward focus, and bring your messages and language back to the most important person in the process.

Your reader.

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