The difference that empathy can make in your business
For many small business owners, marketing is a complicated subject. Promoting your services to potential clients is a vital part of being an entrepreneur. However, some business owners are unsure of how to market their services effectively to attract and keep clients. One reason why marketing is challenging is that most entrepreneurs want to promote themselves in a way that is natural and not pushy.
My advice for reaching new clients effectively is to forget about the word “marketing” altogether. Instead, we should focus on the word “connecting" because that is what marketing really is. It's about forming strong bonds with other people.
“Succeeding in business is all about making connections.” ~Richard Branson
And how do you establish deep connections with other people? One way to do this is through empathy.
What is empathy?
Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston and author of the NY Times bestselling book Dare to Lead, describes empathy fostering “connection” with others. When you are empathetic, you are acknowledging and sharing a person’s feelings. Brown also says that this is different from sympathy, the act of feeling bad or sorry for someone, which fosters “disconnection”.
“Empathy is feeling with people.” ~Brené Brown
According to Theresa Wiseman, a nursing scholar, there are four principles of being empathetic:
- Perspective taking (accepting the other person's point of view as their truth)
- Non-judgement (listening without judging)
- Recognising other people's emotions (being able to identify what emotion someone is feeling)
- Communicating what you recognise (expressing that person's feeling)
In short: empathy boils down to turning your focus towards other people, rather than towards yourself.
How to be empathetic
Let’s take each of Brown’s qualities mentioned above using an example from my own coaching business to see how empathy can be applied to marketing. Imagine a small business owner who offers her own health coaching services. She is highly skilled in this field and wishes to attract more clients, however, she is unsure of how to market her business to them.
It’s important that I take the time to understand her personal perspective on marketing. In general, marketing may not be her favourite thing in the world and perhaps she even dislikes it. If I were to start working with her using the perspective that she loves marketing as much as I do, then that would be an enormous mistake. This doesn’t help the client to achieve her own goals. First, I need to understand how she feels about marketing, and what makes her feel that way.
I do not judge her for her hesitation about marketing. Instead, I listen to her experiences in an open and accepting way.
Recognising other people’s emotions
When I hear her talk about all the different strategies she’s tried, not all of which were successful, I sense that she is incredibly frustrated and deflated. And I feel this emotion alongside her, instead of for her.
Communicating what you recognise
Once I know her thoughts and emotions, I will acknowledge and validate them. I let her know that I understand how she feels, especially if I went through a similar experience.
Be present and helpful
On top of Wiseman’s four empathy principles, it is important when talking with a potential client or another person to be fully present with them; give them the gift of your full attention.
“Simply paying attention allows us to build an emotional connection. Lacking attention, empathy hasn’t a chance.” ~ Daniel Goleman
A valuable skill for business and life
Empathy is a critical skill that enriches all of the connections around you, both professional and personal. It’s never too soon (or too late) to start learning and / or improving your ability your empathy skills. If you can help someone you’re talking with, you can create a great and possibly invaluable connection.
Help might look like sharing a resource, making an introduction, or providing a referral. Or it can be sitting with a friend and listening to them without judgement.
I hope you’re feeling inspired to extend empathy to your clients, business partners, and all the people in your life.