The Empathies of Effective Marketing

Attracting the quality of attention that matters most
Empathies with Snow and Dead Pinon – by Susan J. Preston

“It was wonderful to set up the camera … experiencing again the empathies with scene and visualization and camera that every serious photographer comes to know.”

– Ansel Adams

A good portion of my work as a web designer revolves around empathy-based marketing, which acknowledges the need for authentic trust and respects the humanity of each individual.

As we peer out into the world from our chosen careers, it’s easy to get overly caught up with worry over why the world isn’t choosing us. Why aren’t they buying our products, our artwork, or signing up for our professional services? With 80% of websites plummeting toward failure in any given year, it’s a good question every business owner asks themsevles.

But there’s a better question dwelling just beneath the surface; a question whose answers are worth more than gold and silver.

What if, instead, we asked ourselves, “How am I choosing a path of authentic service?”

When I began my web design career the internet was in its infancy. Because web design was so novel just having a website was enough to turns head. Handing out businesses cards with an http:// address brought immediate respect, if not outright awe.

Fast-forward 25+ years and the picture is completely different. Everyone has a website now, which means yours is probably far from feeling awe-inspiring. All the website builders and most of the designers out there generally deliver the same proven templates and navigation bars we’ve seen a million times over. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this – our go-to navigational structures have become ubiquitous because they succeed in helping viewers get where they need to go.

So how do any of us rise above the distraction and noise?  

How do I get noticed? All it takes is good search engine optimization, right? Will a custom design make a difference? How do I make a video that will go viral?  A marketing guru said I should be on Twitter, but not Facebook, is he right? 

These are questions I hear on a routine basis while consulting with creatives, service-centered professionals and non-profits. Although it’s never been easier to launch a website, the plethora of tactical choices and make-it-rich-quick schemes can be nothing short of overwhelming.

The problem: most business owners are focused on the tactical aspects of marketing at the expense of paying attention to the person who matters most in every business story: the customer.  Here’s something novel: If you want to inspire awe make your customer the hero of your business story. 

When we set up shop, whether it’s creating a needed product or providing valuable services, what we’re doing is aiming to solve someone’s problem. You can’t solve a human problem without being relational, and you can’t be truly relational without developing and practicing the skills of empathy and kindness. It might seem as though the  oft inhumane and faceless corporations have their marketing down pat. After all, they have money canons at their fingertips which they can point and shoot into big budget advertising.

If you view marketing this way – as an impersonal and annoyingly flashy and salesy practice of manipulation – you’re not only missing the point, your business is probably doomed to failure. What your customers want more than anything is to be seen, heard, and served. If you want to be remarkable, be someone who cares. 

“Care. Care more than you need to, more often than expected, more completely than the other guy.”

– Seth Godin

If you happen to be an introvert like I am, there’s good news! 

No one ever successfully demonstrated a heart for service or changed someone’s life for the better by yelling louder and certainly not by being more annoying than the people around them. No one wants to hire the person who makes it all about them in our connection-based economy. 

An arrogant loudmouth might capture everyone’s attention, but it’s not the kind of attention that pays off.

Instead of asking how we can go viral and wasting ad budget aimed at getting more reach and hits, we’re all way better off rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard and priceless work of truly getting to know the people we wish to work for and with.

And the beauty of this approach is it can’t be faked!

Consistently showing up with genuine care on behalf of the people you wish to serve through your art or services simply doesn’t happen just like that! Relationships take time and trust isn’t manufactured overnight.

I’m head over heels in love with the Ansel Adams quote I used at the opening of this article-here it is again so you don’t have to scroll back up:

“It was wonderful to set up the camera … experiencing again the empathies with scene and visualization and camera that every serious photographer comes to know.”

– Ansel Adams

What every serious photographer (and business owner) comes to know is the need for empathies with the landscape her subject (customer) is living in. If you aren’t able or willing to take the time and deeply visualize and study the wishes and fears of the people you serve, your overall business picture isn’t going to work. It’s just that simple.


If this makes sense to you.

If you’re tired of feeling inauthentic in the marketing of your business.

If you need help with obtaining focus and a clear picture of the people you are meant to serve.

If you want a website that not only looks good but also works, 

Looking forward to being of service to you,

Susan J. Preston

Creative Director • Marketing Coach


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