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A Complete Guide to Crawling
 Inside Your Customer’s Head With Empathy Maps

We all need to know our customers in order to create products they’ll actually buy. This is why the minimum viable audience idea is so powerful.

It doesn’t start with the product. It starts with the customer.

That means the media you create — the daily podcast, weekly Hangouts, the monthly downloads — all contribute to attracting an audience. As that audience grows, you learn their needs, wants, hopes, and fears.

That information allows you to build a worldview of your customer. And when you confirm that worldview in your media, it allows you to sell products they actually want to buy.

And in tomorrow's post, +Demian Farnworth will show you how to do that using an empathy map. 

Stay tuned. 

Update: post is now live:

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Pete B's profile photoRoger Belveal (TechXpressionist)'s profile photoJulie Wolf's profile photoAnirudh B Balotiaa's profile photo
This might be exactly what I've been missing for so long. a way to understand your audience! Can't wait for +Demian Farnworth's post :-)
I like it and have try the empathy map before. It's good.
Great article. The whole empathy vs. sympathy discussion is one I've had more times than I care to remember :) I love the empathy map, and I'm going to have to give it a try for my next project. It looks like a really great way to go deeper into creating copy/products/whatever, especially if you're dealing with writing or creating for saturated markets.
I know the idea of empathy for our customers is not a new thing, but it seems like it is coming to the forefront again. And that's good ... in two ways. It's good to focus and empathize with our customers. It's good because somebody should be focusing and empathizing with us as a customer. Thanks for sharing.
Now that it's live +Stine Halmind, let me know what you think. 

+Adam Melton I've been using it on a micro level too for each post I write ... which helps me especially in the department of grabbing that dominant desire. 

Indeed, it did, +Owen Hemsath. ;)
For me, doing research at this level is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. On the one hand, I feel like I should know what my clients are thinking by working with them day after day, but in my heart of hearts I know I could be missing key "empathy" factor that will make all the difference in my positioning. But I also fear that coming straight out and asking them blatantly about their pains would come off sounding salesy and pushy. My clients are very busy people who are extremely pressed for time. "I want to make your life easier! But first I need to bother you with a survey!!" Ack, I'm not sure how to approach this in an easygoing, non-salesy way.
This article does paint a clear picture of why empathy is important. I love the hook at the beginning. Always love your posts Demian! 
+Amy Butcher I think the best way to approach is to take the time with one or two clients and just talk with them about what challenges or problems their business (or, heck, even they) are facing and just listen. Don't make it about selling something something to them (or, heck, even offer some advice or a service to reciprocate based on what they tell you).

It's a win-win. You get valuable information you can use to better communicate with other clients, and they get a chance to either vent or receive good, personalized advice in return.
Thanks +Brian Hayes and +Adam Melton. If I extrapolate what you're saying, I think the idea is to use a round-about approach. As in, I shouldn't try to probe about the specific problem I'm trying to sell them a solution for (i.e., blogging or content strategy), because that could come off as salesy. I could just start a general conversation about their problems whenever they come up. Could be a good way to start. I have lots of existing clients I can talk to, it's probably just a question of doing it, as you guys indicate.  
Thanks +Brian Hayes

+Amy Butcher, as the others said, getting a client on a phone is probably the best way to get the deepest. In this case you are being intentional instead of observing in a work context. And you really only have to perform about 15 to 20 of these. And thank you for the kind words!
Ah, great, thanks for putting a number on that Demian. That gives me a concrete goal to work with.
(And, off topic, I always find your posts extremely valuable because they're so well-researched. I study them very intently. So thank you!) 
Good to hear. There is a wee bit of anxiety behind each post ... a fear I've done a subpar job. So I keep pushing for more resources. :D
I created a framework called Tribes-Triggers-Truths. It helps me organize my customer research and create "personas" I can take action on.
+Copyblogger Amazing article, thank you; I love the idea of empathy maps. I use cluster diagrams to get at emotion fiction, as well as copy. The maps will be an additional tool.

I got all teary with the videos. Great examples. 
Finally got around to reading the article thoroughly, +Demian Farnworth! Thanks for describing the process in such detail - that makes it a very practical tool.
Great point about sympathy vs. empathy!
So, how do you make sure you and your team actually feel what customers feel and not just think they understand (like the toddler)?
An approach might be to concretize the questions on the list? When talking about "How do they think about their hopes and fears" you might talk about what it makes them do -e.g. if it makes them invent certain rituals (like in the opening case) or treat other people in a certain way. Does that make sense?
I love the pains/gains-questions, because they present a very specific situation, you can easily imagine :-)
+Adam Melton, would you like to give an example of your "micro version" of the empathy map?
+Demian Farnworth thank you for this article. I agree with everything you are saying. Understanding and empathizing with your customer is huge for building a brand and marketing it and the empathy map is a great tool. That said, I do feel that the execution doesn't always come off as genuine, especially in the "Mom commercials" you mentioned. Do you think that empathy can backfire in an execution?
I agree Damien, the world view is probably a better approach. In your article you mention that in a study that emotional ads will outperform informational logical ones I think that is so true. I saw this concept in action when I was previously a Wyndham discovery trial member, their marketing is so aggressive. They focus on emotion, family, time etc.. Every time i would book at a wyndham resort they would ask me ( while on vacation ) to an invitation session and at the end you will get some free gift card etc.. They eventually you sit down with a salesman agent after going through this emotional family vacation presentation. The agent tries to convince you into time share. When i think about it, its actually smart because a) im on vacation so im on "relax mode" and less guarded and more vulnerable and b) who wouldnt want more vacation time when your always working and maybe this is the only time ud get to spend with your family.

I wasnt interested because i know the numerous cons of timeshare can be but i still was interested in their overall marketing and sales presentation. In 2 different sit downs on 2 vacations i observed the sales agents and the presenters who would make the emotional pitch " how much is family time worth to you" vs the logical pitch " your going to save 1000's of $ per year. The emotional pitch was MUCH more persuasive. In nature although i am more logical, the emotional pitch made it more interesting to hear. 

I think a vast amount of people dont want to hear numbers and long term benefit plan, they want to hear how what is the benefit to their life for their situation. But again Wyndham really knew their target audience.
Damien, a fascinating and intriguing post but I have a question for you. My 'Audience' is entirely online. Do you have any advice as to how I can gain some empathy with them? Obviously, I can't sit them down to go through a similar exercise. I am an 'empath' by nature and it causes me no end of grief, having to re-write my posts several times because I know how I would react. I need to get inside their heads but I can't even see them!
Great question, +Chris Hooker! I'm facing the same challenge, so will listen in :-) I guess the challenge is the same no matter the content (social media posts, blog posts, articles...). I have done a small survey with my Facebook audience and I keep tweaking my strategy to find out what works - but I still have a hard time finding consistent patterns in the stats. I have made personas (based on the survey and what I can see from my FB-fans' profiles) and try to think about their "pains" - what problem is it they are facing in everyday life (in my case: when planning a holiday in Spain) that I can help solve. I haven't found the magic answer yet, though, so any ideas are welcome :-)
Pete B
Great article. Although I'm having a little difficulty getting together a group of "Dry erase marketers" ;)
Nice, helpful and descriptive.  I use a method I call the "Short Story Interview" which is to ask subject matter experts to role-play based on their best knowledge of users.  This taps into the wealth of knowledge of customer contact professionals through a filter of empathy.  Of course, running the same exercise with actual users to compare will validate, correct, and refine the info. I will be speaking about this at the BigDesign2015 conference in Dallas
Great read and I stumbled across at a good time. What comes first, Empathy Maps or Personas? 
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