Using Empathy Mapping as Research to Grow Your Business

Oct 10, 2023 | Market Research, Marketing, Comms, Strategy

Empathy can certainly be viewed as a buzzword that many businesses are unintentionally misusing in core value propositions. But empathy truly can act as an invaluable communication and business growth tool, if it’s defined and implemented effectively. Which is exactly what we’ll break down here.

What IS Empathy?

Empathy is defined by Webster as, “experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.” But what on earth does this have to do with growing your business? The bottom line is, when your firm can be aware of the challenges YOUR CLIENTS are facing and  take those challenges into consideration when pitching, or approaching them for ANYTHING, you’ll have a better chance of working with them. Let’s take a closer look at what this can mean in both the Public and Private sectors.

Public Sector

Let’s consider the public sector. In September, new budgets have started, and they are soliciting for new projects. Why does that matter? THEY’RE BUSY! And by ‘they’re’ we mean EVERYONE. Project pursuit teams are busy pursuing. Clients are potentially dealing with budget impacts (not getting all the money they need) and re-prioritizing in some capacity. Marketing teams are working overtime. The lesson is this is; September is not the time to be reaching out about new projects. That should have been done well in advance. People are too busy to take your calls.

Private Sector

It’s no secret, that at least in today’s economy, there’s a lot of pent-up demand in the private sector. Things like multi-family housing developments and tertiary retail conversions are in high demand. But, because of interest rates and a decrease in lease size for commercial offices, flagship tenants are harder to find. Which means securing funding is more difficult. So, unless you’re in a booming economy the projects that will pencil, are likely changing. Instead of building a Whole Foods, firms are looking at turning what was previously an office building, into multi-family housing. Why does this matter? As A/E/C consultants you have to understand, more than ever, that making a project pencil requires creativity and patience.  When you can be empathetic to what firms are dealing with, you can work with them effectively.

What does all of that mean?

It means you’ve got to understand; Where your clients are, and where the people you’re working with stand. For example, if you’re a marketer you’ve got to ask: “How is my team doing?” “What’s the best way for me to work with them right now? For clients it means understanding what’s going on in the market. What’s impacting them? What trends are they seeing. It’s stepping back during a pursuit and asking yourself “How does this truly align with our go/no-go decision making framework?”

For most firms, 2024’s pipeline is taken care of. However, entering into 2025 (with the exception of transportation) public funding from the federal government, related to the pandemic is finished. So many firms have burned through their back-log and for the first time in a while, are having to devote more time and effort to pursuit than they’re used to. 

Empathy mapping as a form of research

Empathy mapping can serve as a guide for what your firm doesn’t know, that they need to know. When you know the right questions to ask, and are armed with both empathy mapping details and market research the likelihood of your firm winning work, increases exponentially! It also allows your firm to go back to your differentiators and decipher how those relate to what your potential clients are dealing with right now.

How can your company’s differentiators serve potential clients, based on what they’re dealing with right now.

Some of the basic questions asked during empathy mapping, help us decipher how we can best serve our clients;

“What is our potential client thinking?”

“What is our potential client saying? (or not saying)?”

“Why does our potential client want to talk to us at all?”

And if you’re the principal of a firm and you don’t know the answer to those questions, that’s okay! (As long as you’re willing to fix it). Which is exactly what we can do during an empathy mapping session. If you’re ready to win work differently and really stand out from the flock, click here to schedule an empathy mapping session. Together we’ll conduct empathy mapping and I’ll teach you how to use it as research, internal and external communication, and even messaging. 

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