Why Empathy Is the Secret Sauce for Small Business

Empathy Quote Graphic


 Empathy is one of those altruistic characteristics that we deem universally desirable, but may not realize its importance in the business world.

Empathy is actually a critical component and one that small business can use to good advantage. The secret sauce, if you will. 

Taken at face value, “using” empathy sounds contrary to the meaning of the word… sharing or recognizing emotions experienced by another; i.e. walking in someone else’s shoes. It certainly seems seems less charitable if you’re “using” empathy for your own gain.  Let me explain.


Why is empathy so critical?

Small businesses have more direct contact with their customers and there are more opportunities for them to understand their pains, fears and needs.

Because of this, small business people can have a more natural empathy for their customers and feel more connected to them.  If you’re the owner of your business, even more so. Small businesses can use this powerful emotion to their advantage… and to their customers’ as well.


Empathy personalizes and humanizes your business.

When we hear the cry in business circles to “keep it real”, empathy is the most honest, connective human emotion there is. It is the foundation of what makes us social. It is integral to being seen as trustworthy. Why?  Because empathy can’t be faked.


Empathy is the prime mover.

In a locomotive, the prime mover refers to the engine which converts fuel into useful work; i.e. moving the train forward. http://goo.gl/LwfbcZ

Empathy fulfills a similar role in marketing.  It can be the prime mover to motivate a person to go from lead to customer; from inaction to action.

If the person feels that you understand them, that you “get them”, they lower their barriers and suspicions and that then becomes a point of trust and can be the tipping point of whether they decide to do business with you or not.


…the empathetic connection becomes real, it becomes human, it becomes beyond just features and benefits and moves somebody into action. ~ Mark Traphagen



Empathy puts you at eye-level with your customer.

If you relate to where your customer is, if you can say “I’ve been there and I’ve figured out how to move forward”, that immediately changes the relationship between you and your customers.  

In marketing terms, you now have “goal alignment”.  

What you want (to help your customer) is exactly the same as what they want (to find a solution to their problem).  Whether that problem is finding a product that will get the cat hair off their couch so their allergic son-in-law can come visit, or finding someone who can solve their payment gateway snafu, when businesses and their customers have their goals aligned, there are no longer any barriers.


[Empathy] is absolutely critical,… and this is where the magic happens of that human relationship where you realize the person behind the screen… is actually a human being and they’re trying to help you achieve the same thing you want to achieve. ~ David Amerland


 Advantage: Small Business

Being empathetic is a natural component of many, if not most, small businesses. Often small business owners start their business because they have an empathy for some problem or a have a product that fulfills a desire.

Empathy can be the secret sauce. The pixie dust. That something extra that makes good things happen.  


Empathy is the starting point.  

You use it to build on as you determine your business identity, your company values, your mission, and your all-important value proposition.  If you are a micro-business, you, as the owner and the face and voice of your business, will have an even easier time in letting your sincerity and passion shine through. 

If two websites appear to have the same degree of expertise and authority, the one that can convey honest empathy for a potential customer, is going to engender greater trust. The user experience is going to be more personal, more positive.


Empathy is really the first step toward being able to provide the most personalized experience to your users. ~ Jerod Morris



Use your empathy filter for creating content.

Empathy should be a filter through which you view all of your content, whether it’s for a web page, a blog post, or a comment on social media. Copyblogger’s Demian Farnsworth even suggests creating an empathy map to help you understand what your ideal audience and potential customers “really look like”.

Empathy can help determine how you and your business can serve your customers and your audience. What words and phrases will they relate to? What are the FAQs of your industry that you can answer from a perspective that combines your expertise with an appreciation of what it’s like to stand in your customer’s shoes.


That’s one of the first goals of any good website. Who is the audience, what is their ‘language’, what do they need, what problems can we solve for them? ~ Gina Fiedel


Small Business Takeaways: 

* Empathy is a powerful, humanizing emotion that can personalize your business. Although difficult to assess, it is a critical component.

* Consciously use your empathy filter as a guide for what you say and how you say it. Let it inform and “flavor” your business as a whole.

* Empathy is an important starting point. To turn it into a genuine small business advantage you need to incorporate it into your brand identity and content that is then voiced consistently online and off.

The customer experience is elevated by empathy because it changes the focus from being all about you to being all about them.

* Empathy allows your customers’ goals to be aligned with your own. There’s nothing better than a win-win.


Credit and thanks to:

Keeping It Real: Social Branding on the Semantic Web, Alex Riecke-Gonzales, Mark Traphagen, David Amerland, presented by SEO Wise,https://plus.google.com/events/ce4kkjsjtum89n2oob53kkuinic

The Most Important Lessons You Should Have Learned in 2014, Jerod Morris, The Lede, Copyblogger,http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-reflections-2014/ 

Master This Storytelling Technique to Create An Irresistible Content Series, Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger, http://www.copyblogger.com/master-storytelling

photo credit: canva