I love Benedict Cumberthingy as Sherlock Holmes. Actually, Watson’s very good in it too. Do you prefer CSI? Or something similar on Netflix?

Why do we love these shows?

Is it in part because they show how deep you need to go to really understand why people do what they do? It’s often surprising how people can be. From what they look like on the outside to what’s happening inside their mind. When I’m watching the show and the plot’s thickening, I’m thinking ‘it can’t be him, he looks too normal’.

The detectives always look for motive. After the ‘what’, they look for the ‘whodunnit’ and then the ‘why’.

Small plug: I wrote about this in my email newsletter recently here.

Back in real life…

As marketers and business folk, we can certainly learn from the super-sleuths. And there’s a tool you can use that is as good as smoking a pipe and donning your deerstalker.

It’s called an Empathy Map.

It’s a snapshot of what your audience is:

  • Thinking
  • Feeling
  • Doing
  • Hearing or Seeing

You make the map from research or ‘evidence’. It’s like the CSI folks doing a profile. Kind of.

The map is a great way to document and share who you’re targeting. Here’s a link to some slides I presented at an event couple of weeks back for the Dorset Growth Hub and Intergage.

Done something similar before?

If you’ve ever done personas or pen portraits then Empathy Maps are similar. The main difference is that they use actual research, so they go a bit deeper.

Having done personas in the past, they’re a good way of kinda’ guessing who and what. They often miss the why. There’s a reason for that. It’s impossible to guess ourselves. More on that later….

So here are some tips for how to do it.

– Keep it real. Create your map from evidence of what customers have said or written down. Or even stuff you’ve overheard.

– Stay relevant. Empathy maps should evolve as your audiences views and behaviours change. Share and update your map as you get more data.

– Watch out for contradictions. Between what people say and what they do. It’s often at odds. For example, your audience say they care for the environment but will drive their car 20 seconds to the shops. We all do this. Humans are a mixed bag of contradictions. That’s why we do Empathy Maps.

– Don’t tamper with the evidence. Don’t attempt to skew your map to reflect what you want them to think feel and do.

– Use the map to point the way towards your solution. Keep an open mind. Even though your instinct will be to jump to the solution. This is what Dr Watson does but Holmes knows better. He’s patient and won’t jump to conclusions. He lets the evidence speak for itself.

– Try and empathise with your audience. And that means walking in their shoes, or getting into character.

Go full Pacino.

The great Al Pacino is amazing at getting into character. He does this through becoming another person. Method acting as it’s known means that the actor goes ‘all in’ and becomes the character.

Pacino won an Oscar for his portrayal of a blind army veteran, Lt. Col. Frank Slade in the 1992 film, Scent of a Woman. Did you see that movie? On the insightful ‘Hoo-ah’ moment, Pacino said:

We worked every day, and he’d teach me how to load and unload a .45 and all this stuff. Every time I did something right, he’d go, ‘Hoo-ah!’ Finally, I asked, ‘Where did you get that from?’ And he said, ‘When we were on the line, and you turned and snapped the rifle in the right way, [you’d say,] ‘Hoo-ah!’

He stayed in-character on and off the set. It’s impossible to guess what’s happening in someone else’s mind. But Pacino and many of the greatest actors must get pretty close.

If you want to get deep…

We are all very different. “We all have mental models: the lens through which we see the world that drive our responses to everything we experience.” Mental models are attributed to Scottish philosopher and Kenneth Craik from his 1943 book The Nature of Explanation. It’s heavy stuff but explains why we all think we’re completely and utterly sane. And that everyone else are bonkers. We all think like that don’t we?

That’s why you need research to make an Empathy Map. We all have bias in-built. It’s a pain because it blocks our impartiality. And reinforces that bias. If unchecked that bias can grow into prejudice. And empathising means being non-judgemental.

Getting started.

This is why you should use actual research to make the map. Don’t worry, you can do that yourself. You can make the map based on just a few customers and synthesise the findings.

What you might find is that this will show how relevant (or not) your product is to your customers actual needs. It might show what language your audience uses. Or who they listen to and where they see marketing and messages from your competition. If you have different customer segments then make a map for each one. It’ll help you see the nuances. But look out for patterns across all segments.

Here is an easy guide on how to use Empathy Maps – and for a different type of empathy map, watch UX consultant Paul Boag talk through his one here.

The best thing about empathy maps is that they’re usable. Don’t leave them to collect dust. Use them to brief content writers. Use them to pin-point pain points in your system. Use them to identify other products and services that you DON’T offer.

Here are some of the barriers…

…to creating empathy maps, but with my rapid-fire troubleshooting ammunition, you shall overcome!

– You don’t have qualitative data? Look at competition, go on the internet – or guess.

– You don’t have the time? Chunk it up into mini, digestible projects.

– You can’t convince the team? Bribe; pizza, lunch ‘n’ learn – persevere!

– Not sure what you’ll achieve? Decide what question you want answered.

– You won’t like what you hear.. True. But you can choose to act or ignore! Remove the emotion and focus on how you can learn from it.

– You already know what they think. Don’t assume – remember Mental Models.

Empathy maps can help you get inside your customers head. They can kick-start more meaningful marketing or product and service development. I’m sure you will discover some things that shock and surprise you. Some of your colleagues may dismiss the findings if they don’t like what they hear – so prepare for that!

If you use the map to develop solutions, then you’ll feel confident in that decision. I’ve seen how they help transform companies and all from a little bit of structured digging.

Happy mapping.

Thanks for reading all that! If you want to chat to us about helping you to do this, then drop us a line here.

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