How To Use Empathy Mapping To Step Into Your Customer's Shoes

Copywriting services include empathy mapping

“Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person-a real person you know, or an imagined person-and write to that one” John Steinbeck

One of the key pillars to growing a successful brand is a deep understanding of who you’re there to serve.

Who are your users, customers or readers? What products and services do they need? How can you help make their lives better? How do you want them to feel when they come across you?

As we covered in our last post (you can read it here if you missed it), stepping into your customer’s shoes and connecting with them on an emotional level is also essential if you want them to engage with or buy from you.

One of our go-to tools for understanding people better and tapping into their needs is an Empathy Map.

Originally created by Dave Grey, and featured in his brilliant book "Gamestorming" the Empathy Map model (as the name suggests) helps to build more empathy with your audience. It is meant to be run as a group activity and ideally you’ll need a good cross-section of your team or company at the session for a more rounded view.

How to Run an Empathy Map Session

Step 1

You’ll need:

  • Large piece of paper or whiteboard – at least A3 size.
  • Sticky notes.
  • Marker pens – different colours.
  • Any info you have about your customers – customer research, testimonials, personas etc.

Your first task is to design an Empathy Map, which can be drawn or printed on your A3 piece of paper.

Start with a question you’d love to ask your typical customer/user.

It could be as simple as, “what do you need our product for?” Or a more complex, “what made you choose our product over our competitors?”

Step 2

Identify a typical or ideal customer on whom to model the Empathy Map and agree on a name, age, occupation and location for them. Then, working with the group, try to gain some ideas about what an average day in their world would look like and make notes around your Empathy Map.

Step 3

Role play time. For this part of the game, really imagine you are the customer. Where to begin? You can start with Pains and Gains boxes.

Pains box:

Look at challenges and obstacles. Ask yourself as the customer, “what keeps you awake at night?”

Gains box:

Look at hopes, dreams and what you want to achieve. Ask yourself as the customer, “what gets you up in the morning?” and “what do you wish for?”

Step 4

Explore what your customer might be thinking and feeling. Use sticky notes and marker pens to write down their thoughts.

Try to really get inside your customer’s head and write these down using their own words- you might get some useful info here from testimonials and any research or feedback you have. Try not to make things up, as you are looking for a genuine understanding of their situation.

Questions you can ask could include:

What are their their hopes and fears?
What do they expect to gain from using your products/services?
What kind of experience is this for them?

Think about positives and negatives.

Step 5

Try to imagine what this customer might see and hear about your product or service, and exactly how and where they would get to see or hear about it.

Some questions that might help:

What do they hear from other people who are using your product?

What do they see when they use your product?

What is the setting?

What do they say or feel when they use your product – both in private and in public?

What kind of feedback about your company would they hear from people outside your business?

What do they see when they Google your product?

Step 6

Now you’ve created your Empathy Map for your ideal or typical customer, it’s time to summarise the session.

Encourage everyone to share their thoughts about both the exercise and the customer.

Has the exercise changed any of their assumptions in any way?
Have they identified any apparent needs and/or new behaviours?
What insights have they gained?

At the end of the session you can summarise your conclusions in terms of thoughts, feelings and actions.

Or, after a short break, you might want to go on to create some, ‘I am…’ statements or compose a ‘love letter’ to your ideal customer.

Good luck with this activity and please do let us know how you get on.

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