Try a little empathic enquiry – it’ll make all the difference!

Try a little empathic enquiry – it’ll make all the difference!

I’ve run quite a few messaging workshops this year and one of two things always seems to emerge. With some, it was both. Organisations want to target the world and his wife. Everyone, irrespective of job title, function or industry sector, gets shoehorned into the position of representing an opportunity or being a potential collaborator or influencer. I’m beginning to think prioritisation has become an ancient art that’s no longer practised!

The other issue, the one I’m interested in today, is knowledge of the target. I’m not talking about consumer-facing brands here. They’ve generally spent plenty of time and energy defining exactly who they’re after. But it’s a very different story when it comes to the business to business world.

How much of a missed trick this is depends on the relevant buyer’s decision-making tree. But how do you know anything about the decision making tree if you don’t know your target?

The lack of knowledge tends to come to light when I ask two questions. The first is something like ‘tell me about the people you want to target’ and the second is ‘where will we find them?’

In answer to the first, the workshop participants generally know quite a bit about the industry and most have researched the issues their targets will face. But when it comes to creating a stereotype for the people they’ll be targeting, things get tougher. What’s their motivation? What are their ambitions and aspirations? What do they care about? What keeps them up at night?

Why do we need that kind of detail? Well if you’re going to craft effective messages that capture the attention of your targets, they have to lead with the concerns that will capture their attention.

Things can get even worse when it comes to working out where we’ll find them. By this I mean where and when are they open to influence? Where do they get their information from? Our messages may be spot on and beautifully crafted, but there’s no point if the target’s not in the ‘room’ or isn’t listening.

When we get to this point in the workshop, people become like a rabbit in the headlights and wonder how on earth they can find any of this out. The answer’s simple. Ask!

And this is where the empathic enquiry comes in. Empathy is not putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and trying to see the world from their perspective. It’s imagining you are that person, with all their lived experience, in the position they are in. It requires a leap of imagination. With an open mind, you have to try and put all your pre-conceived ideas aside. Engage with your targets from this perspective and they’ll give you the information you need and what’s more this very process will help you build a strong relationship rooted in trust.

Empathic enquiry won’t just help your business relationships. Why not give it a go in your personal life to?

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