"Empathetic Design:” Marketing For (Not To) People

What do the first computer mouse, the airplane lavatory "Occupied" sign, and a talking defibrillator have in common? Each was designed by the same firm  IDEO  and guided by the same philosophy: "empathetic design."
Empathetic design, or "design thinking," is the idea of creating products based primarily on human behavior — not, for example, manufacturability, speed, or cost. 60 Minutes highlighted IDEO and its founder David Kelley several months ago in this segment. (You can read the text or watch the clip  it's fascinating, surprisingly moving, and well worth viewing).

Kelley's empathic, user-centric philosophy has led to technological advances that define the world we live in, in often-unnoticeable ways  since they appeal to natural intuition and behavior. The computer mouse is one such breakthrough  so is the stand-up toothpaste tube, another IDEO creation, and a whole different type of convenience.

That type of intuitive appeal can also spell the difference between a passable marketing plan, and one that has to potential to break out  whether through record-breaking leads, viral success, or a huge brand boost. How?

Build your site the way your customers search. Industrial buyers want to know exactly what your company can do – and they don't want to have to work hard to figure it out. When IDEO rolled out that airplane lav "Occupied" sign, they recognized a common traveler's frustration taking the time to walk back, unsure of the status, often in a time of urgent need  and they addressed it. 

Procurement frustration can be very similar. Purchasers don't have a lot of time to figure out if you can meet their needs  make sure your site answers their initial questions as clearly and quickly as possible, and then be sure to include the detailed specs and product examples that they'll want to see as they investigate further. Don't make them wait for a phone call or RFQ response to answer basic questions.

Be where potential buyers spend their time when they're not sourcing. Create compelling content to share on social media and your blog, and make sure you have ads where buyers look for industry news or research. You'll strengthen your brand and stay top-of-mind for the customers you want to attract, by working within their natural information-gathering behavior. 

Never underestimate content. Always create appealing, interesting, shareable content. Know what your buyers value, and build your strategy around that. Whether its education, familiarity, emotion, humor, or any number of other factors, your content should never be in service of you, your company, or your products  and always designed to offer something to your audience.

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