It’s the first thing you’ll learn in any marketing class: know your audience. 

When it comes to content creation, you can’t know what your message should be if you’re not clear on who it is for. 

Most of the time, brands tackle this need by defining target personas. Target personas describe your audience’s demographics, such as age, gender, income level, and place of residence. They also paint a picture of their family dynamics, daily routines, weekly activities, media consumption habits, and behaviors. 

This is all helpful information, but if brands really want to inspire their customers to take action, they need to dig deeper. 

Real insight comes when brands identify their audiences fears, pain points, motivations, goals, and attitudes. Then, you can use your marketing to demonstrate your empathy of these findings and start to build relationships. 

Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.

Daniel H. Pink


When your audience discovers your content, you want it to resonate with their emotions. They should read your website, or browse your social media and think “hey, that sounds exactly like how I feel.” But your ideal customer’s “a-ha moment” won’t happen if you only use content to tout your company’s history, product features, and accolades.

What is an Empathy Map?

Brands need to build empathy maps to get in the minds (and hearts!) of their consumers. An empathy map is typically structured as a single-page document for easy reference. They are broken down into quadrants that highlight what your audience says, thinks, feels, and does, throughout their customer journey. 

When building out each quadrant, ask yourself the following:

Says: What are some things your audience would outwardly voice to you when in the market for your product or service? This is how you learn more about their goals and needs.

Thinks: What are some things they may be thinking, but would be uncomfortable to share out loud? This is where you can tap into their fears, doubts, and insecurities. 

Feels: What adjectives describe the emotions my audience is experiencing? This will humanize your audience and help you put yourself in their shoes.

Does: What steps do they take before, during, and after the purchase? This highlights how to best reach your audience and optimize the customer journey.

Empathy Maps in Action

Let’s take a look at an example empathy map of a customer who is in the market for a new car. 

empathy map

Shaping Your Strategy

Once you use empathy maps to understand how your audience feels and what they are looking for, you can reverse-engineer your content strategy. You can structure your content to tap into those emotions, deliver answers to their questions, and assuage their fears. 

Host Your Own Empathy Mapping Session

Try holding an empathy mapping session at work with your team members. It’s a great way to brainstorm together and hone in on your audience. Here’s how:

  1. Get all of your key stakeholders in one room. Invite people with a lot of experience working in the field or with your customers directly.
  2. Use a white board or posters to represent each of the four quadrants. Post them on a wall where everyone can contribute.
  3. Pass out pens and sticky notes to everyone in the room. Ask them to use one sticky note to represent each item within each quadrant: says, thinks, feels, does.
  4. Have each person post their sticky notes in the quadrants on the wall. Look for trends and commonalities and discuss as a group until you land on the most accurate representation of your target audience.

Then, the fun begins! Start building your content strategy based on these findings.

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