Customer insight: empathy or numbers?

22nd April 2016 | Posted in Content creation

Customer insight: understanding or data-driven?


I know data and analytics are all the rage.

But I just don’t believe that numbers are everything. They may give us some insight but are they helpful in driving empathy?

Are numbers a goal in their own right?

For a while I worked for an extremely large, well-known company writing articles for their corporate blog as a freelance journalist and copywriter.

Every time the company published an article the marketing department was all over the numbers looking at open rates, click rates – and that was just the start. If the audience hadn’t opened and read their email within the day, harsh questions were asked of us, the content providers.

In truth, nobody got to do that content provision job for very long. The client was constantly off in search of new agencies and new writers who could deliver the magic numbers.

This whole belief system around statistics doesn’t seem to sit well with putting the customer first. As communicators we should be standing in the shoes of the reader and understanding what needs and desires drive their behaviour. (And one of those behaviours is that they might not get round to opening an email or reading an article within 24 hours.)

Matching our readers with our expertise

I like to think about my audience a lot. After all, we’ve all drawn up our personas, haven’t we? We know what they do, why they do it, what their lifestyle is like? Even if the personas aren’t quite all that, as part of the whole marketing and selling process we should have a fair idea of who our customers are – and our ideal customers.

And we need to marry that up to what we can offer that no one else can. That’s what I think should be at the heart of our communications.

Stepping outside the “rules”

Here’s an example.

I’ve been writing the newsletter for a website for some time. It’s an information resource and it’s playing in an increasingly crowded market. We do have a product to sell but mostly we’re about being a trusted adviser.

That means we should carry that information provision into our newsletter. So I’ve been going against the tide of current thinking and writing a long newsletter that not only highlights the articles we have on offer but also reports the latest relevant news – with links for further reading.

Now accepted rules are that I really shouldn’t be linking out to other sites. Apparently readers won’t come back.

But the folk who were worried about my style broke down the analytics. And guess what? The most clicked on section of the newsletter was one of our articles, highlighted right at the end of the newsletter. So it seems that if readers had clicked out, they came right back in again.

And why do I do this? Because I want our readers to value us as a trusted resource. One that they can rely on to give them up-to-date, useful information both on the site and in all our communications. And that I believe will ultimately give us a more loyal readership and a better long-term relationship.

So absolutely the formulas people have created for getting people to your content and travelling along the customer journey are really useful. But they’re guidelines not strict rules. And sometimes it works to break them and go for gut instinct instead.


Would you like help in developing your customer communications for the best possible response? As a copywriter with over 20 years experience I can work with you to get to the heart of what your audience wants to hear. Simply contact me at [email protected] and we can start the discussion.

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