Empathy is the #1 skill a copywriter — or business owner, or human in general — can master.
Why? Because when you understand, truly understand, your ideal client, you naturally create the content that serves them best.
Loyalty comes from trust.
And trust comes from empathy.
Let’s dive into how to create high-quality marketing content, including eight effective ways to show empathy in your copywriting — and why it really does matter so much.
“Assume the reader knows nothing. But don’t assume the reader is stupid.”–Ann Handley
When I read that line in Everybody Writes, I immediately wrote it down.
Because that’s what it means to write with empathy.
Let me explain.
In the same book, author Ann Handley outlines her three-part formula for copywriting success:
Utility × inspiration × empathy = high-quality content
Utility means you’re helping the reader.
Inspiration means you’re motivating them.
Empathy means you’re connecting with them on an authentic, deep, “wow-she-really-gets-me” level.
When all three come together in one website, Instagram story, YouTube video, or other piece of content?
You’ve just made marketing magic.
The paradox of writing is that while your personal experience informs your work, your work is ultimately not about you.
It’s about your reader.
Or, in the case of copywriting, your customer.
I won’t give you the whole “know your audience” spiel (although if you’ve never done a customer avatar exercise before, now is the time!).
Because it’s not enough to simply know your audience. You also have to feel them.
If I’m being totally candid? I’m still working on this myself. As a writer, I can get stuck inside my own head, and that can translate to rather verbose, conceptual writing.
See: this blog post so far.
But I want to get better at writing with empathy. I’m (spoiler alert) in the process of a rebrand, so in the coming weeks, I hope to do a lot more deep-diving into who my ideal client is, what they want and need, and how I can help them — actually help.
Because here’s what I know to be true:
The difference between you and your audience is that you have the product or service that solves their problem or improves their life.
It’s up to you, as the copywriter and/or business owner, to bridge that gap.
And bridging that gap requires you to educate… without condescending.
It’s a tricky task, because in all reality, you do “know better” than your audience — but you aren’t better. And you’d better not come across that way!
A surefire way to turn someone away from your business is by talking down to them.
You need to talk with them, as though they’re sitting across the table from you, eye to eye, sipping a glass from the same bottle of wine you’ve just opened to share — a nice syrah, one you brought up from the cellar purely for this occasion.
They aren’t just a guest. They’re a family member whose story you know like the back of your hand.
So, what does empathetic writing actually look like, especially as it pertains to your marketing content?
Here are eight practical tips to (copy)write with empathy:
In the end, writing with empathy comes down to being generous.
When we give generously — of our time, energy, resources, or words — we take ourselves out of the equation. We take care of others instead.
And the rest takes care of itself.
Interested in becoming a better, more empathetic copywriter?
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