how to create an empathy map

How to create an empathy map

november 7th, 2016 Posted by design, management, marketing No Comment yet

Building customer profiles is a time-consuming task, but sometimes you just don’t have that luxury of time. In those cases, creating an empathy map is your best alternative. It is a fun, free way to create a general consensus within your team about specific stakeholders (or subcategories within your target audience). However, the most important perk of creating an empathy map is that with this tool, you will be able to start innovating your products and services within a matter of hours. At a later time, the empathy maps can be incorporated in your customer profiles or you could use them as complementary material.

Why would I use an empathy map?

The knowledge one acquires while constructing an empathy map enables you to put a human face onto your audience. Secondly, it offers the possibility to increase the focus in marketing and communications.

An empathy map will portray the possible behaviour and underlying emotions of your target audience. In essence, an empathy map will breathe new life into their demographics. During the process of creating an empathy map, you will put yourself in place of your target audience to learn to understand which worries, wishes and needs they have and how your product or service can contribute to their way of life.

What’s needed to construct an empathy map?

Filling out your empathy maps is simply done by completing the following sentence:

Our target audience X (or stakeholders) need a better way to _________________ because they ____________________. The answer to this question is the most important building block of improvement.

To construct one or more empathy maps, you will need nothing more than a whiteboard, a marker, all the data about your audience available to you and a selection of committed team members. We advise you to create a diversified team with specialists from account management or sales, customer support, affiliates, product development, marketing and communication in order to ensure that different types of knowledge about the target audience are represented in your team.

Draw a representative portrait of your target audience on the centre of your sheet. That portrait is created in order to help other team members visualise the target audience. Create two smaller areas on the bottom of your sheet, name one goals and write down pain points in the other. Divide the space around the portrait into five different areas and write one of these five subjects down in every single one of them: To think, to see, to hear, to feel and to do.

Main subjects within an empathy map

You can discuss all of the aforementioned subjects one by one and fill in all five areas together as a team. As the moderator, it is your responsibility to provoke thoughts and to keep everyone focused by asking specific questions. Write comments down or provide your team members with post-it’s so they can write down their own thoughts regarding the subjects.

Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Pain points: What keeps your target audience awake at night? What are their everyday challenges and obstacles in life? Which risks are they willing to take?
  • Goals: What are their desires and dreams? What motivates them to get out of bed every morning and face the day? How do they go about reaching their goals?
  • To think: How does the target audience see themselves? What are their most important worries and needs? What keeps them busy?
  • To see: What is their user-specific environment? How do they perceive your product or service? Who are their friends? To which norms and values are they subjected? What is offered to them by others during their everyday life?
  • To hear: What do their friends say about your brand and portfolio? What does their family say about the needs and desires which are intertwined with the product or service you offer them? What do other influencers (users, role models and superiors) say? Via which media do they acquire their information?
  • To feel: What does the target audience hope to gain from the use of your product or service? Which emotions precede the process? Which emotions do they experience during the customer journey?
  • To do: Which words does your target audience use when talking about subjects related to your service or product? Which words does your target audience like to use? How do they feel about news and trends? How does a typical day of your target audience look like? Where is the tension (discrepancies between what they really think and how they act)?

Is it really necessary to create such a map?

Interviewing, creating customer profiles, collecting data and creating empathy maps might seem like a lot of extra work. But it will provide your organisation with guidance. An empathy map is a great reflection of the knowledge and preconceptions of your team, which also makes it somewhat one sighted and subjective.

The more accurate your description of your target audiences is, the more focus you can create within all of your organisational layers and the more effective you will be in the end.

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Marketing and Communication Specialist at TAS - Tells a Story
Maike van Oyen is a mother, friend, sister, daughter and dedicated communications and marketing specialist on the side. She has written many articles for several websites in both Dutch and English about Corporate Communications, Marketing, Change Management and HR.

Maike loves to sink her teeth into complex projects of change and has a good knowledge of communication on a strategical, tactical and an operational level. She is trained to work in hectic environments (she manages to write blogs while also doing the housework, watching 4 misguided missiles and working for TAS at the same time). And is used to finding creative solutions for every challenge.
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