Want a Better Return on Investment? Think Return on Empathy

Want a Better Return on Investment? Think Return on Empathy

150 150 Rob Lovitt

empathy, ROI, patientsAccording to conventional wisdom, the key to marketing success is to maximize ROI or Return on Investment but Martin Ingwer, founder of the Insight Consulting Group, would beg to differ.

Instead, he suggests, the key is to focus less on the data-driven correlation between marketing costs and subsequent sales and more on the emotional relationship between you and your intended audience. A good ROI, of course, is a good thing but in these socially driven times, a good ROE — that is, Return on Empathy — is every bit as important.

Profitability should no longer be relegated to sales figures and profit margins alone, says Ingwer. Increasingly, to create sustainable customer relationships, businesses must attend to innovations in psychology, and invest in the emotional needs of their customers. Those making this shift will gain a significant ROE — return on empathy.

The problem, of course, is that people’s emotional motivations are complex and aren’t easily revealed by traditional metrics. Surveys, focus groups and the like can reveal patterns and trends but they’re not very good at uncovering the underlying emotions that ultimately drive so much of people’s decision-making.

The solution is to engage in what Ingwer calls Empathetic Marketing, an approach that’s clearly relevant when it comes to the emotion-laden, potentially life-changing decisions that people make when considering cosmetic surgery. Sure, most patients are seeking to fix a physical problem but more often than not the real reasons speak to deeper concerns like the ones they express when sharing their stories on realself:

For Sgwtexas, for example, a facelift isn’t just a facelift:

I have recently divorced after a very bad twenty-year marriage. Life now is wonderful and I am looking forward to many happy years. But was it the stress of the marriage, or just that I had turned 55? It seemed that suddenly I was looking much older, my jawline had crumbled, my neck was sagging, my mouth lines made me look angry. I thought how nice it would be to get a facelift. I had lost twenty years and I wanted some of it back!

And for Workinmomma819, a tummy tuck isn’t just about removing some excess skin:

I am a 31 year old mom of 2 wonderful kids who really took a toll on my former bod. I had terrible pregnancies, 2 miscarriages, now I am lucky to have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old plus a crazy intense full time job — needless to say my plate is full and the bottom of the life totem pole for the past 8 years has been my figure to say the least. My self-esteem has taken a toll and it’s time for me to do something for me.

And while dmc1025 clearly underwent a rhinoplasty to fix a perceived flaw — “I have always disliked my nose and wanted to fix it” — it’s just as clear that her outcome was both physically and emotionally satisfying because she found a doctor who listened, cared and empathized with her rather than simply “go for the sale”:

I have seen Dr. Parson’s work. I found his services to be outstanding. Neither he nor his office staff is pushy and they always take time to answer all your questions. All the options and alternatives are presented so a patient can make an educated decision… I wish all physicians were as thoughtful and patient-centered as he is. I would choose Dr. Parson again and again and again.

If the above patients have one thing in common, it’s this: They weren’t just looking for a doctor with the technical chops to perform their procedures. They were looking for someone who honestly cares and while it should go without saying that all good doctors care about their patients, it’s also important that that message comes through loud and clear in your marketing efforts. As Ingwer writes:

When businesses work to build lasting customer partnerships, they see a tangible return on empathy. Their efforts are rewarded through sustained relationships that often endure and grow beyond shifting trends to deliver greatly enhanced lifetime customer value.

Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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