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Beyond Demographics: How to Understand Customer Mindsets Through Empathy Mapping

If you are marketing a low-cost widget to a mass audience of consumers, it is possible that creating personas that leverage only demographic data could work.

However, if you are

· Selling a highly specialized product

· Promoting a service

· Marketing an expensive product

· Focusing on B2B

· Attempting to tap a niche audience

Your personas need to go beyond simple demographics.

Through empathy mapping you will be able to dig deeper into the mindset of your target audience to understand your customer’s goals at each stage of their journey; anticipate what they may be doing, seeing, hearing; empathize with how they are feeling; provide solutions to their questions and uncertainties in a way that resonates with them, and ultimately drive them through the sales funnel more efficiently.

What is a persona?

User personas are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users.

Because it is impossible to reach everyone at once, it is critical to narrow your focus to clearly defined core audience groups, aka personas. In turn, this helps you develop an effective targeting and messaging strategy that appeals directly to the type of consumers who are more likely to convert into customers.

  • The personification of a group of people segmented by several factors including demographics, psychographics, mindsets, and buying behaviors

  • Necessary to help you understand the needs, behaviors, and interests of your users or potential users

  • A mix of hypotheses based on observations, customer data, and exploratory research meant to be tested and evolve over time

  • Tools to better understand a segment of people to guide their decision-making process, build trust, and engage in a more authentic and effective way

Common persona structure

Traditional personas focus on the “Who”​ and the “What” and demonstrate the extremes of behavior within a population-based on targeted attitudes and data points. They tend to rely heavily on demographic data and typically include:

  • General description

  • Demographic information: age, occupation, income, marital status, location

  • Hobbies

  • Social media channels

  • Current feelings

  • High-level personality traits

  • Needs + Frustrations

Example of a common persona

This persona is helpful if we are a B2C company attempting to sell John a new snowboard, golf accessories, or a CrossFit gym membership. But what if we were a business selling a service to John the Director at a large manufacturing company?

Mindset-based persona structure

Mindset-based personas focus on the “Why”​ and the “How” and describe the generalized attitudes and mental models within a population-based on broader trends and data. They typically include:

  • General description

  • Business profile (Typical titles, functions, industries, budget authority, org size, team size)

  • Technologies they use

  • Responsibilities

  • Where they seek information

  • Personality traits

  • Barriers

  • Motivations

  • Pain points

  • Customer data/research to validate assumptions

  • What they need from a partner

  • What makes them a good fit

  • Client challenges

  • What success looks like/how to delight

  • Content recommendations

Example of a mindset persona

But how?

Human-Centered Design

“We spend a lot of time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.” – Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs. It is anchored on building deep empathy with the people you’re designing for.

Key principles:

  • Ideation

  • Iteration

  • Implementation

Empathy mapping

Empathy mapping gets to the “why” and allows you to create human-centered personas that clearly identify the buyer’s mindset. Empathy mapping is a great tool to help deeply understand the thought processes, emotions, feelings, pain points, and thoughts of your customer.

Key discovery points:

  • WHO are we empathizing with?

  • WHAT do we want them to do?

  • What do they SEE?

  • What do they SAY?

  • What do they DO?

  • What do they HEAR?

  • What do they THINK + FEEL?

  • What MOTIVATES their behavior?

  • When and where do they SEEK information?

  • What are their PERSONALITY traits?

  • What DON’T they want?

“When you understand the people you’re trying to reach—and then design from their perspective—not only will you arrive at unexpected answers, but you’ll come up with ideas that they’ll embrace.” -IDEO

Who should be involved to help ensure a complete persona?

Remember, people support what they help build so it is critical to include people from many departments with many perspectives. Suggested stakeholders:

  • Sales

  • Marketing

  • Operations/HR

  • Service

  • Customer Success/Customer Service

Is there a tool for that?

We wouldn't write this incredibly long blog post and not give you a tool!

Download PDF • 407KB


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