In an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), by James Allworth, [Empathy: The Most Valuable Thing They Teach at HBS], Blockbuster and Netflix are cited as examples when making the essential point of their article: “to step out of your own shoes, and to put yourself into those of someone else.”
Allworth notes “people don’t buy things because of their demographics — nobody buys something because they’re a 25-30 year old white male with a college degree — but rather, because they go about living their life and some situation arises in which they need to solve a problem… and so they “hire” a product to do the job.”
How does empathy fit in with this?
Well, as the article points out, those businesses who are able to “put themselves in the shoes of their customers.” have a definite competitive advantage. It’s not what you think your customers need that matters. It’s what they think they need that makes the difference.
This can be a challenge to many of us. It’s easy to think we know what people need. But what do they think they need? What are their challenges, the problems they need or want to address, now or in the future? When we tap into this and people know we’re interested in meeting their needs and able to deliver what they’re looking for to meet their needs, our business just may flourish.
As Zig Ziglar says, ” You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” I think it’s true.
Back to Blockbuster and Netflix for a moment. Businesses of all sizes can and do fail. Many “go out of business wanting to sell to customers what they want to sell to customers, rather than what customers want to buy.”
The HBR article is well worth the read. It’s not long but it is chock full of wisdom that can be applied to all areas of life and not just business.