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What's in your customer's mind?

by Pete Mosley

Published: July 2017

This year, I have been involved in a number of really exciting professional development programmes for artists and makers – delivering key aspects of Crafts Council’s Hothouse programme, delivering sessions for The London Creative Network and running a series of workshops for Staffordshire University’s Creative Futures MA students.

I’d like to share a technique that I’ve tried and tested in all these contexts because it gets fantastic results and really seems to give artists and makers a fresh insight into how they communicate with their customers.

We often base our marketing activity on what seems to work well for others instead of really thinking through what might be best for ourselves – often because it’s hard to know where to begin. Indeed, this is one of those tricky areas where unique solutions are hard to find. The technique I’m about to describe is great for generating fresh ideas. It should help you focus your marketing efforts more effectively.

It’s really important not to fall into the trap of thinking that you must employ every single marketing technique in the book – often a few well-chosen activities work better than blasting stuff around in all directions.

I’m going to lead you through a thought experiment. You will need a large sheet of paper, some post-its and marker pens. This is also the sort of thought experiment that works well when you do it with another person who is trying to solve the same set of problems – so if you can find a buddy who is willing to sit down with you for couple of hours and try this out, you will both benefit.

The technique is called Customer Empathy Mapping – simply put, you are trying to get into the mind of your customer and look at the world through their eyes. If you have more than one stream of income – for example, you make work to sell and you run skills based workshops, you will probably need to do this exercise twice – once for each income stream.

Here’s how it works:

Think of a typical customer. Write down a brief description if you can. For the duration of this experiment imagine yourself as that person.

Let’s create a scenario to work with: Imagine that you have just decided that you want a piece of contemporary craft for your home or office.

Step One: Thinking and Feeling

What are you thinking and feeling? Start writing down the thoughts that come to mind – what will it be made of, do I want textile, ceramic, glass, or a print, maybe? What size, colour, shape, form? How and where do I want to display it? Who do I know that might be able to help me or give me advice? Where have I bought something like this before?

Step Two: Looking and seeing

Where will you be looking to solve your problem – what might you see that will influence your decision?

You may be looking at magazines, browsing online for inspiration, seeing things in other people’s houses, walking past shop windows… are you the sort of person that looks at YouTube as source of inspiration? You may also be looking at things like Facebook and Pinterest.

Step Three:  Saying and Doing

Who will you be talking to about your dilemma? How will you verbalise your requirements? Will you be asking for advice or comparing notes with a friend? Where will you be going – to the shops, to galleries, to high street stores? What will you do there?

Step Four: Hearing

What will you hear that might influence your decision? (if you are a non-visual person, this might be crucial) What role will other people’s opinions and advice play in helping you make a decision. Do you listen to local radio – would you pay attention to that? Do you listen to podcasts or recordings of radio shows?

Step Five: Pain

What is the problem you are trying to solve? What’s the pain or discomfort that needs to be alleviated? Is it a sense of something being incomplete? Are you replacing something that was broken? Have you recently moved house or redecorated and need to remodel a room?

Step Six: Gain

What will you gain from solving this problem? How will you know when it’s sorted? What will the maker provide you with? One thing or many things? What will leave you feeling satisfied or that the problem has been solved?


How is all of this useful to you, the maker?

Everyone has a different balance of learning styles. Marketing has to appeal across these different learning styles. That’s why video, for example, is so powerful. By attempting to see the world through your customers’ eyes, by empathising with them, it’s easier to see what you need to do in order to connect with them effectively.

Find out more:

The Customer Empathy Map first appeared in the book Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur (20 Aug 2010)

If you do a Google image search for Customer Empathy Map you will come across templates for completing the exercise, plus loads of examples of templates that have been already filled in – for all sorts of different businesses. Don’t be tempted to shortcut the process by pinching someone else’s solution!  It may seem like a painstaking thing to do, but the effort of doing it yourself is well worthwhile for the insights it will give you.

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