Reach Your Audience Through Compassion and Personalization (and How AI Can Help)

Knowing how your customers feel is key to understanding your audience. While getting to know each and every one of your customers on a personal level isn’t realistic, there are approaches and tools that can help.

Knowing your audience allows you to curate the perfect message, tone, and voice for your customers.  

It enables you to really articulate the problem they're facing and the solution you're providing. Done well, your conversion rates go up, social media activity rises, website traffic gets livelier, and sales increase. Done poorly, you inadvertently waste time and resources without getting any closer to understanding your customer's wants and needs.  

So how do you get to know your customers? Our advice is to stop relying on abstract data and instead focus on human concerns to create a personalized experience.  


Why Abstract Data Doesn't Help

KYA (aka, Know Your Audience) as a marketing tactic is nothing new. A quick google search will give you page after page of blog posts, books, and videos that hammer home the importance of knowing who your audience is and what matters to them.  

What many of these sources focus on, however, is demographic data and purchasing statistics. While these are important numbers to have, numbers alone will not help you connect with your audience in a way that matters.  

Take buyer personas, for instance.  

Most buyer personas are not, in fact, the best representation of your target customer. "Tech-savvy Tom" and "Manager Martha" will give you your audience's age range, marital status, occupation, and financial situation. Coupled with analytics data, your buyer personas may also tell you how often certain people access your website and how many open your marketing emails. This is a lot of information, but it offers little about what truly matters: the why.  

That's not to say that demographics and analytics data are useless. On the contrary, both are extremely valuable. There's a difference between talking to a single woman in her 20s and a married man in his 50s. And analytics can help you understand which landing pages are most visible and what kind of content receives the most traction.  

The problem with just using abstract data is that it is abstract. "Tech-savvy Tom" and "Manager Martha" are not actual customers. They can act as a good proxy for the behavior of your customers, but they cannot tell you why certain actions are preferred over others. In other words, you need more than statistics.  


Why Compassion Is Key

Demographics can't tell you how your customers feel, and how they feel is key to understanding your audience.  

Mapping the customer journey, in this case, requires you to consider their actions, thought processes, and emotions. Think about it this way: When we talk with close friends, we're not just discussing superficial or quantitative questions like "What are you buying?" "What are you doing today?" or "Who did you talk to yesterday?" We're also likely going to talk about why. Questions like "Why did you decide to buy that?" "Why don't you want to go out?" or "Why do you trust them?" You'll likely discover that, like most people, underlying emotions and seemingly irrational motivations are what compel your customers to act the ways they do.  

I call this Compassionate Commerce. It's a way of mapping customer emotions to data in order to flesh out what the numbers really represent. You might have a fantastic, logical, and functional service or product, but unless you can connect with customers on an emotional level, your marketing strategy won't be as effective.  

In a practical sense, this means gathering more conversations instead of demographics. Mine customer reviews, sift through online conversations (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, online forums, etc.), and conduct your own customer interviews to get at the "why" behind your audience's actions.  

Only by conversing with your customers can you understand their language. Once you understand their language, you can apply it to your marketing materials. A fintech company, for example, might advertise its services as a way for banks to "save time on loan applications." This fairly generic statement could apply to just about every bank. Who doesn't want to spend less time working?  

Instead, you can give voice to a bank manager's specific concerns with messaging like, "Eliminate manual processes" and "allow your team to focus on building customer relationships." Your message is now more personable and individualized, making your audience feel valued and heard.  


Why AI Is Changing the Game

Getting to know every one of your target customers personally is unrealistic. Yet that's the level of personalization and attention people desire. The solution: AI.  

Artificial intelligence technologies are making it easier to know your audience. These algorithms can scale personalized messaging while delivering real-time insights about which messages resonated best and which fell flat. And this technology is becoming more and more accessible. Salesforce, for example, has already released a new version of its Marketing Cloud that includes AI processing.  

AI is reshaping how marketers think about data because using AI to personalize messages in real-time is becoming more accessible. AI can pull customer data from a range of sources instantaneously. Crafting buyer personas, pinpointing new market segments, and drafting demographics charts can be done instantly.  

> Read more from CMSWire: 6 Ways AI-Based Personalization Is Improving the Customer Experience  

What AI algorithms lack is the capacity for compassion and creative strategy. As stated above, demographics and analytics data are critical, but your ability to understand the (often irrational) motivations behind those numbers is paramount.  

Knowing your audience matters, and it's more complex than the typical buyer persona would suggest.  

Technology is making data collection, analysis, and personalization easier than ever before – and marketers have an array of tools at their disposal. But nothing beats human conversation, connection, and compassion.  

If you're looking to connect with your audience in more meaningful ways and use technology to do it even more intelligently, reach out to us. We'd love to help.  

Malinda Gagnon

Malinda is CEO at Uprise and has more than 20 years of experience in business strategy and technology at companies including Google and WPP, and has advised clients such as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, VW, BlackRock, and Walmart.

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