To be in business you must offer differentiating value to your customers. Because your customers are the arbiters of value, it’s essential that you view the world through their eyes. The Empathy Map is a useful tool for eliciting, capturing, organizing, and understanding their worldview.

The Empathy Map Canvas by Dave Gray at XPLANE

Using the Empathy Map

Informed by the insights from your customer conversations, it’s time to visualize your thinking with the help of The Empathy Map. It’s helpful to print as large a copy of the canvas as possible (or replicate it on a whiteboard) and populate it using (moveable) sticky notes.

  • Start with the Goal section at the top of the map. Who is the subject? Be as precise as possible. What do they want or need to do?
  • Work your way clockwise around the canvas until you’ve enumerated what your target customers see, say, do, and hear.
  • Now it’s time to get inside your customers’ heads. What might they think and feel? What gains do they hope to achieve? What pains do they wish to avoid?

Recall the Ladder of Inference that Laura Black described at the 3:38 mark of the timeline of Learning Faster with Effective Feedback. Seeing, saying, doing, and hearing are things that a video camera could record. Such observable data helps us imagine what it feels like to “walk a mile in our prospective customer’s shoes.”

Next Steps

To be honest, most of us skip over this entire process most of the time. It can be painful to challenge our intuition regarding the wants and needs of prospective customers. The downside for not doing so is an avoidable waste of time and money.

Those who engage in productive customer conversations and organize their insights using The Empathy Map will be better prepared to craft and communicate a compelling value proposition using frameworks such as The Value Proposition Canvas and Marketing Physics.

Key Ideas

  • Value is personal, contextual, and relative, and customers are the arbiters of value. So, we need to learn to see the world from their perspective in order to design compelling value propositions.
  • Confirmation bias makes having productive customer conversations challenging. Jake Cook’s “3 x 5 x 10 challenge” and the principles of The Mom Test will help us test our assumptions productively.
  • The Empathy Map Canvas helps clarify our thinking about what our customers need to do, the gains they wish to experience, and the pains they wish to avoid.
  • The output from The Empathy Map Canvas can be used to design and communicate a compelling value proposition.