Medical research reveals something about Internet marketing

Doctors either have a “bedside manner” or they don’t. I remember being told about a top cancer specialist who could not engage with patients, so merely used to tap them on their foot as they lay dying in their bed, look the other way and say “soon be OK old chap”. My doctor mate who was his registrar, decided to leave – he couldn’t stand working with someone who had no way of empathising with patients.

And according to a new study of the way doctors connect with patients, empathy appears to be a significant factor in whether or not we trust our doctors. Sadly, only 15% of doctors tested appear to be able to behave empathetically – it seems that the bulk of them treat us in a biomedical/scientific way.

In other words, those doctors who “see” medicine from the scientific perspective are the least liked, they are less trusted – and significantly they tend to have poorer patient outcomes than those who focus on being empathetic. This is yet more evidence that when we see things from our own perspective, the people we are talking to don’t like it.

It’s the same for Internet marketing – indeed any form of marketing. See things from your business perspective and you won’t do as well if you see things from your customer’s perspective. As an example of what I mean, consider for a moment the Daily Star newspaper in the UK. This is squarely aimed at young men – pictures of almost naked women, cheeky headlines and loads of sports news…oh and a smattering of important news items…! The newspaper itself is owned by the publishing empire, Northern and Shell, which has altogether a different image. This is much more sober – people with PhDs on the board, PriceWaterhouseCoopers as accountants, and a charitable trust which gave away more than £10m last year to needy causes.

There is clearly a huge gulf between the people who operate the company and the readers of the Daily Star. Indeed, the shareholders of Northern and Shell may not even like what the Daily Star prints – but here’s the important point – they know that the Daily Star’s readers like it. In other words, they see the newspaper from their readers’ perspective, not their own, perhaps more moral position on semi-naked ladies.

And that’s where most Internet marketing goes wrong – not it’s lack of semi-naked lovelies, but rather its failure to see things from the perspective of the audience. There is a huge lack of empathy amongst most marketing. Almost every web site is from the perspective of the company that it’s about, rather than from the perspective of the audience.

Probably, the doctor’s survey stands true for the Internet too. If only 15% of doctors are showing any empathy towards their patients, it’s probably the case too that only 15% of web sites show any concern for their readers.

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