Select Page

We’re dishing on the #1 secret to writing marketing copy that engages and inspires action: empathy. Learn from global marketing expert, Erin Whalen, the secret to successful relationship marketing–knowing how to build authentic, personal connections with your ideal clients and customer. 

If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit the follow button on the player (• • •) and share it with your friends and colleagues. ~ Big Love, April

In this episode, we’re going to look at copywriting strategies to help you effectively inject empathy into your marketing copy and reframe your message to focus on your audience during a disruption

00:00 – Introduction
00:55 – How to rethink your marketing during a disruption   
02:58 – The value of offering help without strings attached 
05:47 – Give people what they need to build trust
08:25 – Where is empathy in marketing going? 
10:52 – Why people buy from companies with purpose  
13:35 – Fear-based marketing and why it doesn’t work 
16:54 – Effective marketing communicates a clear message

18:00 – One key to effective marketing is to inspire action 
20:55 – Earning community gratitude
24:43 – Look for opportunities to fill the customer’s needs

Erin Whalen bio

Erin Whalen, affectionately known as the Word Wrangler, is a copywriter and digital content strategist whose writing has generated millions of dollars for her clients. She has written for online marketing companies, global software giants, digital marketing agencies, and NYT-bestselling authors such as Jack Canfield and Iyanla Vanzant. Erin believes that the secret to successful relationship marketing is knowing how to build authentic personal connections with your audience. And the key to that?  EMPATHY. 

Thank you for tuning in to the Leader Lounge Community podcast. If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit follow and share with your friends and community.

Links to additional resources

Erin Whalen’s website:

Get Erin’s free copywriting masterclass and learn The Secret to Writing Copy that Inspires Engagement & ACTION:

Join Erin Whalen’s 12-week WordPower Academy to learn how to write your best copy ever!                                           

Follow Erin Whalen on Instagram: 

Follow Leader Lounge on Spotify:

Follow Leader Lounge on Instagram:

April Qureshi’s website:

April on LinkedIn:

April’s books on Amazon:

Book April to speak at your event:

Episode transcription

April Qureshi (00:02):
Hello, and welcome to the leader lounge community, where great leaders bridge the gap between people and performance. I’m your host, April Qureshi. In today’s episode, we’re gonna look at copywriting strategies to help you effectively inject empathy into your marketing and reframe your message to focus on your audience with copywriter and digital content strategist, Erin Whalen.

April Qureshi (00:29):
Erin, welcome to the show.

Erin Whalen (00:31):
Thanks for having me April

April Qureshi (00:33):
And Erin. So I’m curious, how has the crisis changed the way that you and your clients are talking to your specific audiences?

Erin Whalen (00:41):
Oh, that’s a good question. So back in the middle of March, when all of this really happened, as sorry, someone just literally started using a chainsaw.

Erin Whalen (00:55):
Okay. Well, anyways, so back in the middle of March, when all of this started happening my main client who, as you know, is you know, one of the leaders in the personal development field was pretty much, I wouldn’t say caught off guard, but they were pretty shell shocked because most of their money comes from event marketing and suddenly events that were happening this spring had to be canceled. And that’s a major source of revenue for their company. So in a split second, they had to completely rethink what they were sending to their audience, how they were talking to their audience, what they could possibly promote to their audience to help their audience deal with this whole situation. And they turned to me and asked me to come up with a whole communication strategy that would allow them to do that. And so what I felt was most necessary to do that was to really look at where people were at in their lives, because really that’s the whole point of, you know, effective communications when you’re marketing is to give people what they need when they need it.

Erin Whalen (02:03):
I think that that, you know, is the foundation of it. And so immediately it was looking at where people were going to were at when a global pandemic hits. And so, you know, it was obvious that a lot of people were gonna be scared. They were going to be worried about their job, future, their financial future. They were going to be worried about their health. They were going to be dealing with a lot of uncertainty in their lives. And so what I suggested and what the company, you know, enthusiastically did, which was awesome, was immediately focus on helping people. And they were in a good position to do that because a lot of the stuff that they teach is how to thrive in any sort of situation. And so it was great because what they teach is exactly in my point of view, what people needed to be thinking about and hearing in a time of uncertainty and you know, worry.

Erin Whalen (02:58):
So for the first couple of weeks, basically we emailed people more, as opposed to less, we emailed them every other day. And all we did was offer help. And I mean, no strings attached, no products being sold. It was, here’s how you remain calm when you’re worried. Here’s what to do when there’s uncertainty in the world. Here’s how to meditate, to calm your mind and to think clearly here’s good news that you should be thinking about because of course in any point of time, there’s not only bad news, right? The news is full of it because of course, everybody wants to know more about what’s happening, but at the same time, there’s amazing progress in the science community, dealing with this pandemic. There’s amazing stories about people helping each other in communities everywhere. And so what we wanted to do is help people maintain positive, focused mindset so that no matter what was going on, they could see the bright spots in their world and remain calm think clearly.

Erin Whalen (04:06):
And you know, be able to respond to whatever was happening with resilience and optimism, really, because no matter what’s happening, things can always get better if you do something to make it better. Right. And so that’s what we did. We focused on helping and, you know, at the end of a few emails, because obviously the company still needs to make money. We would say, and if this is interesting to you, you might want to buy this book that goes into this you know, whole concept in more detail, or you might want to check out our online program that gives you a systematic approach for how to apply these principles in your life and, and all of that kind of stuff. And the interesting thing is, is that the company has been doing very well as a result of that. They’ve been selling more of their online programs than they did at this time last year.

Erin Whalen (04:57):
They have been getting a huge, positive response from everybody in their community, you know, all of their customers and clients. And the funny thing is, is that they have a very high price point training program. It’s a certification program and people have to spend something like $15,000 to join it. And they were supposed to be having their main week of live training in person in April. And as soon as this happened, what the company decided to do was they got on the phone and they called every single one of those people in person and talked to them personally and said, this is the situation. This is what we’re doing to address the fact that we’re not gonna be able to meet in person. Don’t worry. We’re still gonna be giving you a ton of support. It’s just going to happen online.

Erin Whalen (05:47):
Now, we’re going to be having more person-to-person connections as a result. And we’re going to be offering you new resources that we’re making right now to help you thrive during this crisis and help your business thrive and all of that kind of stuff. And not one of those people asked for a refund, not one of them said, you know what? This program is changing in a way that I didn’t anticipate. And I really wanted to do it in person. So, no, I, I think I’m gonna ask for a refund, but not one of them. And so, you know, it just goes to show you in, my point of view, that when you focus on the people who you are wanting to connect with and you give them what they need, if you can ground yourself really firmly in their perspective, and look at what’s happening from their point of view and ask yourself, what do they need right now to thrive and then give them that then the money is secondary.

Erin Whalen (06:42):
The money will come afterwards, right? Because the people will trust you. They will know that you are highly invested in their well-being. And when you can convey that to a potential customer or client, and they actually trust you and think that what you’re giving them is in their best interest, as opposed to your best interest, just trying to make money. People really respond to that. And I think that that’s the heart of all good marketing is, is focused on what people actually need and give it to them in a way that makes it work for them. And that’s how money happens, right?

April Qureshi (07:17):
You just went right to the heart of the whole matter. And I have no more questions for you because I think you said it all right there. But so what I heard you say, Erin was that giving people what they need rather than what we think that they want. And, and I liked what you said about building community. So this, this high price program that your client was, you know, right in the middle of just, just as a crisis was taking place, you know, creating a community around that and creating a marketing message that is empathetic with how people might be feeling in a time of crisis. It is key to, you know, like you said, creating trust and creating long-term clients rather than just a transactional-based kind of communication mm-hmm and that’s really powerful. Do you think, do you think that this empathy and marketing, is that a new thing, has that been around for a while or is that new and, where’s it going from here?

Erin Whalen (08:25):
Well, it’s a really good question. I think that if you look at any sort of you know, marketing manual whatsoever, they will talk about the importance of focusing on what your audience needs. Right. You know, like that’s the whole core of successful selling is knowing what people want and giving it to them. I like to think of it in terms of empathy though, because, for me, it really represents that idea of getting into the heart of the people who you’re trying to serve and really looking at it from their perspective and always focusing on their needs first where it’s going. I don’t know, it’s something that I’ve been talking about for a number of years. And I think that it resonates really well with a certain type of entrepreneur, you know I grew up as a copywriter you know, being told to read things from certain giants in the copywriting world who I found very off-putting because it was clear to me that the kind of copywriter or salesperson they were talking to was not me because what they focused on was you know, they talked about potential clients or customers in terms of leads and prospects.

Erin Whalen (09:45):
And they really focused on you know, this is how you get them eating out of your hand. And they really focused heavily on the you know, make millions of dollars by with this one simple trick type stuff. And I found it really dehumanizing it didn’t, you know, I got the message and, you know, I used a lot, you know, I, I took their principles and I understood them so that I could use them, but I wanted to use them in a way that made me feel good because I’m kind of a weird marketer. I kind of hate the word marketing because it has a lot of somewhat you know, negative connotations to it, to a lot of people. And for a long time, I was one of those people before I got into the marketing world.

Erin Whalen (10:28):
The reason why I’m here is because I simply love writing and it gave me an avenue to do that and to learn a lot of really cool stuff. But for me, I would prefer to use communication. I mean, it sounds really simple and it’s, you know, but that’s, to me what good marketing is, is simply good communication. It’s a dialogue. It’s not just a, you know, a broadcast blast out of a megaphone telling people to do stuff. I don’t think that’s super effective at all.

Erin Whalen (10:52):
I think it’s actually as much as humanly possible trying to reduce it down to a person, to person conversation, because when people see the person behind the business, they’re far more likely to buy from you, people buy from people, they don’t buy from businesses, right. I mean, they do, but people will be far more likely to buy a product because they like the personality of the company.

Erin Whalen (11:19):
They like the CEO of the company. They like the purpose that the company says that you know, is their guiding light, as opposed to just, you know, a logo and a brand name and all of that kind of stuff. So I think that with the onset of the internet and you know, how it does allow us to communicate far more effectively with people, I think that what we might see is you know, even more, increased personalization. In fact, anyone who asked me from March on what I thought about you know, what they should be doing with their communications. I said, send personal emails. And I realized it’s more time-consuming to write an email to one person, as opposed to writing an email to thousands of people. But every single time you reach out and you connect personally with a person, they appreciate it.

Erin Whalen (12:18):
And they feel that there is that relationship, right? Like every time I get an automated email that is very clearly fill in the blank automated email, I don’t feel like it’s speaking to me. And so I usually ignore them FYI. But if I see an email that is very clearly from a person who’s like, Hey, Erin, you Erin, not just fill in the blanks merge in the first name, Erin, how are you doing? Then I’m always gonna respond to it. Right. So I would say that if you are trying to communicate more effectively and more empathetically with people, I would try to narrow who you’re talking to as, as much as possible, if it makes sense for you to send out personal emails to people, I would do that. If you have a very large audience who you’re talking to, I would try and segment it down if you know what that means as much as possible and, and talk to people as specifically as possible, you know, people talk about targeting and marketing and some people find that kind of nefarious. But to me, it’s, it’s just trying to make sure that the message is as specific to that person or that group of people as possible. So yeah. I don’t know if that answered your question. I could talk about this kind of stuff all day long. So you should probably keep me focused

April Qureshi (13:35):
Yeah, there was a bunch of stuff, really key that stood out there for me. One was the fear-based marketing and this like, fear of missing out and, you know, how it seems disingenuous, you know,

Erin Whalen (13:51):
I hate fear-based marketing. I hate it. I hate it so much, you know, and that’s one of the things when I say, you know, when I was like first learning, how to write copy, of course, most of the copywriting manuals and instruction guides and courses that I was required to take did talk about fear-based marketing a lot, and pain points. And I hate that. I hate talking about pain points. And it’s funny because some people might look at what I write and say, well, you are doing it, but I don’t think that I’m doing it. And I don’t think that I’m doing it in quite the same way. I would much rather focus on the carrot than the stick. Right. I think. And, and when we’ve done tests, when we’ve tested different kinds of emails against each other almost always, if you are trying to get people to focus on their desired experience and saying, if you do these things, this desired experience is possible, as opposed to focusing on the experience they’re trying to avoid and saying, if you don’t do these things, this is the terrible outcome, you know, that you’re going to have to deal with.

Erin Whalen (14:55):
Almost always the desired experience, the carrot instead of the stick is far more effective. And even with the fear-based ones, I remember when I first started out and I was working for a direct marketing company when we used fear-based marketing, those marketing campaigns had so many more refunds than the other ones. It was really interesting, right. Because when you get people to act on fear, often they have second thoughts afterwards, and they’re like, oh, maybe I don’t want this after all. Because then the fear of the larger situation starts to kick in. And they’re like, maybe I can’t afford this. You know, I’ve just signed up for this program and its thousands of dollars. What was I thinking? You know, like I thought that this was the only way that I could avoid this terrible fate that they were talking about, but now I’m on the hook for thousands of dollars. And so I would myself personally, and I know that there are other marketers who might disagree with this, but for myself, I can’t write copy and feel good about it unless I’m focusing on a desired experience and not using fear-based marketing because I, I wouldn’t be happy with myself. I don’t, I hate it. .

April Qureshi (16:12):
Yeah. And, and then it’s, like you said, right, it’s just good communication skills. And so getting a message across whether it’s a current client it’s a potential client, a past client, and maybe even in larger organizations where, you know, the communication these days is solely directed to their employees where, you know, the employees are like in a swirl and, you know, not knowing what’s gonna happen in the next few months as we start to reemerge into the marketplaces. And, and I think what you’re saying is applicable not only to marketing to clients and online digital marketing, but, you know, I think it’s just good communication skills.

Erin Whalen (16:54):
Well, I think more information is always better, right. And if people are living in a time of uncertainty, offering them more information makes them feel more grounded and, and secure. Right. So if I was managing a company and I was wanting to make sure that I was retaining my employees during this time, you know, like if they’re having to, I don’t know, for example, get laid off, or if they were having to go down to reduced salary or something like that, like, I have no idea what’s going on in big companies right now, but I would be sending them emails on a regular basis. Like every couple days, like even a daily touchpoint and being like, here’s what the situation is today. This is what you need to know. We’re all in this together. And if you did that, if you were focusing on the fact that as a corporation, you’re a community, you’re a family and that everybody’s looking out for each other, I guarantee that you would be getting a lot more loyalty. And all those people, even if they did have to get furloughed for a period of time would be really happy to go back, not just for the money, but for that sense of yeah, we are a family working together in this and I feel like you’re supporting me right. Mm-Hmm people need to feel supported at this time.

April Qureshi (18:07):
Mm-Hmm . Yeah. And one of the keys in marketing is to inspire action. And so whether it’s, you know, talking to clients or to, you know, your team in the workplace, you know, inspiring the confidence for them to reach out and take action of any sort, just to touch in, you know, if it’s, if you’re working in a team or an organization, just, you know, having that, that open door, so to speak, and then, you know, with clients and you know, potential clients, you know, just having that, that ability to, to have that openness. So people can feel that they can reach out and they feel safe and they feel like they can, it’s a place where you know, they can talk about the things that are going on in their lives. So I think this has been really valuable what you’re sharing with us here, it’s, there’s so many key points that I wanna take away. And but if there was one thing that you wanted to leave with our listeners today, Erin, what would that be?

Erin Whalen (19:11):
Hmm, let me just look at my notes. I have a whole bunch of stuff.

Erin Whalen (19:18):
Yeah, I think that you know, I’ve got notes here saying now is the time to focus on people, not profits. And I wrote that in the middle of March, when someone was asking me for you know, my thoughts on what was happening. And it was it was after we’d started emailing. And that first round of emails that we sent out when we were just helping people, the company was getting so many emails back and phone calls from people saying, thank you for giving us this at this time. This is exactly what we needed. And, you know, when you create that gratitude on the part of the people that you’re serving, they remember you, right? Like you stick in their heads and they do think, well, the next time I need whatever it is that company offers, I’m going to get it from that particular company.

Erin Whalen (19:59):
Because I feel, I, I love them. You know, I feel supported by them. I feel like they’re reaching out and focusing on me. And so you know, I, I, I do think that when you focus on the people first, the profits will come, right? Because you create that loyalty and that bond, that results in lifelong customers. And what you said earlier about focusing on that lifelong loyalty aspect, as opposed to just making business a transaction, I think is huge. And so I would, I would encourage people to think about that recognize and honour where people are at right now and meet them there and ask always, you know, what do people need? They need to know that you care about them personally, and not just see them as, you know, a bunch of walking dollar signs. They need to know that you want to help them and that you want their lives to be better, and they need to know that they can trust you.

Erin Whalen (20:55):
Right. So anything that you say you obviously have to be living up to your word don’t offer anything and then follow through on your promise or you not follow through on your promise. If you have a capacity to be a helper go for it. I think a lot of local businesses in our community have really stepped up in a big way during this time and earned a lot of community gratitude based on what they’re doing. And I’m talking about, you know, grocery stores offering weekly, or, you know, several times a week updates on how the supply is doing so that people can feel reassured about when they’re gonna be able to get the groceries or the, you know, specific items that they’re looking for. You know, they don’t have to do that, but the fact that they do that is huge.

Erin Whalen (21:41):
And you can see the gratitude that they’re earning in the company but on the basis of everyone’s replies. So, you know, if you can do things and help in the larger community, you know, without making it a rah, look at me, I’m doing all of this awesome stuff, kind of stuff, but just being there, being visible and helping without obviously looking for some kind of reward, I think that that goes a huge way into building loyalty and confidence. And if you can, I know that everyone’s busy, you know, it’s hard to run a business and do all of the things involved with that and do everything else. But one thing that I’ve noticed as I do this writing is spending time on social media as time-consuming as it can sometimes be, has been really beneficial for me in a lot of ways this time because I can see what people are talking about.

Erin Whalen (22:33):
I can see what they’re worried about. I can see what concerns they have, what they’re sick and tired of, what they’re dreaming about. And that kind of information has been very helpful for me as I create a communication strategy for my clients, because when I see what they’re dreaming about and hoping for, I’m like, okay, so what can we offer them that allows them to get that end result? Right. And even funny things like, I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter, on Facebook, people I don’t even know who are talking about how totally sick and tired they are of seeing people write in these unprecedented times because everybody’s using that language now in their marketing. Right. And, and people are like, oh my God, if I ever see that again, I’m going to shoot myself or. And so guess what phrase I am no longer using in any of the emails I write because people are sick of it.

Erin Whalen (23:23):
And, you know, as soon as something becomes a cliche or it loses its meaning, or it seems forced or inauthentic, that’s the time to be like, okay, so, you know, maybe there’s a new message that needs to be coming out. So I would say if there’s one thing that you should take away as a business owner or someone who’s trying to connect with people right now is go to where your people are. If you know that a lot of the people who you want to attract as clients or customers are on Facebook or on Twitter or Reddit, or wherever you tend to hang out, go there and see what they’re talking about, see what they want, see what is driving them crazy, see what they don’t want, see what they need, and then ask yourself within the context of your business, how can we help them get that?

Erin Whalen (24:09):
Because that’s how you find out what they want. Right? and that’s, that’s how you can find out how you can grow as a business. Right. I know it’s super cheesy and I know a lot of people might not wanna hear this right now, but I really believe it in the depths of my heart, that in any challenge, there’s always opportunity. And right now the world is in flux and everybody’s kind of, you know, waiting with paused breath to see what happens next. Well, we have the power right now to choose what happens next and try and, you know, create a future that will make us happy, maybe happier than we were before.

Erin Whalen (24:43):
And so I would say, look for the opportunities, look at what people are complaining about and saying, you know, this is not something we want anymore and look at what they’re hoping they will have in their lives. And look at your business and see where you can fit those needs. Because I think that there’s a lot of opportunity here to grow as a business, as a society in really excellent ways. And so it just requires people to step up and do that.

April Qureshi (25:13):
That’s amazing advice, Erin, thank you so much. And I, I really like what you said about what I heard you say was to be intentional about our social media, because we can easily get trapped in the rabbit hole, social media, and, you know, just talking into blank space most of the time, but actually being intentional with email and sussing out what it is that our people really need from us right now and following through on those on those clues and, and, you know, just being of service. So it’s a beautiful message that you’ve spoken about here today. And I really appreciate what you’re saying. And so if, if, if, if our listeners wanted to find out more about your work, where would they go to find, find you

Erin Whalen (26:03):
? Well my website, Erin That’s E R I N w H a L E is basically my kind of online headquarters. I would say they could also find me on Facebook, on, J Wellen I believe is my thing. And I totally invite people to friend me on Facebook if they haven’t already, because with my job, I do spend a lot of time on there. And I’m always happy to engage with people there. But I do have fun, little freebie that I’ve created for anybody who’s interested in. There’s no opt-in required, but if you go to Erin, I’ve recorded a 30-minute masterclass on copywriting called the secret to writing copy that inspires engagement and action. And it’s a 30-minute video. It requires about 10 minutes of writing on your part, where you have to stop the video and do some writing. So, you know, give yourself 45 minutes. And it dives into a lot of the stuff we’ve been talking about here in a deeper way, and it will give you the opportunity to generate some ideas around how you can communicate more effectively with the people who you want to be attracting into your business. So if that’s something that’s interesting to you, I encourage you to check it out at what did I say? Erin, all one word.

April Qureshi (27:29):
Wonderful. And so go ahead and click those links. They’re gonna be associated with this video in Erin’s speaker profile. So, you know, be sure and follow up with her. I know that I’ve used Erin in my business in the past and gotten wonderful results and I recommend that you check her out online.

April Qureshi (27:52):
Thank you for tuning in to the leader, lounge community podcast. If you enjoyed this episode today, be sure to hit follow and share with your friends and community. Until next time, bye for now.

Originally broadcast in May 2020 during the Lead From Within Global Leadership Summit at the onset of the global pandemic. My purpose for republishing is that the value of the conversations with leading experts around the globe is still relevant and will continue to be a touchstone for empowering business and community leaders with innovation and compassion during challenging times.