listening to customers

Listening is a Misunderstood Part of Marketing

Actions speak louder than words, which is why “listening” to what your prospects and clients do can be better than listening to what they say. 

What’s better than a strong marketing message, right? 

We all, as marketers, want to craft the perfect message — the message that finds the right person at the right time, and grabs them with the perfect offer. 

Too often, though, we spend too much time and effort on crafting that message — getting the words just right — and too little understanding what that message should focus on. 

That’s a shame since most of our success is directly related to how well we understand our prospects. And there’s no better way to learn what our prospects want to hear than to listen when they tell us. Yes, our copy (or video script or podcast conversation) needs to be snappy and memorable and tell an emotionally compelling story, but style only matters if the substance is there.

But there’s more to listening than just using your ears. Listening takes many forms, and some are more effective than others when it comes to creating effective marketing. 

Focus Groups and Similar Listening
Oddly, actually asking your prospects what they care about, as in a focus group, may be the least effective form of listening. The observer effect is well documented and definitely has an impact on the data you gather. (As do the personalities in any given focus group, how they clash or connect, and whose egos are driven by a need to sound smart or funny.)

This kind of listening can yield insights, but require investment and expertise and can be more art than science. 

Ride-Alongs Other Sales Calls
Listening to prospects one-on-one, as in a ride-along with a sales person is great, as is listening in on recorded inbound inquiries, if that’s how your sales process works. The observer effect may still play a role, but not nearly to the extent, nor as often, as it would in a focus group where the whole purpose of the exercise is to get the prospects’ opinions. 

You’ll also find the added benefit of hearing both sides of the sales conversation. Paying attention to claims and reactions, questions and objections will produce insights into how the sales team perceives and presents value propositions and positioning. 

Mediated Listening
Surveys and other anonymized feedback tools can also get you actionable information from clients and prospects. Survey respondents must be comfortable that their feedback is anonymous and there is an art to crafting survey questions to be unbiased and to strike a balance between being so open-ended that respondents are too overwhelmed to  stick with the survey and so limited that they are kept from sharing the details of their thoughts. 

Data Diving
Actions speak louder than words, which is why “listening” to what your prospects and clients do can be better than listening to what they say. 

The content they are consuming, the questions they are asking, the searches they perform on your website will all provide information about the problems they are trying to solve and what they view as the risks that require mitigation. 

Tracking the topics that engage them most can help you create and present content that will make your prospects feel as if you are speaking directly to them and understand the issues they are facing. 

When you achieve that, the methods you use to get there are less important than the information you’ve gathered and what you do with that knowledge. 

Occasional large-scale changes can re-invigorate a marketing plan that’s beginning to falter and can provide a blast of inspiration that ripples out through the rest of your marketing. 
By the way, if you’re interested in hearing some of my podcast and radio appearances, you’ll find a few of them listed on the Andigo website.

Andrew Schulkind - Marketing for Small B2B Businesses

Photo by Larry George II on Unsplash

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