Marketing people often think like sales people, focusing on the pitch of their product or service. However, before even creating that pitch, they need to do some “listening” for the pitch to be effective. Every savvy business owner knows they need to consider the various constituents in their target audience — their partners, shareholders, and, especially, their customers — to build a business with positive results. They need to understand their audience’s demographics, but also get their feedback, learn their tastes and preferences and find out what resonates with them and gets their attention. Businesses need this data to not only develop a product or service that meets their audience’s needs but also figure out a way to market to them that gets them to buy. To do that, business owners need to listen.
Listening in marketing entails letting your customers express their needs and challenges, share their stories and convey any concerns or objections. By listening to your customers, you not only come to truly know and understand them, you build the trust that can establish a real relationship with them.
That said, the kind of listening I want to discuss in depth here actually goes beyond sitting down with your customers and hearing what they have to say (although you should definitely do that!). There’s the listening you need to do on the Internet — something many business fail to consider. Outlined below are the “listening” techniques that need to be part of your business strategy to market effectively as well as deliver top-notch products and exceptional customer service.
Paying Attention to Social Media
Since social media entered the marketing landscape, it has given businesses the opportunity to do something they couldn’t do before — interact with their target audience. “Listening” in the social media context means actively monitoring the conversations, topic focuses and traffic taking place, particularly in relation to a specific marketing campaign, activity or event you conducted and/or posted. Social media includes your company pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, your company’s presence on crowd-sourced review sites such as Yelp, your blog, your YouTube channel and any other online sites where your target customers might converse and share content.
You don’t want to miss out on joining the conversations taking place online, as they give you the opportunity to not only get feedback and reactions, but also clarify a misunderstood subject, answer a question and respond to a concern or criticism. From a strategic perspective, you also gain the ability to:
- Create the perception you want customers to have by being accessible and showing there’s a human face behind your brand;
- Obtain valuable, actionable insight into your customers’ mindset and motivations that you might not otherwise be able to gather (such as through a survey or focus group);
- Develop real engagement with current or potential customers; and
- Positively influence a potential buyer or customer.
Online listening may also help you with developing or updating your marketing strategy and with your product or service developments or upgrades, allowing you to reduce development times and time to market. Clearly, online listening provides the business owner or marketing person with valuable information that can be used in a variety of ways.
Listening in Marketing Successfully
Of course, to be successful at online listening, you need to be actively committed to participating in it. The more social media channels you are involved in, the more time you will need to devote to it. By listening actively and consistently, you will optimize your chances of gaining that valuable insight and information. You will be perceived by the market as a company that understands the value of social media and by customers as a company who cares about what they have to say. By embracing social media’s opportunities to interact directly with your target audience, you boost awareness of your products and services and drive more customers to your website and in your direction, generating quality inbound leads. You can build a new or stronger relationship with a customer.
More importantly, active listening allows you to screen for any negative comments so you can quickly deliver a response or resolution, turnaround the situation and generate goodwill. Your responses to comments and conversations (whether positive or negative) should be guided by company policies and procedures that are developed specifically for social media communications. With a set of policies and procedures in place, you will ensure that you or the person(s) you task with managing or monitoring your social media are focused on projecting the right image, conveying the right messages, supporting positive customer engagements and driving customer appeal.