A successful career in marketing requires many skills, such as copywriting, graphic design, and project management.
But there’s one skill everyone in marketing needs to master, no matter what their role: Listening.
Here’s why listening is essential for marketing success and 10 tips for doing it better.
How Poor Listening Leads to Bad Advertising
The purpose of marketing and advertising is to influence peoples’ perceptions and behavior.
But many ads and campaigns miss the mark. The premise of the ad feels phony, the dialogue is contrived, the message fails to engage the audience, or the audience gets turned off or confused.
Why do these campaigns fail? As a marketing consultant, I think the reason is a misunderstanding of what the target audience feels or cares about as it relates to the product.
When the marketer and/or marketing agency doesn’t effectively listen to customers and prospects before developing the campaign, they aren’t able to craft messages people can connect with.
How Listening Becomes Understanding
Most companies try to listen to their customers and some invest heavily in customer satisfaction and market research.
But listening is more than the ability to hear what people say. It’s being curious about someone’s desires and motivations and having the empathy to understand what people mean and how they feel.
This capability is crucial for marketing professionals trying to create images and messages people will notice, care about, like, and remember when making a purchasing decision.
The most effective marketers are exceptional listeners. They recognize the human emotions behind peoples’ words and use this insight to create products people love and advertising and marketing that feels authentic, has real meaning to the audience, and resonates with their hopes, fears, and desires.
10 Tips for Being a Better Listener
How can you listen more effectively as a marketer? Follow these tips:
- Take the time. Marketing is a fast-paced business and there’s huge pressure to create campaigns and strategies quickly. But if you really want to succeed, you need to build in the time and budget upfront to gather input from the client, customer, and prospect.
- Listen to the right people. Talk with the people you’re actually targeting with marketing – customers and prospects – not just your marketing colleagues or people like you.
- Learn the lingo. If you want prospects to relate to your marketing messages, you need to know the terms and phrases they use when talking about their needs and your product.
- Delve deeper. Go beyond the obvious questions (“Are you satisfied with our product or service?”) to more probing queries that help you understand the motivations that drive behavior. Make questions open-ended so people can use their own words.
- Feel the emotion. How do people feel about your company and themselves when they use the products or services you provide? Do they feel confident, happy, pretty, smart, safe? Listen for the emotions underlying the purchasing decision.
- Listen with your eyes and ears. People reveal a great deal with their body language when they talk. They lean in, make direct eye contact, and use their hands to emphasize their points. Watch carefully and notice the details; see what makes their eyes light up.
- Don’t be judgmental. Be impartial and neutral when listening. Remove your own biases. It’s not about what you think – it’s about what they think.
- Avoid stereotypes. Don’t assume you know what someone is thinking because they are young, old, male, female, married, single, a high school dropout, or a Ph.D. Making assumptions based on stereotypes or demographics is a common mistake.
- Take careful notes. Relying on your memory can be dangerous, even if you’re under 30. It’s too easy to remember what you think someone said, not what they actually said. Record and transcribe the discussions. Focus groups always should be recorded for the marketing team.
- Reflect on what you’ve heard. Think about the totality of the discussion afterward. What was the customer or prospect really telling you? What stands out most in your mind? What do they truly care about? This is what you need to know to create marketing campaigns and content that engage people on a human level.
The Payoff for Good Listening: Smarter Marketing
When ad campaigns fail due to miscommunication, marketers pay the price in lost market share and wasted resources.
Your marketing campaigns will gain authenticity, resonance, and engagement – and you’ll have a smarter marketing strategy – if you hone your skills as a listener.
Do you agree about the importance of listening skills in marketing?