New buyers are driving an inbound marketplace, which means that now more than ever, marketers need to re-learn the importance of listening, and how to listen to new buyers. Consider:
Decision makers today have a more powerful voice than ever, but many companies don’t know how to listen, choose not to, or don’t follow through on what they learn. Listening where others do not is one of the most effective ways to establish your brand as a thought-leader and build trust. It is also the only way to consistently create the best content for your audience. Listening to the marketplace is a lot like listening in the marketplace. There are two ways to do it: eavesdropping and conversations.
Buyers are already online, already shopping, already asking questions that your team can answer.
Marketers are surrounded by conversations about their industries and niches, we just need to pay attention and respond correctly.
The internet comes fully equipped with a big bag of spy tricks:
If you’re not already spying on your market, start where you’re most comfortable. If email is your forte, set up Google Alerts first. If you spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, jump into a new group or two. If Twitter and Facebook are your favorites, get set up with Hootsuite. As one tool becomes a comfortable part of your schedule, add another one and expand your scene.
With your ear to the door, make sure you’re listening for what is being said as well as what is not being said. In small settings, someone may withhold a compliment or a criticism to avoid a potentially awkward conversation. But if buyers are talking about you, and they don’t know you’re listening, what they don’t say can be just as important as what they do say. How are you positioning your brand? Green? Community-focused? First in customer service? If your audience isn’t saying those things about you, you’re not hitting the mark. Are you focused on solving a problem that no one is having, or providing a solution that no one seems to be looking for? Maybe what you thought was bad marketing was actually just an uninterested market.
Seventy-one percent of Twitter complaints are not responded to, which means the bar has been set low enough for your brand to jump over all day long. Gather information to use in planning your content calendar and your next employee training event, but don’t forget to respond in the interim. Immediately. When a client shares a positive experience and you happen to see it, be thankful, humbled, and inspired. Re-post it, and then ask how you can help him get the answers or information he is looking for today. When someone posts a criticism or complaint, be thankful, humbled, and inspired. Contact her privately to apologize, get details, and solve the problem.
There are a lot of tools and strategies to help marketers figure out what their prospects and buyers are looking for, what they want and need, and what they’re buying. Some of those tools are very helpful, but they can also distract from the power of a simple, honest conversation. There are two strategies for facilitating those conversations: you can sponsor private conversations, or host public ones. Each will emphasize different variables, and provide different degrees of feedback. Start with one strategy, and then branch out to the other. Your best plan is a well-rounded pool of input.
Private conversations with buyers will provide opportunities to dig deep into your buyers’ perspectives, visions, plans, and struggles.
However you do it, plan to do very little talking. Start with big-picture, open-ended questions, and follow up to drill down to the details you need to serve your audience.
When you get together with your clients for private conversations, keep them private conversations. Resist the urge to make it a marketing gimmick by shouting from the rooftops about how interested you are in your clients. Keep it real.
Social media continues to change the way people communicate, and especially so in the marketplace. Organizations of any size now have unique opportunities to hear from their audiences, so take full advantage of the possibilities. You can schedule specific events based on an industry, niche, or topic, or participate in (and even facilitate) ongoing conversations.
Hosting or facilitating ongoing, public conversations will keep your brand connected to the topics, questions, and solutions that your audience is discussing. It is a great takeaway resource to offer your audience after a scheduled event, and a simple way to get started with public conversations while you set up your first scheduled event.
Private and public conversations will accomplish varying degrees of the same basic goals. Private conversations limit exposure, which means you won’t move the needle much on generating trust – except with the few clients you meet with. You will, however, gain some deep insight that will help in content creation. On the reverse, public conversations will help build your reputation as a trustworthy thought-leader, but you may have shallower conversations than you would in a smaller setting. Mix and match your listening opportunities as much as you can, but always remember that the goal is to gain insight, build your reputation as a leader (who listens), and generate trust.
Good marketers have always listened and learned from their markets. Today’s self-published, social internet has made it easier than ever for brands to listen to buyers, but it has also made it less common because everyone wants to share their voices. Be the brand that remembers the value of listening, and that utilizes the breadth of the social landscape to listen well.