To enjoy a successful marketing career, you have to wear more than just one or two hats. You’ll need to understand project management, graphic design, and content creation — to name a few objectives. You’ll also need to be a good listener. That last one might surprise you a little bit. But we all know that being a good listener is important in many areas of life, both personally and professionally, including when it comes to your customers. Marketing is no different. 

The purpose of advertising and marketing is to influence the perceptions and behavior of the public with the goal of engagement, making sales, and building ongoing business relationships, right? The listening piece could very well be the missing piece when it comes to ads and campaigns that miss the mark. If the business owner doesn’t understand their audience, the message will feel false and engagement will be minimal. No one will care. 

How do you encourage customers to care about what you have to offer? Let’s be honest, people will only care about what you have to offer if what you offer is what they want. You need to go on a journey to find out what those wants are — by listening to what people are saying. 

Being curious about the desires and motivations of prospective customers will help you speak their language, create images they care about and give them the solutions to their problems. Asking questions and listening to the answers will give you the insight you need to create products and services that your customers will love. This is because what you’re giving them is what they asked for, even if they didn’t know that’s what they were asking! 

You need to listen to your customers. Here are some tips on how to do this in the best way possible: 

  • Build in Time. As a marketer, you’re always under pressure to create campaigns and strategies “yesterday.” Build in the time and the budget proactively that will allow you to gather input from your clients and customers. 
  • Choose Wisely. Make sure you’re talking to the people you’re targeting. Communicating with marketing colleagues will probably not tell you much about what your own clients think and feel. 
  • Speak the Language. Understand the words customers use when they’re sharing their needs and goals. Using “marketing-speak” when communicating with someone who is not in the business is almost guaranteed to result in some misunderstandings and incorrect decision-making. 
  • Don’t Be Obvious. Probe below the surface to find your customers’ motivations on why they make a purchase or a commitment. Open-ended questions are the absolute best. 
  • Empathy. Yes, this has a place in marketing, too. Your customers are real people with real problems. They will choose who they work with and buy from based on how the company makes them feel a large percentage of the time. When you ask them about how they feel, don’t forget to really listen to the answer!
  • No Judgment. Maintain neutrality when you are listening to what your customer is saying. It’s not about you today. 
  • No Assumptions. Never assume that you know what someone is going to say based on their demographics, appearance, personal beliefs, or any combination of these. This is a very common mistake that can cause you to miss out on some important perspectives. Expect the unexpected!
  • Take Notes. Make sure you notate what you hear for future reference and comparisons. A good rule of thumb is just to transcribe what they say at the time without “polishing.” 

I’m AnnaVija McClain, and I am a proud supporter of small business owners in Nashville, Tennessee and many other areas of the country, too. In addition to speaking and writing, I’ve developed courses and products specifically for small business owners and young professionals to help them overcome roadblocks and achieve their goals more quickly and effectively. From streamlining business systems to automating processes and developing talent, I have developed solutions backed by years of experience that will help you transform your business and your life. Let’s talk! 

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