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Weekly INsight: The First Step: Listen

As the new age of modern marketing has engulfed marketing teams, the art of listening has faded. It’s possible that with all the search tools available, teams believe they merely have to search and not listen. INsight #1 suggests that without proper listening we are not doing our jobs very well. Marketing is not immune to this, although I recognize some readers will push back, thinking this is yesterday’s thinking.

As we continue to distinguish between the art and the science of marketing, this INsight is focusing on science. Many marketers have a real disdain for the science of marketing. This is especially true in advertising agency teams where creative strategy often trumps data-driven strategy. This is why I am promoting a “listen first” approach to modern marketing. At its core, marketing is about inspiring the next sale. But marketing needs data and structure before it can form a comprehensive brand brief grounded in data and the science of marketing.

We have a lot of data, but marketing often fails to connect the dots leading to creative strategies (the art of marketing) that mirrors what the data is telling us (the science of marketing). With these two marketing forces pulling teams apart, we have to get back to the art of listening and better understanding where brands live. INsight #2 asks where do brands live. Most people will say “on the shelf” or some other tangible space. In fact, brands live in our conscious and subconscious minds and are influenced by way too many stimuli and impulses to possibly count.

The marketing messages that teams create begin inspiring thought in consumers’ minds. The goal of marketing is to inspire the next sale, but before that happens, the messaging has to seed ideas in people’s minds, make them feel a certain way and finally inspire a sale. This is profound thinking in the digital age. It’s a lot of little messages that all come together from a multitude of sources to influence the sale. Some of those messages come from the marketing team via ads, blogs, tweets, emails and app messages. But even more come from beyond the marketing department.

Some of these messages come from other departments in the company through their interactions with customers; others come from influencers and referrals. Together these mind-catching stimuli build a spider map that focuses enough emotion to engage the customer to make a purchase. INsight #3 comes from Daryl Weber, author of “Brand Seduction.” His comment was “Brands are on Mars, consumers are in New Jersey.” Not only are marketing teams not on the same wavelength as their customers, they are not even on the same planet.

I believe the disconnect is created because marketing has lost the art of listening. Maybe we are too busy searching as noted above. I want to break down “listening” into four clusters. They are all interrelated and have to be interwoven into a brand brief before any creative or messaging can begin:

  1. Listen to your data – Make sure it’s the right data to give you the most comprehensive view of your marketplace. Make certain you have the right KPIs and understand that trends are more important than data points. Move beyond traditional KPIs.
  2. Listen to your prospects – Identify as many as you can and engage them, not once but routinely. Ask them questions and build a response mosaic. Track their social and search movements and build another mosaic. You will inspire new business by influencing their mind maps to focus on your messages and your brand.
  3. Listen to your customers – Every one of them has a story to tell, and it is your job to give them an opportunity to tell it. Not only will you know how they feel about your warts and beauty marks, but you can address the issues restricting the next sale and negatively impacting customer retention.
  4. Listen to your stakeholders – Get off the marketing floor and away from the C-level suite. Go work with some sales teams, sit with a customer service representative for a day, ride with a delivery driver, and talk to a warehouse worker. Understand the whole process that is the quilt pattern of your business. I promise you will learn a lot – maybe more than you really want to know. And here’s a big surprise: Your brand lives in your stakeholders’ minds just like it does in your consumers’ minds.

We’ll close with INsight #4: Listening is as much an art as it is a science. It is the core of everything we do to create how we inspire the next sale. Remember where your brand lives, and you have taken a major step forward in understanding how to inspire the next sale.

Bart Foreman – Executive Strategist @ Infinity Direct
Turning old ideas into new thought leadership

I will be joining Tom Harding, Infinity Direct CEO, on January 29-30 at the Air Force Contracting Summit and am honored to give a marketing presentation to the entire audience – “20/20 Marketing.”

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Bart Foreman • January 21, 2018


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