As marketers, we’re constantly under pressure to check things off our to-do lists. There’s always something more to review, another post to write, another campaign to launch.
Often, that’s a good thing. Our days are dynamic and fast-paced. We get to bounce from brainstorming to analysis to troubleshooting, all before our first cup of coffee.
That pace, though, sometimes contributes to a culture that places more emphasis on doing and less on listening.
Don’t get me wrong. Doing is crucial. As proponents of agile marketing, we believe marketers should always prioritize taking action over prolonged planning processes.
The best marketers, though, understand the need for balance. They know that they derive their best marketing decisions from a thorough understanding of their business, products, competitors, and customers. And, most importantly, they know that understanding these things starts with listening.
You can uncover powerful insights simply by having a conversation with the person down the (sometimes virtual) hallway.
But, what exactly do we mean when we talk about listening? Focus groups? Stakeholder interviews? Customer experience surveys? Social media monitoring? All of the above?
These forms of research provide unquestionable value to any organization by empowering marketers to listen directly to their audiences.
In many cases, though, you may find you can also uncover powerful marketing insights simply by having a conversation with the person down the (sometimes virtual) hallway.
Supplementing Marketing Research
Everyone in your organization has their own, unique expertise based on their background and their role within the business. Some have a better understanding of customer questions and needs. Others know your products and competitors, inside and out.
Their unique expertise means they also possess something of great value to marketers: insights.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to say that insights inform every aspect of a marketing campaign. From positioning, to channel selection, to creative execution and beyond, insights shape all the decisions we, as marketers, make when trying to connect with audiences.
Simple conversations can supplement research while focusing your thinking and jump-starting your creativity in several key ways.
Marketing campaigns, then, are only as good as the insights that drive them. Fortunately for us, we have a substantial, and often untapped, resource of marketing insights stored away in the minds of our coworkers. All we need to do to access this valuable intelligence is chat.
Now, we certainly aren’t suggesting that one-on-one conversations with other people in your organization should replace in-depth research. Far from it. Formal qualitative and quantitative research will always paint a much more comprehensive picture than conversations, alone.
With that said, simple conversations can supplement research while focusing your thinking and jump-starting your creativity in several key ways.
Even the most creative marketing minds benefit from finding new sources of inspiration. And, in the era of content marketing and social media, that need is amplified many times over. Marketers constantly need new ideas for blog articles, social media posts, videos, webinars, and more. It never ends.
Thankfully, individuals in your organization already have a treasure trove of marketing ideas and inspiration just waiting to be discovered, even if they’re not aware of it.
Looking to create blog content that will connect with prospects? Ask your sales team what questions frequently come up in their sales meetings. Want your social media posts to support employee recruitment efforts? Talk to a recent hire about what factored into their decision to join your team.
Not only will these conversations help fuel your marketing calendar, they’ll also add authenticity to your brand since your stories will incorporate actionable insights and genuine perspectives.
Learning the Language
For better or worse, every business and every industry has its own language. Certain keywords and labels that carry unique meaning within that space. How these keywords and labels are used in marketing can determine whether or not a message feels authoritative or suspect.
Who are the people on your team who have the deepest understanding of the products, problems, and processes that you need to understand?
The marketer’s job is to fully understand this terminology so it can be used—or, not used—appropriately in every context.
To gain this knowledge, marketers must seek out subject matter experts. Who are the people on your team who have the deepest understanding of the products, problems, and processes that you need to understand? And, who are the people who have the best handle on the language used by prospects and customers?
Get to know these people and rely on them to make sure you’re speaking the right language.
Sometimes, marketers get stuck. We may not like to admit it, but it happens. We get hung up on a specific idea, or a way of doing something, and we struggle to escape our own thinking.
The best cure for this particular ailment is to listen to new perspectives. Having a conversation with someone outside of your marketing bubble can spark your thinking in a million interesting ways. More importantly, it can challenge the assumptions that caused you to be stuck in the first place.
Because these new perspectives can come from anyone at any time, marketers should always be looking for opportunities to test their thinking by engaging with new people.
Capitalizing on Marketing Insights and Expertise
Even in small, well-run organizations, workplace silos form around teams. Just as marketing teams are busy with their work, every other team has its own endless list of to-dos, and each teams’ focus naturally separates them from one another.
For marketers, though, these silos limit information sharing, so it’s critical to find ways to break them down. In order to capitalize on the insights and expertise of everyone in an organization, marketers must seek out opportunities to chat with individuals from different teams.
When you reach out to invite someone to chat, explain how it will be beneficial to everyone, not just the marketing team.
When you do, though, understand that you’re asking them for their help, so keep these things in mind:
Know Who You’re Speaking With
Are you speaking with someone who likes to chat over coffee first thing in the morning? Do they prefer casual conversations or structured meetings?
You may not know the answers to these questions at first, but the sooner you’re able to adapt your conversation to their own personal preferences, the sooner you’ll build a productive relationship.
Be Respectful of Everyone’s Time
You know how you feel when other people waste your valuable work time, so don’t make that mistake when connecting with individuals from other teams.
Share information about what you’d like to discuss ahead of time so they feel prepared for the conversation, show up on time, and finish on time (unless the individual wants to keep going). Everyone will appreciate it.
Explain How the Conversation Benefits Everyone
When you reach out to invite someone to chat, explain how it will be beneficial to everyone, not just the marketing team. Depending on your organizational culture and its attitudes toward marketing, this may take a little work.
If you’re speaking with the sales team, talk about how your work can help improve lead quality. If you’re speaking with the customer support team, talk about equipping them with a better digital experience. The key is to find the marketing outcome that will make their lives easier and explain how your conversation will directly support it.
Be Attentive and Keep an Open Mind
There are plenty of helpful articles that talk about being a good listener, so I won’t go into those details here, but the basic idea is to be attentive, work to fully understand what the person is telling you, and keep an open mind even if what the person is saying goes against your own thinking on a particular topic.
It’s that simple. You don’t have to solve all the problems, and you certainly don’t have to win any debates. You’re just there to listen and learn.
Say, “Thank You,” and Share Successes
After your conversation, be sure to follow up to thank the person for their time and their insights.
Once you’ve seen some sort of positive outcome from the discussion, share that information with the person, as well. Explaining how the discussions benefit everyone will be helpful, but showing it with actual results will provide a solid rationale to keep the conversations going.
Taking the Time to Listen
At this point, I’m sure you’re starting to wonder how you’re going to fit more tasks and more meetings into your already-booked schedule. I understand.
The conversations that we’re talking about here are not intended to take up a significant amount of your valuable time. In fact, depending on your goals and the nature of your organization, you may really only need to meet with a few key people from different teams on a quarterly basis.
The important thing to remember, though, is that these discussions, and the insights they provide, will improve your marketing decisions. By blending a range of expertise and diverse perspectives with your own, your marketing will be better informed, better targeted, and better produced.
So, give yourself permission to slow down (at least a little bit) and listen.