The Key to Active Listening

struto_choosing_to_listen_up.jpgHave you ever been accused of selective listening? We've all been guilty of it at least once or twice - just think back to your teen years. It's that state somewhere between paying attention and not, in addition to only hearing what you want, versus what's actually being said. And it's habit marketing and sales teams have been guilty of for years.

Great Inbound Marketing means knowing your target audience's needs, struggles and wants, and aligning your brand/product/service accordingly. But often marketers and sales teams forget to listen to their prospects carefully, and forge head by steam-rolling over them with sales scripts and content that in their personal opinions seems relevant and appropriate. And while there are loads of online blogs discussing how your sales team can implement active listening, how can your marketing team take active listening principles and apply them for greater success?

First things first. What is Active Listening?

In the field of psychology, active listening refers to a communication technique where a listener actively engages with a speaker during activities such as counselling and conflict resolution by repeating what the speaker has said to them, indicating and clarifying the speaking points and ensuring complete understanding on the part for all involved parties.

From an organisational perspective, sales teams are encouraged to practise active listening when dealing with leads and customers to ensure better communication and engagement. But active listening, or at least the theory behind it, extends beyond these uses and can be performed by inbound marketing teams as well, albeit in slightly different ways to the traditional norm.

How to Do Active Listening the Inbound Marketing Way

Start with Proper Buyer Persona Profiles

Your buyer persona profiles are the linchpin that secures your marketing's success - without them your efforts are more than likely to be a miss rather than a hit. They define the type of content you'll produce, your purpose for every marketing action you undertake and motivation behind it. That said, how well do you know them? Do you have in-depth insight into them, or have you merely made assumptions about them based on who you think they are?

Just as you wouldn't presume to know everything about a person merely on meeting them briefly, so you can't make assumptions about who your personas are. True buyer persona profile creation is rooted in reaching out to your current clients and prospects through research, surveys, questionnaires and then listening to the feedback they give you. 

Step Up Your Social Presence

The term "social media" doesn't have the word social in it for nothing. Social media platforms are perfect for practising your active listening. Pay attention to what your target audience is speaking about on social media. Use hashtags on Twitter to search what's being said about your brand, product, services or industry. Reach out to your Facebook community and engage with them. If a member of your target audience has a question, comment or problem, listening to them helps you pinpoint areas your marketing can focus on to solve the issue or improve upon their experience.

Conduct a Thorough Website Audit

Your website is undeniably one of your business's greatest assets. Or is it? It could be, provided you've factored in how well it's currently meeting your users' expectations and giving them a super UX. Using tools like HotJar, you can map out exactly how visitors to your site are behaving, and what's driving their actions. Knowing this allows you to spot areas of weakness or friction points grating your users and driving them from your site. Using the information you gather to improve your users' experience means you're addressing issues they might not have even realised they had in response to behaviour you've seen them exhibit. Consider it "non-verbal" active listening.

Make Your Content Mapping Precise

Based on how and when you're presenting your content to your buyer personas, you're either going to see success or failure. That's because a new visitor to your site isn't likely to want an in-depth product specification sheet and free demo, just as a visitor further along in the buying cycle isn't going to be happy on receiving an offer aimed at someone who is only recently discovering they have an issue that needs solving.

Your offers and CTAs need to be precisely aimed at your buyer personas in every stage of their buying journey. By reviewing the effectiveness of your offers and CTAs regularly, you can pinpoint whether or not you're actively meeting your target audience's needs at the right time and place by simply using their responses as a measuring stick. You can keep tweaking your content and CTAs, doing plenty of A/B testing and reworking until you're giving your personas exactly what they're looking for - before they even need to ask.

Active listening from an inbound marketer's perspective means something a little different to the traditional definition, but it's still a critical skill which needs practising in order to see more qualified leads being generated and ultimately delighted customers who feel understood and valued. So take the time to actively "listen" to what your target audience is needing, wanting and searching for by using their behaviour and plenty research to guide you. It's an invaluable exercise you won't regret!

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Photo credit:Tim Pierce

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