Listening and Engaging

Last week’s Philadelphia Interactive Marketing Association meeting featured a panel* of highly experienced marketers talking about the value of social media and what they’ve been doing in their organizations. Most of the conversation was geared towards B2C markets and focused on customer service, but a lot of what was said is applicable to thought leadership marketing. In particular, they addressed the value of listening and engaging.


In simply saying those two words, it seems obvious that you would want to do both to build your thought leadership brand and build your business. But the panel talked about ways of thinking about listening and engaging that might not be what first comes to mind.

It’s well known that listening to your customers is key to providing products and services that they want and need. But for you to be successful, you have to begin listening to your prospects early — before developing your strategies and your thought leadership marketing plans — and not only after they’ve become customers. In doing that your prospects will guide you in how they want to be listened to and engaged with you, in particular what the best contact channels are for engaging with them: social media, email, print (yes, you can engage with print), telephone, websites…. You need to understand that engagement initiatives are opportunities for you to learn how to engage.

And remember, listening that doesn’t turn into action of some kind isn’t really listening at all. As you begin to engage more often with your prospects and customers, you’ll discover that you’ll make mistakes and that it’s important to realize this and be prepared to make changes based on what you learn.

Engaging with your customers and prospects is what you do to try to reach marketing goals, like retaining customers, developing leads…. But in today’s social media world, it’s easy for a vocal minority to lead you astray. You absolutely want to engage with these folks — they are your customers and they might have the ability to influence lots of other customers and prospects. But you can’t assume that what they are saying represents your market in general. You need to do more traditional types of marketing research before you make decisions. Also keep in mind that, according to Steve Ennen at the University of Pennsylvania, research shows that, in general, influencers influence only a very small percentage of most markets. So engage with your influencers, listen to them, but don’t overvalue what they have to say.

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