Silverpop - Building a Core Competency in Customer Listening
It appears you are using an older version of your browser. This site was developed to be progressive and future-compatible. Please take a minute to upgrade your browser for an optimal experience.
Skip to content
  • Subscribe:

Building a Core Competency in Customer Listening

by: Dave Walters (@_DaveWalters)
09 June 2016

ListeningThe best marketers I work with are always considering how to drive more revenue, create more meaningful interactions and more deeply segment their users. And these advanced strategies are rarely based on building the proverbial “better mousetrap” for outbound messaging. More often, the biggest-bang changes are discovered in putting themselves in the shoes of their customers.

Just like in real life, becoming a better listener almost always means you become a better communicator. So let’s look at two distinct areas of listening: 1) the beginning options for how to listen; and 2) how to structure the function within your company to maximize its effectiveness.

How to Tackle Listening

Customer listening can take many forms, but let’s focus today on the smartest strategies that align with solid marketing automation best practices. Sure, you could go listen to an afternoon’s worth of inbound support calls (which every marketer should do at least quarterly), but I’m going to focus this post on two tactics that are massively scalable:

1) Website Tracking: One of the core tenets of great marketing automation is the ability to “listen” to the behaviors of known (and unknown) visitors to your website. This page-level detail on specific users should be a key source of understanding the behaviors and needs of your customers. At the macro level, this information will provide great clues as to which types of content are – and aren’t – contributing to key desired outcomes like purchase conversion or scheduling a demo with a sales rep. And at the individual level, these behaviors should be the specific actions that add together to qualify a visitor for an automated program.

In a hardcore B2B use case, the desired outcome might be to schedule a demo with a sales rep, so triggering an inside sales call following three site visits, two downloaded white papers and one session with a configuration tool turns out to be a killer strategy. This level of listening and understanding can be the beginnings of a massively scalable listening function that any marketer with a website should be thinking about.

2) Social Listening: If tracking your users on your website is step one, then understanding how they think and talk about you externally is the next level of competency. At its simplest, every marketer should be monitoring their brand mentions on key channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

There are literally hundreds of tools out there – ranging from free to tens of thousands of dollars a month. In my experience, the companies who are well-positioned to listen and act based on the data are better off spending more than less – but every brand needs to start somewhere. So if you haven’t bookmarked, go do that now.

The smartest marketers I know now think about their social strategies as equal parts publishing and listening. If you really want to get into the individual attributes of your best prospects and customers, think about more scalable technologies like Watson’s Personality Insights API.

Where to Focus Listening

If your organization hasn’t built this function already, then there’s probably also some question about who should “own” it. The shortest answer is find the executive that cares the most about “Voice of the Customer” and figure out how that person runs the function. Many days, that’s a director or VP in support, but could just as easily be someone in marketing or operations. Whoever will act on the data gathered should be the answer for your company because there’s virtually no benefit to be gained if the function is built but no one acts on the collected data.

To be brutally honest, if you’re a manager and not completely confident your executives will act on the data, then keep the function low and fast within your realm. Begin aggregating as much data as possible and improve your own decision-making processes. Drive some serious campaign-level successes with the data, and then use that to make the bigger case to your executives.

And if you’re an executive who’s trying to balance this new function against all the other tactics and strategies your staff is handling, you should think of listening as a “secret decoder ring.” The primary value and benefit of your group isn’t always in the doing – if you’ve assembled a strong team, then gathering data and letting them synthesize it into program improvements can be an eye-opening exercise. It may be that your tried-and-true approach is more tired than tried.

Opening your ears (and eyes) to the voice of the customer can be a business-altering path – and one I’d suggest any executive experiment with sooner than later. The reality is your upstart competitors are going to, so don’t be the last one to appreciate your existing customers or they may not be your customers for long.

For additional listening strategies, check out my video below:

Get More Listening Tips:

1) Tip Sheet: “Listening, Segmentation, Automation: 10 Tips for Building a Strong Digital Marketing Program

2) Blog: “Silent Email Subscribers: How to Approach Them

3) White Paper: “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing


Sign up Now!

Subscribe to IBM Marketing Cloud's Digital Marketer Newsletter!

Popular Categories

Top 5 Posts


To give you the best experience, this website uses cookies.

Continuing to use this website means that you consent to our using cookies. You can change your cookie settings in your browser at any time.
Find out more here or by clicking the Cookie Policy link at the bottom of this page.