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You Know You’re Not Listening When ...

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by: Todd McCormick (@TMcCormick2011)
19 June 2014

"One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening."
— Humorist Franklin P. Jones

Learning and leadership, sales and marketing — they all require listening as a vital skill, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Whether it’s a digital message between a retailer and a customer, communication from a business to a prospect, or a conversation between a boss and an employee, listening mishaps can create interactions that resemble comedian Dave Chappelle’s famous “What? Huh? What?” sketch.

I’m as guilty of listening lapses as anyone — and some bad ones at that. Just ask my wife… and read through this list of four signs you, or your company, aren’t listening. Though we learn 85 percent of what we know by listening, most people only spend about 45 percent of the time doing so, according to the International Listening Association.

In other words, these headings might be light-hearted, but the repercussions can be serious:

1) Your communications are about as personal as the weather.

It’s easy to listen to the customers standing in front of you. It’s harder with the ones you can’t see. But online buyers want their voices heard too.

For digital marketers, listening involves collecting all the data you can — from your email marketing platform, ecommerce tool, social media channels, website, and so on — and then using that information to craft automated, relevant, personalized content. That’s almost impossible if all your data lives in separate silos. Without data integration, you can’t track customer behaviors across channels and act on what they’re “saying,” making it challenging to deliver experiences that inspire brand loyalty. Instead, look to feed your data into one behavioral marketing automation platform, where you can access insights from it.

2) Your digital customers are giving you the silent treatment.

Of course, you can’t listen to your customers if you they’re not telling you anything. But seriously, how much do you like answering online response forms? (Exactly.) Tracking behavior is a great way to read between the lines, but the more information you can get straight from the source, the better you’ll be at crafting relevant, timely content your customers want.

How do you get them to give you information or, for that matter, join your email list? Make it worth their while by offering engaging, tailored content. (For ideas about how to strengthen your “email magnet,” check out this awesome blog post from Ellen Valentine.)

3) Your sales pitch is starting to sound like bad techno music – repetitive and unoriginal.

We all know customers now expect to be treated as individuals, hence the surge in marketing platforms that track online behaviors and the popularity of brands that offer personal experiences to every person: Amazon, Pandora, Spotify, and others.

If you send every person in your database the same pitch, via the same emails, you’re not listening to your customers and prospects — not even if you segment them. Instead, build relationships with individuals. Get to know each person, and then use that knowledge to delight them with experiences that anticipate their preferences.

Before my team meets with a new future customer, we find out everything we can about that company so we can create a presentation that’s as helpful and relevant as possible. For example, while courting a major museum, we learned everything we could about the organization, pulled RFPs we’d done for five similar organizations, and killed it at the on-site meeting. We had been listening, and they knew it, so we won their business.

4) None of the other kids wants to play with you.

One in three American bosses rarely or never listens to their team’s work-related concerns, according to DDI and Harris Interactive. Under half of the workforce reports being asked for ideas about how to solve problems.

In other words, far too many leaders make decisions without critical information. Are you? Your employees can give you all the information you need to improve your customer experience and boost your bottom line. So if your team isn’t talking to you, sharing ideas, or seeking your help and feedback, you might want to consider whether you’ve given them reason to believe they’re wasting their breath.

Executives tend to focus on the big picture, while the front-line employees are the ones who actually talk to customers. They know what customers want, which challenges they’re trying to surmount, and how the company could deliver even more value.

The common theme here, across all of these mistakes, is a lack of connection. Disconnected customers don’t buy. Disconnected teams don’t deliver. Disconnected relationships fizzle. Instead, listen up. All relationships — whether they’re with customers, prospects, colleagues or family — are based on the deeply human need to communicate.

Related Resources:

1) White Paper: “21 Tips for Building a Strong Modern-Day Preference Center

2) Blog: “Behavioral Data: The Greatest Untapped Marketing Asset

3) Tip Sheet: “7 Tips for Nurture Marketing




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