Are you listening, or waiting to speak?
When we’re sitting with someone – whether it’s a friend, or a coworker, or our life partner – how often we are actually thinking only about what we’re going to say next.
You’re in a meeting where your coworker is talking about the state of the business, the results from last quarter, or the proposed new project, and you have this internal Q&A dialogue going on in your head.
“Wow, that’s a lot of data she just laid out. Do I agree with it? Which statements should I respond to? Should I ask a question now? How about now? I’m ready with an answer. What should I say to sound really smart? What was that thing I was supposed to pick up from the grocery store?”
We hear (and maybe even process) some of the words. But we’re not actually listening. We’re waiting to speak.
This happens with content and digital marketing, too. We’re “waiting to content” rather than actually listening (or observing) what’s really happening with the audience we’re trying to serve.
At CMI, we’ve just completed some research that backs this observation up. I won’t give you the exact numbers yet, but we’re seeing that many marketers have a low degree of confidence that they understand what audience personas really want. But they have a high level of confidence that the company knows exactly what kind of content it wants to produce for those audiences.
In other words, when it comes to marketing and sales, we’re not listening – we’re just waiting to speak our content.
You can see it with some marketing automation practices. I worked with a company a couple of months ago that was sending leads to the sales team based on the number of articles or thought leadership papers they’d downloaded. In one case, an audience member had downloaded two papers in one visit to the site. Conversion triggered!
The first piece of content was research supporting the top reasons their industry is being disrupted. The second was an interview with one of the company’s customers about their decision to make a fundamental change to their business.
The algorithm tagged this audience member as a lead, and sales got the notification to call. The salesperson was noticeably frustrated when the lead indicated she not only had no intention of buying, she also wasn’t even convinced that she needed to change.
In this case, the prospect was saying, “I’m trying to understand this concept, and I have unanswered questions about why we would change.” But the company was just waiting for its time to say, “Great, how much change would you like to purchase today?”
You may know that the answer to the “waiting to speak” challenge is what’s called “active listening.” This skill involves concentrating on what’s being said, responding to it, and remembering it. Research shows that practicing active listening can improve relationships, promote deeper trust, and motivate those with whom we are communicating.
We can apply that approach to our content and marketing strategy. By actively (and consistently) examining our audience personas’ needs and really listening to what they’re telling us, we can determine how to change the what, where, and when of the content we’re creating.
But we can also better inform others in our business who may be still waiting to talk. Actively listening to our audiences can empower us to know when, where, and how to cue the many voices of our business to speak. That’s when our marketing can evolve from simply saying something to having something valuable to say.
It’s your story. Tell it well.