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The Secret to Listening to Your Customers

There’s a saying that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.

And yet, how often does that actually seem to happen in marketing? Marketing truly has little to do with sales, it’s about being helpful. When you’re establishing a digital strategy – or any marketing strategy, you have to establish how you want to engage the user in an experience, instead of in interruption. When you listen to your customers, you have the tools to provide value, to make lives better, easier, more efficient, more beautiful because you know what they want. Ultimately, you become more helpful.

So how do you listen to your customers? What are mechanisms to really listen to what your customers have to say?

Social Listening: The Truth is Out There

Listen to your customers and your employees. Listen to your critics and your tribes. Listen to your requests. And above all, listen to your data. Your customers will talk about you on  social media. The question is, are you listening to them when they talk about you? There are a number of tools available that can be used to gauge sentiment and evaluate what your customers are saying. But fundamentally, read the comments, evaluate what’s being shared, respond to questions. These are crucial in understanding your customers.  55% of businesses using social media don’t respond to their customers. 67% have no means of measuring what’s being said.  And 70% of global brands don’t engage with their customers on social media at all.

That’s an awful lot of talking and not a lot of listening.

Talk to Your Customer in Real Life: They Won’t Bite (Always)

General Mills makes a lot of cereal. Like most moms, I don’t want my kids eating tons of sugar – lord knows they don’t need it. So, you’d think General Mills would get requests that reflect that. Well, they started listening to their customers, and the results were surprising. When they conducted a mass survey of customers, the top concern had nothing to do with sugar content and everything to do with animal byproducts, especially those containing pork. So, General Mills adjusted recipes to ensure its products accommodated the strict diets of its Jewish, Muslim, Vegan and strictest of all – Soccer Moms. The company also identified that consumers wanted more gluten-free products.  After marketing a new gluten-free Chex, General Mills experienced a 30% increase in sales for that line- Because they listened.

Try a good old fashioned survey. Use email, ask them while they’re checking out or paying, gauge their reactions, do a phone call. Just ask! Be interested. Sometimes the old classics still have value.

Look at Your Analytics: How Are People Responding to Your Website?

What’s the number one thing you want when you look at a restaurant’s website? The menu!

But according to a 2012 study, 40% of independent restaurants didn’t have a menu on their site.  But in most cases, that’s the only thing people want on a restaurant’s website.  In that same study 95% of the restaurants surveyed didn’t have mobile friendly sites, and yet 81% of consumers use mobile devices to search for restaurants.  That’s really bad listening. You can see problems like that reflected through high bounce rates, poor mobile traffic results, and few pages per visit. When the metrics show you that you’re doing something wrong, you need to listen to the data and make changes.

Brands, companies, agencies – we all need to focus on LISTENING. As marketers, we have to accept that maybe, the customers know what they want.  When you listen to what kind of experience, what kind of content, and what kind of message your customers actually want, you meet their needs.  You create an experience that transcends ROI, KPI, and all the other marketing buzzwords we love to use.

Listening to your customer involves thinking about what’s going to make a great, authentic experience for them and delivering on that unspoken promise. When you look on the web, if you say you have something in the store, you should have it in the store.

So, are you listening?

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