Mom was right. Listen before you speak.

26 07 2008

I came across the following post on Ad Age, Digital Next:

“Old habits die hard. While consumers are out there spending countless hours on social networks, file sharing applications, chat, community sites, buying stuff, selling stuff and using multiple devices, some of us tradigital old fogies are still reaching for our beloved toolbox of the past in the hopes of getting their attention…Little did we know that the real action happens in the comments. Have we thought about talking back to people or are we really just interested in telling our stories?” 

I think this is a great question  to ask — and one that should be taken a step further.  Why are companies so much more interested in talking, rather than listening?  

There are myriad reasons, but I think many of them boil down to the same thing.  It’s easier.  It’s so much easier to just speak your mind, tell your story, and make your pitch than it is to listen critically and effortfully.  Because more often than not, good listening will force a business to additional action — evaluate, respond, adapt, change — and that means more work.  

So why listen and do the extra work?  I’ll give you three good reasons.  One: Listening to your audience helps you to determine if your brand story resonates with them.  Listen closely enough and they’ll tell you what triggers an emotional response and that will help you tighten (or even change) your message.  Two:  Listening to your audience provides avenues for meaningful actions.  Look at user-generated reviews, comments and threads.  Your customers are more than happy to tell you what works and doesn’t work for them and in this competitive environment, that instant feedback is priceless.  Take it a step further, like, and you can turn customer service into a point of differentiation that earns you brand loyalty.  Three:  Listening is the only way you turn storytelling into a dialogue.  And being part of a genuine dialogue helps you develop authenticity with a savvy consumer population.  The digital economy is fluid.  A product that someone reads about on CNET, buys on Amazon, reviews on Epinions, posts on CraigsList and sells on eBay touches so many more people than just that one customer.  Your brand story travels with that.

Rather than having customers do the digital equivalent of talking about you behind your back, don’t you want to be a part of the conversation?