The ultimate goal in marketing and advertising is to influence consumer perception and behavior. To accomplish this, marketers must understand their target audience. Knowing who their customers are and what they want allows marketers to create campaigns that engage the correct demographic in appropriate ways. Campaigns that miss the mark typically do so because the marketer failed to understand the wants and needs of their audience.
For Craig Lyon, former senior brand director at Nike and current vice president head of marketing at Connected Cannabis Co., it all comes down to listening. But listening is more than simply hearing what people say. It’s being interested in learning about someone’s desires and motivations and having the empathy to understand what they mean and how they feel.
“As a marketer, listening to understand versus listening to respond can have a huge impact on your effectiveness as a communicator,” Lyon told mg. “It’s similar to the idea that in conversation we typically think about what to say next instead of actively hearing what the other is trying to express.
“Especially when gathering insight and feedback, marketers have a tendency to only look for proof that reinforces their own perspectives or assumptions. They narrow their scope rather than staying open-minded to how others see the situation. When speaking with consumers, teammates, partners, and so on, marketers need to actively listen. It’s the only way to truly understand the other person’s position and dig deep into what you’re being told.
“I’ve found more often than not the next best question [to ask someone] is buried in their most recent answer, not in the list of questions you brought to the meeting. This philosophy is one of my favorites because it doesn’t just apply in work but to everyday interactions.”
Before launching your next marketing campaign, take a moment to reflect on the top three active listening skills taught by the Center for Creative Leadership, a pioneer in leadership development and research.
Pay attention. Set a comfortable tone that gives others an opportunity to think and speak. Don’t cut people off, finish their sentences, or start formulating your answer before they’ve finished.
Withhold judgment. Be open to new ideas, new perspectives, and new possibilities. Even when good listeners have strong views, they suspend judgment, hold any criticisms, and avoid arguing or selling their point right away.
Reflect. Never assume that you understand what someone means—or that they know you’ve heard them. Mirror people’s information and emotions by periodically paraphrasing key points. Reflecting is an active listening technique that indicates all parties are on the same page.