There is a difference between listening and hearing


Once upon a time, B2B marketing was simple. But B2B’s are now wasting marketing money by failing to understand the difference between listening and hearing, argues our MD, Joanna Watchman. Here, in conversation with our features writer Chris Bilko, she offers an insight into the Content Coms way of doing things…


Where exactly are B2B’s going wrong with their marketing?

I’m not sure that ‘wrong’ is the right word. But lots of B2B’s are still marketing solely through the same old channels, which can promote an insular attitude. It usually means they’re solely thinking about what they want to say rather than listening to their customer wants and needs. And that eventually limits the success of their marketing efforts.

Are you saying ‘not listening’ is adversely impacting on these businesses?

Precisely. What are your customers saying? What drives their purchasing decisions? What are their pain points? What is it that’s preventing them from making a purchase? If you know these things – if you listen to what both your customers and your market are saying – then you can address them in your marketing messages… and that’s the key to an effective marketing campaign.

Is there a difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’?

Absolutely. The analogy I always use is being stuck with a bore at a party. There’s a reason these people are bores – and it’s usually because they talk of nothing but themselves. They hear, but they don’t listen. So they’ll tell you what they do, what they’ve been up to, who they’re there with, who their family are, how their family are… and it goes on. They’re not responding to your comments. They’re not having a conversation. So they end up ‘broadcasting’ – and it’s something that’s seen in marketing far too often.

What can B2B’s do to get more from their marketing?

Listen to their customers.

I had the pleasure of chatting to one of our client’s customers over the phone recently – for almost 45 minutes, asking him question after question. We went through everything I’ve mentioned above – focusing on what it was he needed to get purchase approval [for an energy efficient lighting scheme provided by a Content Coms client].

And you used your findings in marketing materials?

We did indeed.

Because we listened – we were able to understand his purchase and specification journey . We could also understand the barriers and challenges he was up against.

The next stage in the process was for our team to use this insight to create highly targeted tools and resources to help people like him to take their energy-efficiency projects to completion.

This kind of empathy (in the shape of targeted, relevant, helpful content) is what ultimately leads a company to improve its competitive advantage through a powerful conversation.

Is there an easy way to discover customer pain points?

There’s no substitute for talking direct with customers. You pick up some brilliant nuggets that way. But then, there’s also a great deal of information online now – from the likes of analytics and Google Trends [which collates patterns and trends in search queries]. We actually used Google Trends to shape almost the entire marketing strategy of another client.

Hold on… customer comments shaped an entire marketing strategy?

Well, in the end, yes.

What happened was a client asked us to do some PR work for them following the ESOS legislation coming in. We could see from online search queries that firms weren’t sure what they needed to do to remain compliant. In fact, we could see the exact questions people were asking. And these questions have shaped the client’s content strategy.

You’re talking about the ESOS content hub here… content marketing at its best.

That’s right. We went back to the client and suggested that PR alone wasn’t going to cut it. And we proposed an online content hub that answered and solved customer problems. Which meant, in effect, potential customers were seeking out our client’s marketing messages – not skimming past them absent mindedly in a magazine.

Talk us through the results.

Last time I checked the ESOS hub had hit 25,000 unique visitors – and recently won a 2degrees champion award. Such is the power of simply listening.

Is it enough to simply listen, then?

Yes – but not for the reasons you might think. Listening is about being active. It’s about responding accordingly. If you don’t bother responding to what people are saying, you’re not listening – you’re hearing. So yes, it’s enough to ‘just listen’, assuming as a result you shape your marketing messages accordingly.

And using customer comments to shape campaigns is exactly what we do at Content Coms. It means we can help our clients get more out of their marketing, for the same spend.

As we say in our recent ebook – the Content Coms Little Book of Knowledge every customer journey starts with a question.

Interested? Want to find out more about how we can help you to listen to your customers? Get in touch and we’ll show you how.