Ok ok I have to admit – I am not the listener that I could be. Let’s face it, some of us are definitely more interested in trying to make other people laugh than we are in listening to them.
Is that selfish? Possibly. Is it dumb? Definitely!
Listening is the key to so many things. It is the key to long-lasting friendships and relationships; it is the key to being a good business person; and is definitely key when it comes to your customers.
Imagine this: you have just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and you have 6 months to live. Most likely you will listen to your doctor when he/she tells you where to go for treatment in order to try to prolong your life, or get rid of the cancer. You also want to go to the most reputable place (the Cross Cancer Institute here in Edmonton for example). What would you think if you had an appointment at the cancer treatment centre and it meant waiting for two hours in the waiting room to get in? Do the doctors not realize that your time is much more precious than theirs under these circumstances? If they listened to their patients they would understand that time is just as precious as medical research and a reputable image.
So how can we really find out what people want? In the past, we have conducted market research and we have paid huge dollar amounts to do so. Market research is great at finding answers to questions, however it is not so good at generating insights. For example, surveys can get customers to tell you the answers to questions that you think to ask them, but what about the things you never thought to ask? These answers may be very important for your business. Many customers may not participate in surveys, or focus groups, or any kind of market research. So how do we know what they are thinking?
This is where the groundswell comes in. The groundswell allows us to observe hundreds and thousands of customers in their natural habitat. From ratings to blogging to twitter – people are voicing their opinions now more than ever. Try this little exercise: Google your product or company name along with the word sucks or awesome, or do a blog search.
Naturally, there is a lot of information to sift through. But alas! There are companies that can help! Begin brand monitoring by hiring a company to listen to the Internet (blogs, Twitter, forums, etc.) and they will provide you with reports and summaries based on their results.
Your brand is not what YOU say it is. It is what your CUSTOMERS say it is. Therefore, you had better be listening to them to find out what they think your brand is about. Listen to the groundswell!