Sunday, August 28, 2005

Contextual Marketers --
Listen and Turn on the Empathy

Yesterday, I was sitting in my office at home and my eyes caught a section of my bookshelf with my old favorite business books. So I spent a few hours giving myself a refresher course, reading all the underlined sections.

One that caught me was Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was his section on listening that stopped me. I do such a terrible job of listening ... not what you'd expect from someone who started out as a sports reporter! I now have latent attention deficit syndrome, better known as tuning the speaker out so I can get back to what I want to do. Bad habit. Really horrible habit.

But I'm not alone and so I thought maybe all of us could use a little Covey refresher on the topic.

Covey tells us that the highest form of listening is empathetic listening. This is not listening to understand a topic. It is listening to understand where the speaker is coming from. Get a feeling for the motives behind the conversation -- but from the speaker's point of view. Why are they telling you what they are saying. Get inside their shoes for a moment and understand if you were the speaker, what, why and how would you be communicating. Listening of this sort is more likely to be productive.

Empathetic listening, I think, is especially important when the speaker is someone you don't trust or like. Get at the emotions that surround the relationship. Then see if the words spoken and the gestures made and the total environment of the relationship can be improved.

Empathetic listening is essential if we are going to do contextual marketing. How else will we learn the needs, wants, expectations and interests of the prospects to whom we want to market? Get inside the persona of the customer. You know the customer wants, for example, to get the lowest price ... as an empathetic listener we can discover the motives behind this quest for lowest price, or timely delivery, or faster ROI. Listen from their shoes for other clues as to how you can be of utmost service to the customer and shift the conversation to how you can respond better than competitors to these revealed truths.

At least that's what I will be practicing this week.


At 12:11 AM, Anonymous Natalie said...

In several of my classes here at Auburn my teachers have talked about Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. However, they have never discussed his section on listening. I tend to go back and forth on being a good listener. So after reading your blog the other evening, I tried in class the next day to empathetic listen.

Now that I am in my major classes more of my teachers are more passion about what they are teaching. It was amazing how much easier it is to pay closer attention after trying empathetic listening. I have a teacher that’s not the best in the world about staying on topic and he losses most peoples attention in the first 10 minutes. But he is really passionate about everything he says. I put myself in his shoes and wondered what his motivation was to come everyday and teach college students. Well after learning that he spent many years as a report, I relized that his motivation was to make us the best writers we could be. He also does not want to go though the motions and us pass the class and not remember anthing a month later.

I also liked how you tied empathetic listening to marketing. I am a Public Relations major but I am also working on a minor in Marketing. If more marketers used empathetic listening they would have higher rates of customer satisfaction and make more sales. The customer satisfaction would rise because they are going to trust someone more if they feel like they are truly listening to them

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Diana said...

I really enjoyed this blog because I see this so often in everyday life. Some of the nicest people that I know do not seem listen to what people around them are saying. They are usually too intent on getting their own message heard to hear others. I know that I do the same thing often and sometimes it truly is tiring listening to another person’s side.

As this happens in everyday life, I believe the same idea can be applied to the field of marketing, promotion and public relations. Advertisers are often less concerned with what the customer truly wants out of their product and settle for what they are capable of creating for a customer or what they think is catchy. For example, I see ads sometimes that have absolutely no relation to their products (the polar bear and coca cola, using sex to sell a car, etc.). Like you said, maybe advertisers should stop and think to themselves, “What do my customers really want?” More often then not, they want to advertisements to confirm to them that a company’s products are cheap, reliable and easy to use. Advertisements that fail to convey these properties may still succeed, but wouldn’t it be better if they listened to what the consumer had to say? In public relations professionals sometimes get too engulfed in beating the competition and creating better events for their clients that they also may fail to relate to the customers wants and needs. Doing this, is to easy, I think it truly needs to be a constant question everybody in the public relations/marketing/advertising fields should ask themselves.

At 6:15 AM, Blogger Erik said...

Mr. Covey visited our school in the Netherlands last week. He is very charismatic and many people are enthusiastic about his 7 habits etc. I myself followed a training course in the 7 habits. Though I cannot get rid of my doubts. Covey applied to marketing. Marketing is trying to sell something and if you don't sell, you fail. To sell, you use empathetic listening. You use your own interest as a starting point, that's what you're paid for. By emp. listening you try to find a hole or a maze in the "customer's" (all people become customers, potential customers or ex-customers in the eyes of the marketer) mind that you can define as a "need" or "want" to satisfy by selling. Is that in the customer's interest? USA marketing and management literature takes that for granted. Of course it is. And that's what irritates me about Covey. Look at all those mortgages and loans that have been sold to people, and devaluates the value of the dollar, because it was the customer's need to buy that house for which they so easily could get a mortgage. It's only an example.

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