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10 tips to make you a better listener

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A successful career in marketing requires many skills, such as copywriting, graphic design and project management. But there’s one skill everyone in marketing needs to master, no matter what their role: listening.

Here are 10 tips for better listening:

  1. Take the time. Marketing is a fast-paced business, and there’s huge pressure to create campaigns and strategies quickly. But if you really want to succeed, you need to build in the time and budget upfront to gather input from the client, customer and prospect.
  2. Listen to the right people. Talk with the people you’re actually targeting with your marketing efforts (customers and prospects), not just marketing colleagues or other people like you.
  3. Learn the lingo. If you want prospects to relate to your marketing messages, you need to know the terms and phrases they use when talking about their needs and your product.
  4. Delve deeper. Go beyond the obvious questions (“Are you satisfied with our product or service?”) to more probing queries that can help you understand the motivations that drive behavior. Make questions open-ended so people can use their own words.
  5. Feel the emotion. How do people feel about your company and themselves when they use the products or services you provide? Do they feel confident, happy, pretty, smart, safe? Listen for the emotions underlying the purchasing decision.
  6. Listen with your eyes and ears. People reveal a great deal with their body language when they talk. They lean in, make direct eye contact and use their hands to emphasize their points. Watch carefully and notice the details; see what makes their eyes light up.
  7. Don’t be judgmental. Be impartial and neutral when listening. Remove your own biases. It’s not about what you think; it’s about what they think.
  8. Avoid stereotypes. Don’t assume you know what someone is thinking because they are young, old, male, female, married, single, a high school dropout or a Ph.D. Making assumptions based on stereotypes or demographics is a common mistake.
  9. Take careful notes. Relying on your memory can be dangerous, even if you’re under 30. It’s too easy to remember what you think someone said, not what they actually said. Focus groups should always be recorded for the marketing team.
  10. Reflect on what you’ve heard. Think about the totality of the discussion afterward. What was the customer or prospect really telling you? What stands out most in your mind? What do they truly care about? This is what you need to know to create marketing campaigns and content that engage people on a human level.

When your ad campaign fails due to miscommunication, you pay the price in lost market share and wasted resources. Your marketing campaign will gain authenticity, resonance and engagement if you can work on honing your skills as a listener.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at


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