The purpose of marketing and advertising is to influence peoples’ perceptions and behavior. But many ads and campaigns miss the mark. With some ads, the premise can feel phony, the dialogue contrived. In other cases, the message can fail to engage the audience or the audience can become turned off or confused.

Why do these campaigns fail? As a marketing consultant, I think the reason is a misunderstanding of what the target audience feels or cares about. When a marketer or marketing agency doesn’t listen effectively to customers and prospects before developing the campaign, they aren’t able to craft messages customers can connect with.

Most companies try to listen to their customers and some invest heavily in customer satisfaction and market research. But listening is more than simply hearing what people say. It’s being curious about someone’s desires and motivations and having the empathy to understand how people feel. This capability is crucial for marketing professionals who wish to create images and messages people will notice, care about, like and remember.

The most effective marketers are exceptional listeners. They recognize the human emotions behind peoples’ words and use this insight to create products people love and advertising and marketing that feels authentic, has real meaning to the audience and resonates with their hopes, fears and desires.

Have you taken the time to really listen to prospects? If you can find out what really matters to them, you can craft the best solution to help them achieve their goals.

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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 http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog.