Dear (Mom), are you even listening to me?

From the desk of Chris Efken

As the mother of a teen, listening has heightened stakes. If I don’t listen carefully I miss the subtle insights into my son’s world — what his plans are on a Friday night, the due date of the next dreaded English paper, or the latest college he plans to attend (the one that likely has annual tuition in excess of $50,000!).

As marketers, listening also has heightened stakes. We seek to hear the voice of the consumer so our marketing efforts can be grounded in these insights.   Yet, whether we are focusing on consumer or shopper insights, we can inadvertently miss hearing, seeing (or perhaps even misinterpret) the information as a result of not fully listening to what consumers are both verbally and non-verbally communicating.

With so many distractions, all too often “fake listening” occurs. Whether listening for comprehension, empathy or judgment, we need to ensure that we don’t miss out on those elusive “Ah-has” or the key insights needed for product innovation and marketing plans.   To avoid some of the pitfalls associated with selective, biased listening or simply partial listening, let’s consider a listening tune-up by paying closer attention to the following when working with participants…

  • Listen with Unconditional Positive Regard—Strive to eliminate passing judgment by focusing on what’s being said rather than risking dismissing the learning based on a participant’s appearance or mannerisms.
  • Listen for critical content–Focus on the content of what’s being said, by stripping away and ignoring a consumer’s ums and ah’s.
  • Listen to both verbal and non-verbal communication to identify contradictions and/or understand the intensity of their feelings.
  • Be patient, listen for the complete story making decisions based on responses to a single question.
  • Listen to the answer you are receiving, rather than thinking about what you would like the moderator to ask next.
  • Listen to a comment in its entirety—Let a respondent finish his/her comment before reacting and jumping to a quick decision.
  • Be fully present when listening—Multi-tasking and distractions prevent us from hearing consumers’ entire product stories, keen insights and even potential new product ideas. Be fully present when listening to consumers or reading their online posts.

Great listening helps ensure we won’t miss that next big insight or product idea.