Listen. Engage. Connect.

This post originally appeared as a comment in response to a post written by Mitch Joel. Mitch asked readers to provide thoughts on what it takes for marketers to listen, engage and connect in today’s world. The two people who submitted the best responses, selected by Mitch, won complimentary tickets to the 2012 Canadian Marketing Association Summit. I was fortunate to be selected (my answer was ranked third but one of the other winners wasn’t able to attend).

Hi Mitch,

Several keys come to mind which should be considered.

Recognize that social media is about people.

Companies need to have the right people in place, whether in marketing, communications or customer service, with appropriate skills and education on social media best practices. These people, on the front lines, are essentially the face of the company – they should be both empowered and trusted when engaging with customers.  Enable people (your customers) to like your people (your employees) and thus your company.

Spend time learning.

Given the nature of the rapidly changing marketing and communications landscape, continuous learning is a necessity for people at all levels – so that a company’s employees are well-poised to listen, engage and connect. Marketers should regularly spend time reading social media and technology blogs and books, as well as occasionally attend conferences (such as The Art of Marketing).

Understand that listening leads to engagement and connection.

Marketers should start by listening to their target audience, in an effort to understand them – their needs, their nuances, their language. Engagement should start once sufficient listening has occurred. However, any marketing outreach can’t just be about the brand. The conversation must be relevant and genuine from the perspective of the customer, and it must somehow add value. Marketers that focus first on listening and have customer-centric mindset, will have a better opportunity to establish true engagement and connection.

Be proactive and build relationships.

Related to the point above, marketers should be proactive in building relationships – both with key influencers and other people in the target market. Relationship-building can occur by commenting on a blog, interacting on a social network, or perhaps meeting in person at an event. Investing in a relationship can truly help at a later point, perhaps when an social initiative/campaign is being launched that could benefit from engagement of key influencers.

Provide great content.

Whether making use of a corporate blog, or sharing information through a social network, marketers need to invest time and effort in cultivating and curating content that is relevant and provides value to existing and potential customers.  Time invested in listening to customers’ needs can truly pay off here, as insights gained can feed into the content developed. By becoming a trusted resource for customers, engagement and connection with customers will be enhanced.

Show that you care.

Simply put, a little recognition can go a long way.  If someone mentions your brand in a positive light, thank them. If someone cites an issue or concern, ask them why and do what you can to help them – in a genuine and, ideally, expedient manner.  You may not always be able to please everyone, but you certainly can earn a lot of respect by showing that you care.  Again this goes back to listening, which provides opportunity for engagement and connection.

50 Key Takeaways from The Art of Marketing Conference

By all accounts, The Art of Marketing Conference held in Toronto on March 7th was a smashing success – as speakers provided the audience with cutting edge thoughts and insights on key marketing issues. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, however thanks the willingness of a number of audience members to share what they were learning through Twitter, I did get a flavor of what was being discussed.

Here are the top 50 takeaways I was able to glean from the Twitter stream!

Avinash Kaushik – Brand Measurement: Metrics & Analytics

  • doomzto: “If people tell me that you can’t convert love to money over the Internet, then they’re wrong.” – @avinash #taom
  • KimMcWatt: Marketing can be orgasmic if you use data for insight #taom
  • amirad: People focus too much on the what and not enough on the how much #TAOM
  • GGFM: you have access to all your competitors data so use it says @avinash #taom
  • casiestewart: HITS = how idiots track success. Bounce rate = “I came, I puked, I left”. This guys is funny. #taom
  • luudiana: Are the metrics you’re using measuring people’s behaviours? Getting rid of the data puke is the first step @avinashkaushik #TAOM
  • SocialKamel: #taom @avinash you can’t improve something by 1000% but u can improve 1000 things by 1%
  • soniyamonga: Most websites aren’t effective because the purpose doesn’t overlap w/ customer intent. Therefore efficiencies are missed #taom #segmentation
  • KimMcWatt: Look at your site content, where are you spending your time, compare to where your customers are #taom
  • YouNxt: @avinash at #TAOM – use social media not just to add revenue but to build economic value to your company

Gary Vaynerchuk – Social Media & Word of Mouth Marketing

  • Debbie_h2o: #taom @garyvee when asked “what’s the roi of social media?” he responds what’s the roi of your mother? Your best friend? Your pet?
  • amirad: Everyone talks about content, but the focus should be on context #TAOM
  • SocialKamel: #taom social media has scaled caring, one on one marketing is here, that’s the thank you economy @garyvee
  • laurenonizzle: “I don’t care if you have 40,000 followers – if you have 17 that care, you have 17 followers” -@GaryVee #TAOM
  • write_mich: @garyvee: “it is totally unacceptable for companies to not respond to customers talking about their brands” Context matters. #TAOM
  • GGFM: according to @garyvee a social media campaign is a one night stand not a conversation which is what socia media is #taom
  • GraceMarketing: Run 3 less commercials and hire more people to actually respond to customers @garyvee #taom
  • JRiddall: Companies who mine data properly and execute on some form of humanization will be the winners @garyvee #taom
  • samantha_kwan: When you hit the emotional centre of your customer, you will never loose them as a customer, it’s human #TAOM @garyvee
  • lauralimawilson: Social has tremendous ROI ’cause it’s emotional @garyvee #TAOM so true

Jeffrey Hayzlett – Brand Strategy & Growth

  • JRiddall: Passion is not a substitute for planning @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • shamattygalle: You have 8 seconds to hook me and 110 seconds to sell me – @jeffreyhayzlett #TAOM
  • jdojc: “HR and Legal shouldn’t drag you backthey should keep you from falling down” @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • DebWeinstein: “A Social CMO’s job is to: set Conditions of Satisfaction; cause tension; be who you are; & be brave,” @JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • JRiddall: Gotta be willing to take risks..no one is going to die @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • alinebadr: A brand is nothing more than a promise delivered #taom
  • JRiddall: Four E’s of social Engage Educate Excite Evangelize @jeffreyhayzlett #taom
  • amirad: The social game now is about hearts and minds not eyeball and ears #JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • ACURASHERWAY: What’s ROI on social. “I don’t know tell me what ROI is on IGNORING” – @JeffreyHayzlett #TAOM
  • clickeric: What is your 118? People don’t take pictures they capture moments #taom #marketing

Dr. Sheena Iyengaar – Consumer Behaviour & the Psychology of Choice

  • YfactorInc: @taom Dr Iyengar “the Jam problem” too much consumer choice makes it harder to actually buy
  • Drafted_Boy: What happens when faced with too many choices: less commitment, poorer decision quality, lower satisfaction @Sheena_Iyengar #TAOM
  • melissa_very: #taom “How many choices can we handle? The magical number 7 (+/-2)” Dr. Sheena Iyengar
  • jdojc: Experts know enough to limit their choices to important criteria. Amateurs end up with paralysis when faced w\ too much choice #taom
  • thecellularguru: Cognitive overload is the 1st cause of Choice Overload #TAOM 2nd cause is indistinguishable options
  • thecellularguru: Everyone believes theyre more unique than others but everyone conforms to being just unique enough not too bizarre & not too boring #TAOM
  • KimMcWatt: Categorize choices to help the decision. Our brains can process more categories than choices. Dr. Iyengar #taom
  • KimMcWatt: Condition people for complexity. Help them learn their preferences. Dr. Iyengar #taom
  • djacob: “People may say what they want is more choices but what they really want is more control” #TAOM
  • shamattygalle: We are born with an innate desire to choose but we are not born knowing how. – @sheena_iyengar#TAOM

Guy Kawasaki – Creativity & Innovation

  • soniyamonga: The process of delighting and enchanting people; that’s @GuyKawasaki’s mission when it comes to building lasting influencers #taom
  • irwinliunews: @guykawasaki There are three steps to likeability: (1) Smile [preferably Duchenne] (2) Dress for a “tie” (3) Perfect handshake #taom #yam
  • clickeric: Become a bakery not an eater @GuyKawasaki #taom and u need to default to a yes attitude
  • amirad: Make the position of your product short, sweet and swallowable. No acronyms or industry term @guykawasaki #TAOM
  • samantha_kwan: When you create a product/service, do something DICEE: deep, intelligent, complete, empowering, elegant @guykawasaki #TAOM
  • soniyamonga: The change in mktg today is a direct result of the lack of understanding of the ‘A-listers.’ So plant many seeds, across all levels #taom
  • keridamen: @guykawasaki #Taom: The most innovative people will encounter the most resistance.
  • SocialKamel: @guykawasaki in all the negativity failure and resistance try to find the bright spot. For apple it was desktop publishing. #taom
  • YfactorInc: #taom Guy Kawasaki “Enchant all the Influencers” consider impact of families + friends + others in decision process
  • savvari: @GuyKawasaki says the best response to “Thank You” is “I know you would do the same for me” #taom