I never take the ability to listen for granted. Maybe it’s because my oldest daughter was born profoundly deaf, and though she has benefited from the modern technology (and miracle!) of a cochlear implant and the early intervention that has enabled her to hear, I have come to value listening more than ever. It’s also crucial to my livelihood. As a writer, I certainly can’t pen a story without carefully listening to those I’m writing about.
As marketers, listening should be a top priority. But we all have the tendency to become numb to the noise that follows us in everyday life. Messages are shouted from all channels these days, so in creating content we are always searching for new ways to cut through the clamor in order to get our communications through to our target audience. However, we can’t create an effective message unless we understand the need.
As advertising practitioners at gyro, we strive to listen intently and with empathy. Our clients have many challenges. Some of these may not be as apparent as others, so it’s our job to ask the right questions and really hear what our partners are trying to communicate. Listening seems basic, but it is an important part of creating the messages that play a supporting role in our clients’ growth.
So how do we, as marketers, become better listeners? Here are my 10 tips:
1. Stop talking. If you want to hear what someone has to say, you have to be silent.
2. Block out the distractions and really concentrate on what the other person is telling you. Don’t let your mind wander.
3. Fine-tune your senses. You can glean a lot of information from tone, delivery, body language and surroundings.
4. Maintain eye contact.
5. Really hear what the person is saying, instead of thinking ahead about how you are going to respond or about how you’ve had a similar experience. It’s not about you.
6. Instead of taking notes, just listen—carefully.
7. Repeat back some of the points you are hearing to verify and clarify.
8. Ask open-ended questions because these elicit a more descriptive response.
9. Give cues—both visual and auditory—that you are following what the other person is saying.
10. Don’t be afraid to follow up when necessary.
Many of these tips seem intuitive, but in our fast-paced, modern world, they are often easily forgotten. The path to hearing was not an easy one for my daughter, but she is living proof that if we slow down and work at it, listening will come more naturally to all of us.
Michelle Crawley is a senior writer in the engagement group at gyro Cincinnati.
Follow her at @mcrawleywriter.