How can ‘listening’ be a marketing tool, I hear you cry! Listen to what I have to say and I’ll tell you why this is one of the most forgotten marketing tools, that is also one of the most powerful ones that you can use.
Recently I attended a networking event and someone asked me that dreaded question “What do you do?” I could have gone into great detail about what I do, who I do it for, how great I am at doing it and the sort of clients I’m looking for. But instead I just replied “I run a marketing company. What do you do?” So rather than having to listen to my long answer, I gave this person the opportunity to tell me about her business. I asked a few questions about who her ideal clients are and the type of work she loves doing. I enquired as to what she’s finding tricky in her business right now. Her answers told me that she’s a business coach who is struggling to find new clients, as she’s not been in business for very long and hasn’t yet built up a solid reputation in a very competitive field.
Eventually, after about 10 minutes of chatting she said “You say you run a marketing company. What exactly do you do?”
“Well,” I replied, “we specialise in working with coaches who are looking to grow their reputation and stand out in a crowded market place.”
“But that’s exactly the sort of help I need!” she gasped. “How did you know?!”
The answer – in case you haven’t heard it – is because I listened carefully to the answers she gave me, to the questions that I asked her. When you go networking, spend more time asking questions and really listening to the answers and you’ll be able to identify ideal clients (as well as non-ideal ones) far more quickly and make a much better impression on them.
Listen to Your Clients
Marketing isn’t just about finding new clients. It’s also about delivering great service to your current clients and encouraging them to buy more from you and to recommend you to others. This means that you need to listen to your clients too. When you meet them or call them on the phone, don’t start with business questions. Ask them what they did at the weekend or where they’re next going on holiday. Spending time really listening and getting to know your clients – especially when you run a service business such as coaching, consulting or training – is essential. The stronger the relationship you have with your clients, the more loyal they will be to you, even when times are tough.
Once you’ve done the essential small talk – with your client doing most of the talking, of course – then it’s time to ask the business questions, where the same rules apply. You don’t have to stick to the topic that you help your clients with here. For example, while I help my clients with their marketing, I always ask how business is in general. Over the years I’ve been able to recommend HR consultants to clients who are struggling with people issues, accountants to clients whose books are getting out of hand and image consultants to clients who need look and feel better! My clients now see me as someone to talk to about all aspects of their business – someone who can usually connect them with the people and services that they need.
On the specific issues of marketing, I have also been able to up sell a regular newsletter writing service to the client who admitted that he really doesn’t like writing and monthly social media updates to the client who knows she needs to have an online presence but really doesn’t want the hassle of doing it herself. All this has come from listening properly when clients talk.
Hear what they say without trying to plan what you’ll say next and you’ll be able to have much better, more profitable conversations. Try it and let me know how you get on!