Wed, November 07 2007

Communicating by Listening

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

I taught a class at Georgetown yesterday afternoon for a group of students of the marketing guru Alan Andreasen (no relation, except in terms of our love of marketing).  I spoke about nonprofit marketing, Network for Good’s business model and social media.  And I found myself saying the same thing I always say, over and over: focus on the audience, listen to the audience, then engage the audience in conversation.  Our work is not to drop pamphlets or preach or pontificate.  Our job is to connect.

While I was visiting, Alan gave me his new book and an old article, from August 1989.  It’s called “Communicating by Listening”  and it is timely as ever.  Listening before speaking has been the key to success long before the advent of consumer control or social media. 

He says good marketers listen to what an audience wants, because you can’t make customers do what you want - you can only get them to do what they think is in their best interests.  Good PR people get that too, he notes - they listen to reporters and understand their needs and wants before pitching them a story, because the story has to suit the reporter and their interests. 

As a former reporter, amen to that.

How can you tell when you’ve drifted too far from listening?  He gives you five red flags.  I like them.  Hang them up on a wall and try not to make these mistakes - number one especially.  We all tend to do that because we love our cause.  REMEMBER:

1. You’re in trouble if you see your product (or your cause) as inherently desireable.  It’s not.

2. You’re in trouble if you see lack of success as the target audience’s fault.  It’s your fault.

3. You are in very dangerous territory if you give customer research very low priority.  You’ll fail if you don’t know your audience.  Think you can’t afford to listen?  I have two answers for that.  First, you can’t afford not to.  Second, read this.

4. You are in trouble if you think marketing is the same thing as communications.  If you do, you’ll think that information alone will prompt action.  It won’t.

5. You should never treat all customers alike.  One strategy for everyone is not enough. 

Thanks Alan for reminding us to listen and showing us how.  We can’t succeed without it. 


  • Comment: (7)   


thanks for the tips, its is tempting to treat all customers alike

Posted by china stock market  on  11/07  at  09:41 PM

Interesting information. As they say. Adept does not talk, speaker does not know

Posted by Fortun  on  11/08  at  04:03 PM

Thanks for the great advise as usual.  Since one of my favorite things about your blog is your use of specific examples to illustrate your point, I wanted to pass along a comment about an organization that is not listening… The organic consumer’s association.  My husband gave them a small contribution two years ago, and now they call our house several times a week asking for more.  He has said no every time and asked them to stop calling, they often call again the next day.  I personally spoke with one of the telemarketers and asked them to please take us off their list and never call again.  I told them we support their mission and might consider giving again if they put their request in writing and NEVER CALL AGAIN.  The calls stopped for about a month, but they’ve started again.  What are they thinking?  We’ve never regretted making a donation so much in our lives…and never wished for the demise of an organization (that in theory we support) with so much passion.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  07:09 PM

Years ago a wise man told me that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth and should use them proportionally. Listening is an art form that more of us should practice.

Posted by Atlanta Real Estate  on  11/08  at  08:53 PM
Katya Andresen's avatar

Hi dear readers,
I wanted to let you know that as an experiment, I forwarded Jesse’s comment above to the head of Organic Consumers asking him his thoughts.  I was curious to see if they’d listen to someone they’d clearly disappointed.  He responded within an hour apologizing and promising to take care of it.  At least someone is listening!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/08  at  10:26 PM
Katya Andresen's avatar

Here’s the reply FYI:
From: Ronnie Cummins
Sent: Thu 11/8/2007 2:55 PM
To: Katya Andresen
Subject: Re: your donor on my blog - you may want to reply

Dear Katya,

We’ll make sure she’s removed from the Call List. There must have been some
administrative mix-up. We have a large national network and sometimes these
types of screw-ups happen.

Regards & Solidarity,
Ronnie Cummins

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  09:08 PM

So far so good.  No more calls… our family can eat our homegrown organic dinner in peace again.  And, we are happy that the organic consumers association is out there making sure everyone else has access to such delicious and nutritious food choices as well.  Thank you Katya and Ronnie!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/19  at  04:36 PM

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