Our mantra, mission and approach to marketing at SMZ, on the surface, is pretty simple: Listen. Think. Do. It’s instinctual, a part of our DNA but like many daily practices it’s something we need to remind ourselves to adhere to regularly.
Of those three important steps in our process, listening is arguably the most important. It’s the first communication skill we engage in from the moment we’re born. And yet, somehow, in the rush to speak and have our opinions heard, listening often gets lost and its importance minimized or worse, forgotten. We tend to assume that listening and hearing are virtually the same when in fact they are two distinct functions. Hearing is something we do instinctively. Listening, on the other hand, is a more complex, active process that involves focus and discipline.
Once we move beyond just simply hearing what people say, listening allows us to feed the curiosity about someone’s desires and motivations and fuels the empathy to understand what people mean and how they feel. Listening is crucial in driving how we at SMZ create images and messages that people will notice, care about, like and remember when making a purchasing decision.
Our role as marketing communicators is to influence perceptions and behavior. But campaigns can miss the mark with a premise that feels phony, dialogue in a commercial that seems contrived, or a message failing to engage. The main reason these marketing efforts fail? A misunderstanding of what the target audience feels or cares about as it relates to the product. When we don’t effectively listen to customers and prospects before developing a campaign, we’re unable to craft messages people will connect with afterwards.
The very best practitioners in our business are exceptional listeners. They recognize the human emotions behind peoples’ words and use this insight to create products people love and marketing that feels authentic, has real meaning to the audience, and resonates with their hopes, fears and desires.
Ironically, the more we talk, the less we’re able to communicate. The Dalai Lama expressed this sentiment much more eloquently saying, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know but if you listen you may learn something.” Here’s hoping that we all continue to practice and refine this important communication skill.
Rich Williams, SVP/Strategic Business Development