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Six Ways B2B Marketers Can “Listen” Effectively

March 16, 2010

Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions shares Six Ways B2B Marketers Can “Listen” Effectively

One of the things B2B marketers are being told to do is to “listen” to communities and get to really know their prospects.

Your prospects are controlling how and when they engage with vendors, so it’s become very critical that our content marketing efforts are highly relevant to the needs of the audiences we seek.
One thing that’s not exactly obvious is exactly HOW to listen—or even what you should be listening for that you can actually apply to your content marketing efforts. Social media has given marketers unprecedented access to the thoughts, perspectives and musings of their potential customers. Unfortunately there’s a lot of noise out there that can make listening more of a chore than a productive exercise.

Here are 6 ways to get applicable takeaways from listening:

1. Phrasing: One of the best ways to increase relevance with prospects is to use the language they use to talk about their problems. If they talk about bottlenecks, discussing performance improvements may not get you the same level of engagement as you can get by using the words they use intuitively. When you listen to prospects make note of how they describe issues of importance. Remember that listening to your customers may not produce the same results as you’ve already indoctrinated them with some of your company’s terminology and language.

2. Webinars: One of the ways I get up to speed when I start a new client project is by attending webinars their prospects attend. Sure, it’s helpful to hear other experts talk about the issues, problems and solutions, but what’s really valuable to me are the questions at the end. Given what information the webinar covered, what went unanswered or left attendees confused? Addressing those things can help boost your content’s relevance, as well as the company’s credibility.

3. Blogs: Following the most active blogs in your industry is a great way to listen to your prospects. The lesser read blogs can be great for ideas, but what you’re looking for is not just timely topics of interest but comments. How people respond to the blogger’s point of view can provide a lot of insight to the concerns, beliefs and interests that are top of mind for your prospects (or people like them).

4. Twitter Streams: What I mean by Twitter Streams are hashtag searches for keywords or solutions. I use TweetDeck and dedicate 2 or 3 columns to hashtag searches pertinent to each project I’m working on. Not only does this concentrate how many Tweets I have to plow through on a daily basis, but I gives me a quick study of phrasing and provides links that are being shared and thought to be important sources of information. I want to know what people like my clients’ prospects think is important enough to Tweet or re-Tweet.

5. Bit.ly Links: Many of the links used on Twitter are created by the URL shortener Bit.ly. If you copy and paste the link into a browser and add a + (plus) sign at the end, then hit enter, you can see a stream of who has tweeted the link. Then you can click through on their Twitter handles and learn more about the people participating. But this also gives you a good reading on the interest level as it shows how many clicks and Tweets have happened over time. Plus, you can learn levels of influence about the participators. This may be helpful when choosing who to follow and try to engage on Twitter.

6. LinkedIn Groups: Using profiles of people like your prospects to get a baseline about the segment is a good start. But to get a feel for their sentiment about a topic, monitoring and participating on groups they belong to can provide great insights that translate back to improving your content relevance. There’s a lot of noise on many groups, but the daily e-mail digest will help you to judge what’s getting a lot of responses so you can allocate your time effectively. Make sure when you participate that it’s never to sell, only to provide valuable insights and answer the questions asked.

What are some other ways you can effectivly listen to your tarket audience?

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