First, let me thank Communispace for inviting me to be a guest blogger. I think I’ll ask Diane to return the favor on my blog in the near future.
Now the topic…
People who are involved with listening approaches (mining conversations in blogs, managed communities, etc.) get a little frustrated sometimes; they ask me for guidance of how to sell listening.
Here is my advice; don’t think of this as research. Think of it as process reinvention.
For example, consider how an organization might reinvent its innovation process. How could any informed marketer, when rethinking innovation in an era of social media, NOT integrate listening into the innovation process? Listening is about hearing what people rather than the marketer wants to talk about, and hearing it in people’s own words. It’s a window in the mind, heart and emotions of people, one you need to have your nose pressed up against continuously. Because things change…really fast…giving agile marketers great opportunities leaving traditional marketers wearing the WTF happened look on their faces.
Traditionally, research has been at the fuzzy front end with qual and downstream with volumetric concept or concept/product testing. Listening is about realizing that things change constantly. Consumer needs are not linear and scheduled, they change at any time. If there is no linear process, there is no fuzzy front-END; this is continuous and listening is essential. Your concept testing must morph into learning experiments instead of magic number idea killers. If you missed the action standard, learn why. Is the underlying premise wrong or the idea impractical from a business point of view? If not, keep working at; if yes, move on.
Now it gets even crazier. Innovation is not just about creating new “things” with new features. Brands are experiences and the innovation might come from a connection made via social media. For Unilever’s Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, the innovation is in the media—creating social media environments, videos, and events that were intended to change people’s concept of beauty in a way that would enhance female self-esteem. It was a great and innovative thing to do and not a new SKU in sight!
Now if the fuzzy front end is really a continuous backdrop requiring listening, it also means that there is little difference between new product innovation and existing brand sense and respond. It’s all about a marketer intersecting their assets with emerging needs to serve people—add value to daily human life—who cares if you do that via media, new products, or rethinking your existing brand? It’s about the need, not your brand management structure.
In an era when 300 million or more are on Facebook, where word of mouth is becoming one of the most trusted sources of advice, and where people love sharing their feelings online in communities, how can a marketer not want to tap into this constant and organic flow of conversations?
IMHO, that’s how you sell listening.
To learn more about how to become an agent of change for your organization regarding listening, come to the ARF’s workshop on Jan 28th in San Francisco, “Putting Listening to Work”. All attendees will also receive a copy of our just published book, “The ARF Listening Playbook” which contains 35 great success stories that wouldn’t have happened without listening.