But who listens, amongst all this busyness?
Who listens to the customer? Who listens to what the competition is doing? Who listens - carefully - for new opportunities? Who listens to what is happening on the website, social media, on-shelf and generally, in the market?
Crucially, and maybe in summary, who listens to "what the outside world thinks of us"?
I believe the role of a professional listener is that of the most senior marketer in the business. The top marketer is nothing other than the Chief Listening Officer in your company. It sounds passive, even fluffy, I know, but it doesn't have to be.
For starters, listening - really listening - is an active exercise. It involves much more than keeping quiet (which is already hard work). Listening to make sense, connect the dots and provide commercially relevant feedback is hard work.
I often get asked "...but what do you do for them?", as in, what do I, as an outsourced senior marketer to my clients, do for them, practically? This is a good question since I do not do the obvious stuff. I don't do their marketing for them, and I am certainly not a sales rep. My answer starts with "I listen", and indeed, therein lies most of my value.
Listening to make sense, connect the dots and provide commercially relevant feedback is hard work.
Obviously, together with my team, I do other (more practical) things too, such as offering training, implementing projects and reporting on results, but the primary value lies in me listening. Firstly, to the business owner, who often goes unheard as he sits at the top of the pyramid, but also to senior managers, employees and the market itself, starting with the customer. My role is that of "Professional Listener". But how do I do it?
The trick is to take an outside-in approach to everything you hear and continuously ask yourself how does this look from the customers perspective. It is nearly impossible to do for anyone already inside the business keeping busy, hence someone needs to be tasked to do it, becoming their job: the role of the senior marketer. However, such a listening exercise can't remain an intellectual exercise; it must be packaged into a tangible output that the business can refer to and use as a guide for commercial decisions: a strategic marketing plan.
Every business should have a strategic marketing plan that captures how it wants to position its brand(s); how it will generate sales (through marketing communications and sales activities); what objectives it wants to achieve in terms of raising awareness and driving interest and the which marketing tools and messages it will use. In short, after doing all the listening, the senior marketer should put together a clear action plan that summarises "given what we know now, what must we do now"?
The trick is to take an outside-in approach to everything you hear and continuously ask yourself how does this look from the customers perspective
"What should the Marketing Director, Chief Marketing Officer or Marketing Executive do" is a common question, especially within industrial and business markets where the role of marketing is not as evident as in consumer (end-user) markets. The confusion is given extra weight when asked by owners and executives with an accounting, science or engineering background where things are often tangible. However, the answer is clear and the value undeniable: your chief marketer is the chief listening officer, and their output should first and foremost be a marketing plan for the business that gets improved all the time, executed with precision and measured for effectiveness.
Question: "What do you do for them?"
Answer: "I listen" - because they are too busy, and too involved, to do it properly.