The Science of Listening

Running a business is, simply put, an exercise in decision making. You see the resources you have available, which can include money (from revenue or investment), stock, expertise, simple staffing hours and more, and compare it with the issues you’re facing and then you have to decide how to spend those resources to get the best result for the lowest price.

That best result might not be an instant return: if you fixate on quick gains (a mindset it’s all too easy for the reward seeking human brain to fall into) then you’ll fall prey to short-termism and false economies: critical failures that lead you to underinvest in the long term future of your business and lead to stress in the best case, and closure in the worst.

You need to be sure you’re making decisions that resonate with your customers, that what you’re offering them and working towards in the future are things they actually want. It’s important for something as simple as where you put your adverts: if you work hard at creating beautiful adverts with copy written precisely to appeal to the mindset of people who want your products and have money to spend on them, and then put those ads in the wrong place, then they won’t be seen. Spending your advertising budget on Facebook when your customers don’t use it is a poor decision: it spends resources with no return, even in the long-term future.

What you need is a dose of The Science of Listening – learning how to listen to your market to find out what it wants so you can optimise your offering to meet those needs and desires.

It begins simply: a brand tracker survey can tell you what customers think of your brand, and how they rank it against the competition for different qualities. You need to make sure you’re ranking highly for the qualities you want people to associate with your brand: if you’re aiming to market yourself as a luxury proposition, a status symbol, then discovering that lots of people think you offer great value for money is not the cause for celebration it might be.

Based on that you can make decisions about your products, your marketing, even the attitude of customer facing staff. You can test the impact of this in lots of ways to ensure you keep listening to your customers: you can track their progress through your website as you would watch customer behaviour in store, watching points of friction, finding out what causes them to give up and what gives them the opportunity to discover more.

The important thing to remember is that listening isn’t a single action: it’s an ongoing, iterative process that feeds back into your decision making over the course of months and years, to ensure you’re making really good decisions.