Thursday, March 30, 2006

I don't WANT to listen to the consumer!

Part 4 in a series. This entry is being cross-posted on BMA.

Another phrase I hear constantly is that marketers ‘have to listen to the consumer’. I don’t buy it. I think the key isn’t to listen to the consumer, but rather to understand them. Think of everything/one you listen to in an average day. Do you understand everything you hear? If so you’re a better listener that I am.

How do we understand the consumer? By having a conversation. Communication leads to understanding, well usually. As we have a greater understanding of the consumer, we can better serve and anticipate their wants and needs. And as the consumer has a greater understanding of our role as marketers, they will begin to more freely communicate with us, which leads to greater understanding for both groups.

But how do we communicate with them? I can’t see ‘communicate with marketers today’ as being in the ‘to-do’ list for many consumers. It’s up to us as marketers to join their community, so we can communicate with them at a time and place that’s convenient for them. This is the main flaw I find in blogs as a communication tool with consumers, because the convenience factor is more in the hands of the company and the marketers. If Company A starts a blog and begins communicating with their customers, that’s great, but the customers have to come to the blog to talk to Company A. Why can’t Company A go to the customers? And why can’t they have a communication tool that provides true communication, and not posting and commenting? IMO, that’s the next step in the company/customer communication process beyond blogs, an outlet that’s convenient to the customers, and in their backyard, not the company’s. But that’s another post for another day.

Listening isn’t the key. Understanding is. Understanding comes from communication, and communication starts when we are in a place that makes the interaction convenient for the consumer. That place is their community.

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