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Listening to the Groundswell

download (4)Listening to the groundswell is one of the five objectives that companies can pursue in the groundswell to better understanding their customers. It is important to listen to the customer because your brand is whatever your customers say it is and the groundswell is where they communicate with each other.

Listening is more than conducting surveys or focus groups. It’s about observing your customers in their natural habitats because they leave clues about their opinions on a daily or hourly basis through blogging, discussion forums etc. They rate your product, talk about the pros and cons, prices and customer service, whether it’s positive or negative.

Two main strategies for listening are:

  1. Set up your own private community. “Daycare Bear, The Canadian Childcare Providers Information Network” is a good example of a community forum. It also depends on your market you’re trying to reach, as for myself I would create a private community for parents to discuss topics involving my product or service in a narrower community, such as, Wabasca, AB rather than all of Canada.
  2. Begin brand monitoring. This is done by hiring a company to listen on your behalf. What I mean by this is that the company you hire can research different blogs, forums, or any social media networking for what your customers are talking about and they can deliver a summary report about what’s happening and this way you can address any issues that arise.

Six reasons why your company should start engaging in a private community or brand monitoring:

  1. Find out what your brand stands for. Meaning, are your customers understanding the message you’re trying to get out and if not, then what stands in the way?
  2. Understand how buzz is shifting. Buzz leads directly to sales in every industry. Keep listening and understand change.
  3. Save research $$ and increase research responsiveness. A regular research budget is cheaper than conducting research occasionally.
  4. Find the sources of influence in your market. Who are talking about your product? Such as, bloggers, communities on Facebook, videos on YouTube etc. Once this is discovered the influencers you can cultivate them.
  5. Manage PR crisis. This is an early warning system that involves your company to respond to negative feedback before they get out of hand.
  6. Generate new product and marketing ideas, for free. As long as you’re listening to your customers they can generate new and intelligent ideas on how to improve your product and to be more efficient.

If you decide to listen, you then must carry out a listening plan. This involves checking the social technographics profile of your customers. Depending on the percentage of creators and critics in your customer base helps you decide on which strategy to utilize. Then start with a single brand and monitor that. This will eventually grow as long as you know who will be monitoring and how. An experienced team will help you create and manage information coming in and to understand the results in your listening vendor. Managing this resource is important. Have one staffer dedicated to reading the reports, interfacing the vendors and suggesting new information to retrieve. They must also put together the insights from listening to the groundswell with other research, surveys, and focus groups to create a complete market picture. Be prepared!

Your company will not be the same once you start listening and act on the information retrieved. First, your job becomes to communicate what you’ve learned – to insight into change. Second, listening becomes a bigger part of your company; you should integrate the results into corporate decision making. Then your company will be no-more-being-stupid factor. Meaning every company has stupid products, policies and organizational quirks because of executive biases or tradition. It’s hard to deny your own flaws but will evaporate because of visible customer feedback. Finally, if you are listening now expect to be talking soon too.

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