We can hear, but are we listening?

Phone calls give marketers a chance to get much closer to customers, according to Nick Ashmore, VP marketing, ResponseTap.

a dog with big ears

The same basic principles have always underpinned the relationship between buyers and sellers. If a vendor can fulfil a customer’s demand, they are more likely to be able to sell more to that customer, and more regularly.

Consumers reward quality, availability and fair pricing with loyalty. The reason people talk with such nostalgia about the local shopkeeper is because there was a strong personal connection. The shopkeeper could tailor the experience perfectly.

It’s harder to do that if you’re a large brand in a digital age, but what is lost in physical proximity can be gained in the data you have available to understand what drives people to buy. Many marketers see data analytics as the Holy Grail for getting closer to their customers – a way to remove any blind spots when analysing the customer journey, tracking behavioural patterns and understanding their preferences.

The problems arise when you rely on this data too much and forget to actively listen.

Mis-firing on all cylinders

There’s nothing more frustrating than a company trying to sell you something that’s completely irrelevant to you. Digital marketing is a big offender here. Facebook and Instagram are very keen to show you things that it thinks you will want, based on your browsing history. But we have all wandered off and clicked on a story or an ad out of curiosity. Just because you thought a dog coat looked cute on an ad, it doesn’t mean you own a dog. One false move can skew the algorithm.

More worryingly, digital ads risk not only being poorly targeted, but they can also be dangerous. Painful reminders of things you may have searched for in the past – such as how to arrange a funeral or how to deal with fertility issues – are damaging for every party, not least the individuals involved.

The average marketing team now uses 91 different martech tools , yet still our customers’ behaviour surprises us. And because humans are complicated souls who don’t conform, digital marketers are still getting it wrong. That’s why understanding what motivates your customers should not begin and end with tracking their digital journeys. A holistic view of the customer starts with an analysis of exactly who it is you are marketing to.

The customer profile

Identifying buyer personas is a core part of a marketing strategy. But the art of talking and listening to customers is often overlooked when it comes to the techniques being employed to understand them. In a 2019 survey of B2B marketers into how they research their target ​audiences, customer conversations came eighth on the list, with sales team feedback at the top, closely followed by web analytics.

One of the big problems with not prioritising customer conversations is that customer loyalty can shift rapidly. No one could have predicted the impact that Covid-19 was going to have, for example, but we’re already seeing that the businesses that listened to their customers , whether B2B or B2C, are the ones who look more likely to weather the storm.

Meeting your customers where they want to be, with empathy, rather than relying solely on digital analysis, allows you to build a more complete view of the customer and retain them in the long term.

The art of conversation

For businesses where the phone is a conversion channel, marketers have a fantastic opportunity to really listen, and analyse, what is happening in these conversations – further to the insights they can glean from a standard call tracking product. The latest and most sophisticated technology on the market can capture insight, including spotting phrases and categorising outcomes, from phone calls using Artificial Intelligence.

The patterns identified can then inform marketing campaign strategy and ad spend. This adds an extra, real-time layer of information to your demographic building allowing marketers to discover the latest trends in customer behaviour that they wouldn’t otherwise have been privy to.

With the phone seeing something of a re surgence last year, thanks to our forced isolation, it’s a perfect time to look at how you’re analysing both the on and offline customer journey.

Conversation is actually the most valuable tool we have at our disposal, next to the customer physically standing in front of us. The very least we can do is listen to what people have to say.

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