A common thread ran across several Explore Dallas Fort Worth conference sessions: pay attention and listen to your customers and your audience.

I know, I know …

BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) from the Big D.

Thanks a lot.

Unfortunately, that same thread keeps getting pulled because so many businesses do NOT listen, or if they do ask questions, their head is not open to hearing the answers or acting on them.

Over and over again, Explore speakers explained why something so simple is vital to business success.

A Jedi Listens

Think A Tron (courtesy Cristiano Betta on Flickr CC)—> Step One is to know your audience – the people you are trying to reach. Not prospects, not targets. Audience. Understand and pay attention to the people you want to pay attention to YOU.In the opening conference session, Brian Clark of Copyblogger Media shared his “3 Steps to Jedi Content Marketing.” Listening is the linchpin for all three steps.

—> Step Two is to be very nimble about changing direction, based on feedback. That means you must spend time listening to get that feedback.

—> Step Three is to “accelerate” – create new products, partnerships and services based on listening to people’s needs, and then making things that meet those needs.

I’d like to be able to draw a giant ear next to each step, because they all rely on closing your marketing mouth and opening your business improvement ears.

Breakout Sessions Touch on Listening

Mike Merrill’s Digital Strategies for Small Business session was a deep dive into local search. Part of the answer to those “how do I get found?” questions is that a high level of engagement with your audience is seen as a positive sign by search engines. Yes, high engagement levels are not only warm n’ fuzzy, they’re good for SEO.

How do you get there?  Listen … then respond.

Kevin Magee‘s discussion of big brands trying to “go local” emphasized that the closer you can be to your customers, the better, because then your feedback will be more unfiltered and immediate. Of course, even if your customer is sitting on your head giving you feedback with a bullhorn, if you are not listening and reacting to it, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

The session with Arienne Holland on proactive, rather than reactive, listening was full of examples of companies taking the seemingly unremarkable step of watching and listening, then truly thinking about how to act on what they were hearing. She said that to succeed at listening at a higher level, “You need a brain and you have to use it.”

Put On the Brakes

It’s a competitive, go-go world out there. We’re all busy and often overloaded, but listening thoughtfully, carefully and broadly takes time. It takes quiet. It takes concentration and effort.

It’s the antithesis of go-go.

To top it off, you may end up hearing things that are not very pleasant, from customers who are not happy with your products or services. Can your ears be honest? Can you accept what you’re hearing – as it is – without trying to deny or justify or fluff it up or dismiss it because the customer is “clueless?”

Put on the brakes. Carve out that listening time, and then take even more time to reflect on what you’re hearing. Dial back the go-go hamster wheel for more listen-listen.

Your reward will be a much clearer picture of how your business is doing now, and the direction it should take in the future, directly from the customers who make your business possible.

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About Sheila Scarborough

Sheila Scarborough

Sheila Scarborough is a writer and speaker specializing in tourism, travel and social communications. Along with Becky McCray, she co-founded Tourism Currents - online education in social media for destination marketing. Sheila is a Navy veteran and also an NHRA drag racing fan....because there's one winner, one loser and no whining.

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