How can B2B marketers amp up their social media listening strategy and put it to use in other areas to become better all-around listeners?
Social listening is a vital aspect of modern B2B marketing, providing valuable insight into current and potential future customers, yet many marketers treat it almost as an afterthought.
Fundamental listening skills outside of the social realm are also often given only lip service, leaving B2B marketers plenty of room to purposely hone a winning listening strategy.
Whether online or in person, taking the time to build better listening habits can provide a sizable return on investment, so let’s take a look at five ways to expand your B2B listening ROI.
1 — Amp Up Your B2B Digital Listening First
Before tackling in-person listening improvements, it’s important to make sure that your social media listening efforts are in order, and that you’re doing all you can within each social environment relevant to your organization or brand.
A few areas where social listening may be a good fit include the following:
- Established social channels including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
- Emerging online channels including BeReal, TikTok, Twitch, Reddit, and Discord
- Research tools and databases including the Internet Archive / Wayback Machine and JSTOR
- Search engines and third-party search tools such as Semrush, Meltwater, and BuzzSumo
- Question research tools including KeywordTool.io, Answer the Public, and others
When you’re looking to learn exactly what your audience thinks about a particular topic, taking a direct approach with polls either through social media platforms or on a brand website can also help efficiently get the job done. Learn more about the ins and outs of social media polls in our, “Survey Says: 2022 B2B Marketing Insight From Social Media Polls,” and “Social Media Polls For Marketers: 6 B2B Brands Winning With LinkedIn Polls.”
Getting to the heart of the questions most important to your potential audience provides a powerful path to finding best-answer solutions.
To learn more about why question research is such an important facet in marketing, and some of the primary ways to uncover precisely what people are using search engines and other search technology to ask and learn more about, check out our “10 Smart Question Research Tools for B2B Marketers.”“'Listen' means much more than hearing with ears. It means to pay attention. Synonyms include observe, be attentive, give attention to, hang on words, and take notice.” — Meryl Evans @MerylkEvans Click To Tweet
Not that you’ve put your social media listening house in order, or at least established a framework for making improvements, it’s time to take our listening skills in other areas to the next level.
2 — Put Your B2B Listening Skills To Use Beyond Social
Once you’ve ensured that your digital listening strategies are running smoothly and gathering B2B marketing insight, it’s time to focus on doing the same for all of those non-social interactions we conduct every day, including:
- Email communications
- Phone conversations
- Zoom or other video conferencing meetings
- In-person interactions and meeting
- Real-life professional networking events
One way to start changing the intensity of our listening is to make a point of specifically including it in every interaction, whether it’s reminding ourselves to look more closely at the email we’re responding to, devoting more time to listening on phone or video calls, or preparing a series of questions ahead of time to ask during in-person conversations and events.
Remind yourself before each conversation — digital or otherwise — that time spent listening will offer insights that don’t easily come in any other way. Even a small increase in the amount of time you dedicate to better listening can reap vast rewards.“If you’re truly, truly listening to what these conversations are saying then ultimately the hope is that it opens the door to better content, better customer care, and more conversions.” — Kenneth Kinney @KennethKinney Click To Tweet
3 — Devote More B2B Bandwidth To Listening & Taking Notes
We all have only so much bandwidth, both digital and offline, and in either case savvy B2B marketers gain dividends when they deliberately make listening more of a two-way street and less a one-way drag race.
As we purposely focus on being better listeners, it’s important to keep track of all those newfound insights we’re gathering, so that when the immediate conversation ends, we have action items on which to act going forward. For some, making a mental note is adequate, while others will want to take notes, make lists, or use various online tools for managing and completing action items.
B2B marketers can expand their influence in several areas through taking the time to be better listeners, as Nancy Duarte recently explored in, “Broaden Your Influence by Adapting How You Listen” for MIT Sloan Management Review.“Great listeners adapt the way they listen to help the person speaking accomplish their goals and meet their needs.” — Nancy Duarte @NancyDuarte Click To Tweet
4 — Use Better Listening To Drive Marketing Change
Even the best listeners in B2B marketing can only get so far if they never put the insights they’ve gained to use. A good listening strategy goes beyond listening by building in mechanisms for taking feedback and delivering it to the right people in an organization, and at the opportune time.
A good listener can take action items from their mental or physical notes and move them through an organization’s workflow to make sure each issue is handled by the right team or person, and it’s this additional step that significantly enhances the benefits of being a better listener.
Using insight gained from smarter listening to drive B2B marketing change can elevate your professional effectiveness, and ultimately may be the difference between success and failure.“The true leader in a group is rarely the person who talks the most. It's usually the person who listens best.” — Adam Grant @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet
5 — A Good Digital Or Offline Ear Can Make The Difference
When so much of the B2B marketing world can often be little more than chatter, a smart listening strategy is a great way to cut through the white-noise and show potential customers that you, your organization, and your brand are different. This seemingly small move can be the biggest differentiating factor when it comes time for B2B buyers to choose where to take their business.
When it comes to communications, not everyone can listen in the same way, and those who have limited or no auditory hearing face additional hurdles, yet may also serve as stellar examples of how we can be better communicators and listeners.
Meryl Evans, accessibility marketing consultant, speaker, and writer — a LinkedIn Top Voice in Disability Advocacy 2022 — has been elevating opportunities for more accessible communication since the days of the computer bulletin board. From the latest on improving video captioning to making video conferencing better, Meryl has also been a strong example of how we can always work to be better listeners, in B2B marketing and in life.“Accessible content marketing, email marketing, blog posts, web content, and social media help you better connect with your target market and expand your reach.” — Meryl Evans @merylkevans Click To Tweet
Active Listening Meets B2B Marketing Needs Head On
By amping up your B2B digital listening, putting your listening skills to use beyond social, devoting greater bandwidth to listening and note-taking, and using observational skills to drive marketing change, B2B marketers can make a world of difference when it comes time to attract, engage, and convert audiences.
We hope you’ve found these tips for being a better listener in B2B marketing helpful, and that some may help you on your own journey as we all make the transition to 2023 and beyond.
Additionally, our own senior manager of social and influencer marketing Debbie Friez explored tips for active social media listening, in “Active Social Media Listening: Tips for a New Era of COVID-19,” and I took a look at listening as it relates to the kind of information processing that B2B marketers do daily, in “Content Contemplations: How We Process Information & Why B2B Marketers Must Craft Content That Elevates.”
More than ever before, creating award-winning B2B marketing that elevates, gives voice to talent, and humanizes with authenticity takes considerable time and effort, which is why more brands are choosing to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today to learn how we can help, as we’ve done for over 20 years for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and many others.