When you think about your customers and prospects, do you ever think about how you are interacting with them? Whenever I ask business people, I hear constantly that they market to them with web sites, collateral, ads and events. Rarely do I get answers that include researching, polling or listening.

However, the best salespeople agree that the primary key to success is in the listening, not in the storytelling. Of course it helps to have a good story to tell, but if you can listen to someone explain their problems, then you get a chance to provide a valuable response that is relevant and memorable to them.

Why am I bringing up this issue in the Marketing Maven? Because it is the ability to listen and engage a prospect or customer that is one of the primary benefits social media tools provide. When used correctly, you can insert yourself into the dialog happening around you and learn what motivated your customers to choose you, why they remain, or what you’re doing to lose them.

Like any good marketing program, start by considering who you want to reach and what you want to accomplish. Some goals to consider are improving customer satisfaction, retaining more business, or uncovering more prospects. For this example, let’s look at raising your awareness with prospects.

Now that we have a goal and we know our audience, we can start to build our tactical approach. To build awareness, start by creating an “outpost” in existing online communities. Outposts work when there are established sources of information. Setting up an account and monitoring for keywords like your business name or specific issues is a practical first step. But keep in mind that getting involved is an on-going commitment, not a one-time event. You’ll need to find someone who is willing and able to monitor these sites for activity and either respond directly or direct the opportunity to someone else.

Then, go find existing influencers – bloggers, experts and other folks who are already talking about issues and offer your insights when appropriate. Review their posts, and if you have a comment that makes sense, then offer it up but try to end with a question in order to solicit replies back to you. In this way, you start to build a dialog, which is the core strength of social media. Once you start building a rapport on the blogs, you can bring people to your own website or blog to continue the discussion.

Marketing is mostly about telling, not selling. Selling is mostly about listening, not telling. If you want to grow your business efficiently, you will need to do both. And social media tools can be a strong component that yields great insights and opportunities to reach prospects and customers alike. David Ogilvy was a master of the advertising message – I firmly believe in his philosophy that “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” But in today’s era of social media, you need to blend Ogilvy-styled marketing with Dale Carnegie-selling in order to listen and offer solutions. That is the way to win friends and influence people, or to convert prospects into customers and customers into advocates who will really make a difference in your business.

Dennis Collins is president of Tech Image, a public relations firm based in the Chicago area with a national reputation for growing technology companies into market leaders. He has been providing marketing, branding and messaging counsel in the tech sector for over 25 years.


  1. Your article is excellent and makes a strong case for the value of being involved with social media. I would just observe that David Ogilvy, contrary to the article;s implication, believed strongly in upfront research before creating advertising. I worked for him and this was a lasting lesson from this terrific ground breaker who was a Gallup pollster before ever starting his agency.

  2. This is so good, I have so much to learn about people and their buying habits, which really translates into my marketing ability. With the new Mobile Ad Connection venture, I have been focused on push and shove, and I should have learned from the transport business that your customers will do the selling if you are worthy of them.
    Thanks for all your idea’s.

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