Bit of an oxymoron right? For traditional marketers and still some industries who have not been hit by the digitalisation bug - yes. For those who have - absolutely not. That’s right - from now on, listening and soaking up information like a sponge should be an activity that is actively planned and actioned in order to inform the wider strategy throughout the organisation. 

knowledge is power… and if you are in a position to know more about your customer than the competition, you will win
— Hermann & Burbary; 2013

Put simply; the ‘show and tell’ nature of marketing is over, and marketing is now more of a conversation than a lecture - and as with most conversations, in order to gain the most value out of it, you must listen as well as speak. (1) Nobody can tell people what they want before they really understand them, and listening provides the means to gain that deep understanding through a range of mediums; from unbiased Twitter conversation, to industry reports, customer reviews, market insight and the latest trends. 

What makes it so much easier than it may sound? The fact that people all over the globe love to talk, post & give their opinion - and the increasingly interactive digital space has allowed for this to happen freely and without bounds. Consumers, brands, and influencers have spoken since day one, only now they are talking publicly, online to an more extensive group of peers. 


So with all of the knowledge that we continuously collect and process; the next step is to integrate our findings in all areas of the organisation (where relevant, of course!) to influence our behaviours and processes and plan proactive communications to be distributed through channels that have the most impact on our organisation. 

Hemann & Burbary, authors of Digital Marketing Analytics (2013)(2) talk about leveraging the information and data that is collected for all parts of the business - which is why we call it ‘proactive’ planning. It removes the rigidity of a long, linear planning sequenceand allows for information to be processed in real-time and integrated into the organisation as a basis for future communications. 


With the zillions of sources of information and tools to measure different aspects of digital activity, it would be a waste of resources to listen to everything. Not every piece of information or data will be relevant for your objectives, and this is why before you even start listening, you should ensure that everybody is clear and in agreement of your overall business goals, strategy, and objectives. By deciding upon SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Timed) objectives, as well as an overall view of what you want to achieve with digital and/or your specific programme, you can channel your focus and learn to listen for the right bits of data and conversation as opposed to collecting masses of useless information. 

With the continuous development of tools for measuring digital activity available, those with digital expertise can locate and decipher a wealth of information on the public digital activities of brands or organisations, people, markets, and even products themselves - and from there can make decisions and deploy cleverly articulated strategies, campaigns or digital activities based upon their findings. By analysing the conversations, opinions and trends happening in real-time, we can gauge a rich understanding of our audience and what engages them.

But listening should not be confused as just an external activity. We can also monitor the success of our own campaigns using the same tools and measure the impact our activity has on achieving our objectives. Listening to what is going on and being said inside the organisation is just as important in achieving your goals. The most successful organisations - even those that are highly fragmented - encourage collaboration between departments, where employees share their knowledge, opinion, skills and experience within the internal workspace - leveraging their collective knowledge to their advantage. After all, why use more resources finding the answer to a problem that has been solved in another department previously? Tools such as Enterprise Social Networks (ESN’s) can transform your organisation and with the right integration into processes, training and level of engagement from employees, produce valuable insight. 


Listening allows you to: 

  • Create current, engaging content that is relevant to it’s intended audience(s) in order to gain awareness of your brand and entice new customers 
  • Segment customers so that you can reach a better understanding of their requirements
  • Strengthen relationships with customers by getting honest feedback on your brand and/ or offering from external stakeholders, enabling you to continuously improve all aspects of the organisation including product development
  • Monitor the digital activities going on in both your internal and external environments; including those of your competitors; as well ascurrent demand & trends - and of course your own campaigns / activity
  • Communicate and operate more effectively in the workplace, so that focus is less fragmented and resources are used more efficiently through collaborating. 
  • Avoid crisis through anticipating and planning ahead, and manage a crisis more effectively if one should occur.

(1) Understanding Digital Marketing; Damian Ryan & Calvin Jones; 2012
Digital Marketing Analytics; Chuck Hemaann & Ken Burbary (2013) 

This article was co-authored by James Prebble & Imogen Wakerley of Palladium, a digital consultancy specialising in transforming business process, knowledge and marketing through intelligent use of digital technology.