Let’s play “marketing long distance.” You know what I’m talking about…

CMO reads Gartner report that says the customer’s pain point is X.

CMO checks with top sales rep who says it’s more like X+1.

CMO hears X-2.

CMO briefs agency account lead who hears X-2-7.

Agency account lead briefs creative director who hears X-2-7-4+26.

Creative director briefs writer who hears [(X-2-7-4+26)*3]/61.

Writer submits draft which focuses on Y.

Creative director changes it to focus on Z.

Agency account lead recommends edits to focus on Z*5.

CMO adjusts to focus on Z*5 cubed, then sends to CRO for “final review.”

CRO makes changes based on the last customer conversation he had.

CMO approves.

Campaign fails.

No one knows where it all went wrong. After all, they started by understanding the customers’ pain point.

Someone has to own understanding the target audience’s real problems, priorities and perceptions. Then make sure the execution is aligned accordingly.

Shouldn’t that be the CMO?

Do the senior marketers you know REALLY get the customers’ perspective?

How much time do they spend with customers and prospects just listening? Trying to understand what the world looks like from their side of the table.

The great news: Decision-makers are happy to share what they know. You just have to ask the right questions in the right context (i.e. non-sales).

Their answers will give you insights to help clarify your brand or product positioning, sharpen your value proposition and differentiators and focus your messaging.

See a list of disruptive, thought-provoking questions–and the entire listening process–at www.chieflisteningofficers.com/free.

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As a B2B marketer, how could I not click on a banner ad that said, “Meet Alan. B2B marketing’s first feeling machine”?

Well, to say I was disappointed would be a tremendous understatement. And it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say this agency’s AI “experiment” made the agency look silly.

If you’re going to create something that positions you on the leading edge, then you MUST invest enough time and resources to make it a GREAT example.

Unfortunately, in this case, the failed AI experience just reinforced the “shiny object” superficiality that comes to mind for many decision-makers when they think about marketing agencies.

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Once in a while, for one reason or another, an executive will say to me, “Well Steve Jobs said, ‘It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.'” Or they’ll quote Henry Ford, saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.”

First, some context: The people citing these quotes are trying to make the point that listening to customers Is not a priority. What’s driving their position? Could be several factors:

  • They don’t want to take the time or dedicate the resources to understand customers’ needs. (And they might assume listening is resource-intensive.)
  • They feel as though listening to customers is an admission that they don’t know everything. (Which, of course, it is–and there’s nothing wrong with that!)

But what they don’t realize is that they are misinterpreting the quotes. Jobs and Ford aren’t saying, “You don’t need to listen to the customer.” What they’re really saying is,

“We must have an excellent understanding of the customer, and it’s our job to interpret that understanding into excellent products.”

Remember, Jobs had an incredibly unique (Jobsian!) ability to know what consumers would want–what would give them joy and utility. He WAS the avatar for Apple’s customers, and he was able to manage his team to execute almost flawlessly against that vision. Yes, perhaps he didn’t do research, but that’s because he was willing to bet the company on his own understanding of what people would buy (and love).

Similarly, Ford was probably right in speculating that people would have said they needed “faster horses.” But the brilliance is in what he HEARD, which was that people wanted a faster way to get from point A to point B. That understanding fueled Ford’s willingness to bet big on mass manufacturing of automobiles.

The bottom line: It isn’t the customer’s job to conceive of compact music devices with massive storage capabilities that feel great in their hands–or combustion engines or cars. All customers know is what they need–what their dreams, goals and challenges are. It’s up to brilliant entrepreneurs like Jobs and Ford to be great diviners and interpreters of those needs into valuable products.

By the way, when I touch on this topic in my Customer Listening talks and presentations, or when executives bring up these quotes to downplay the importance of listening to customers, I have a ready response:

“OK, great, if your name is Steve Jobs or Henry Ford, you’re excused…you already know your customers and don’t need to listen.”

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“Wemeiusour”–the acronym for “We-Me-I-Us-Our” (and pronounced we-MAY-uh-sour) is a dreaded affliction found in most marketing and sales campaigns that paralyzes prospects and completely eliminates the possibility of engaging them.

How can you recognize Wemeiusour?

Symptoms include a tendency to focus on:

  • The solutions “we” offer
  • “Our” features
  • What makes “us” special

Dangerous side effects include:

  • Weak response and conversion rates
  • Flaccid sales cycles
  • Embarrassing sales close rates
  • Uninspired revenue growth

How to rid your marketing and sales of Wemeiusour forever:

  • Have open-ended “curiosity calls” with customers and prospects in a non-sales context.
  • Ask questions your competitors aren’t asking.
  • Understand the real problems they have–which may be different than the problems you think you solve.
  • Listen for the real language they use–notice the lack of jargon and marketing-speak.

If you’re serious about eradicating Wemeius, download the Customer Re-Discovery Playbook to discover what your target audience ISN’T telling you–and how to leverage those insights to improve the relevance of your messaging.

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I am pleased to have been included in one of Marissa Levin’s articles on Inc.com and to be featured alongside globally recognized entrepreneur Tony Robbins.



Here is an excerpt from Levin’s article, ‘Are You Listening? 12 Questions and 4 Strategies to Win Your Customer’s Trust and Business‘:

In addition to creating the right nonverbal atmosphere for engaging, productive conversations, it’s important to ask the right questions to yield the right answers. This is especially important when building trust-based customer relationships.

According to customer communications expert Bob London, CEO of Chief Listening Officers, there are 3 buckets of questions that get to the heart of what customers really need.

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